Household Books Published in Britain: V1 - 1475-1700 (LH)


Original Printed Text:

'Vernacular texts in Britain 1475-1695: Behaviour and Conduct, Household and Husbandry Management, Domestic Medicine and Science, Food Pathways and Preparation' commissioned in 1996 by Cambridge University Press for the Third Edition of the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, Volume 2 (the Press cancelled this publication in 2007).

This section of the bibliography derives from materials prepared in 1997 for the third edition of the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (CBEL), to have been edited by Douglas Sedge. Cambridge University Press decided in 2007 (the volume not yet being completed) that this kind of analysis of books is unlikely to be used from printed paper copies in an age of digital data searching. However, the Press did not take the next step and choose to publish the material electronically, hence this is the first publication of this material and we have taken the opportunity to depart from the usual format of the CBEL and include other kinds of information currently available on the internet. We welcome further contributions by readers to add to, correct and refine particularly this section of the database – for example, in providing reference numbers from the digital Early English Books Online (EEBO).

Broadly speaking, the materials in this 1475-1700 section bring together many different kinds of book with content that has well-defined genres in the twenty-first century, but which were overlapping and diffuse in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. The books generally relate to materials grown, cultivated, prepared, used, served, conserved and preserved in the household, both outside and inside, both husbandry and housewifery, and including among other fields: medicine, diet, psychology, technology, chemistry, and to some extent behaviour. This area of 'oeconomics' delineates the green economy that operated in many established households and extended families. It also outlines the emergence of a middle class – people who were acquiring capital in the very early days of the entwined fates of capitalism and nationalism, and with capital, acquiring power. This group needed to know how to behave as if they were born to power, and household economics was closely bound to behaviour and to the Galenic system of medical humours that defined personal character.

Put simply, if sugar was a new sign of wealth, the newly rich needed to know how to tell their cooks how to prepare it so that it could be appropriately displayed as a sign of their status. If servants were no longer linked to a family through the loyalty of service but through payment, the masters and mistresses of large houses had to renegotiate the terms of household labour. If women were increasingly moving into appropriate professions and positions of household power, both men and women needed to know how to interact in different ways.

There is here no claim to systematic completeness, nor any attempt at generic structure apart from the keywords provided from the bibliographer's personal response to the content of the books. One of the accompanying essays (Hunter 2002), written for The Cambridge history of the book 1557-1695 edited by John Barnard, Donald McKenzie and Maureen Bell, provides an entry to the material that focuses on printing history. Two of the other essays (Hunter 1997a and b), written for Women, science and medicine, 1500-1700 edited by Sarah Hutton and Lynette Hunter, pursue the relation of women to science as domestic and community work. The fourth essay (Hunter 2005), written for Judith Zinsser's Men, women, and the birthing of modern science, explores the changing site of science and medicine from the kitchen to the laboratory, and in the process the changing relationship of women to household technology. However, other entries can be made from the history of food pathways, the impact of colonial expansion, the effects on gendered work made by capital and nation, or the many other approaches that explore the early modern period as the cauldron of the modern western state.