Rare Book Profile: Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kent’s A Choice Manual, or, Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chirurgery.

Elizabeth Grey’s A Choice Manual, or, Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chirurgery (London: Gartrude Dawson, 1659) is a collection of household recipes, published with her A True Gentlewomans Delight, Wherein is Contained all Manner of Cookery. The collections were edited with additions by W. Jar,” a professor of physick.” While A Choice Manual and A True Gentlewoman’s Delight have separate title pages and pagination, and are sometimes bound separately, they were printed and sold as a single work. The first part is mainly medicinal, while the second is entirely culinary, although some of the ingredients in the medicinal recipes now seem more like food than medicine.
Elizabeth Talbot Grey (1581-1651) was the eldest daughter of Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and a granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick. She married Henry Grey, Earl of Kent in 1601. She was well educated, a patron of scholars and poets, and the employer of Robert May, famous for his book The Accomplisht Cook (1660). She was known for her medical knowledge. Her sister, Alethea Howard, Countess of Arundel, shared her interests, and published her own recipe collection, Natura Exenterata. A True Gentlewomans Delight includes a recipe for Lady of Arundels Manchet (white bread).

The first edition of the Countess’s compilation was printed in 1653 by Gartrude Dawson, who took over her husband’s London print shop after his death. Instead of addressing a nobleman, the dedication of A Choice Manual is to “the virtuous and most noble Lady, Latitia Popham,” the wife of a supporter of Oliver Cromwell, and A True Gentlewomans Delight is dedicated to Mistress Anne Pile, a baronet’s daughter. The book was a bestseller, with many updated editions. The 22nd and last edition was published in 1726.

The Health Sciences Library’s copy is the 11th edition, published 1659. The title page of the first section and the last 4 pages of the second have been damaged, with a slight loss of text, and the book lacks the Countess’ portrait. It came to the library as a gift from the Denver Medical Society, and was rebound in brown leather by Frank B. Rogers.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]