The 'Who' of Manuscript Recipe Books: Tracing Professional Scribes

Helga Müllneritsch



eighteenth-century Austria; manuscript recipe books; manuscript cookery books; manuscript cookbooks; female scribes; professional scribes


The idea that female scribes – probably members of the middle or upper-classes – made manuscript recipe books for a fee, without being part of the owner’s family, has been discussed in English- and German-language countries for several years. The tradition of making manuscript recipe books for weddings and other important dates in the life of a woman justifies the idea that money was spent to provide such a present, for example, if time was scarce. If the owner did not want to make the effort to write the book on their own, a professional scribe was commissioned to carry out the task for them. In doing so, a personalised book could be made, that was probably more expensive than a printed book, but exclusive and tailored to the customer’s wishes. Three Austrian manuscripts examined in this study serve as a first attempt to reflect about the possibility of female scribes, drawing on examples of women working as paid and unpaid copyists and scribes in the eighteenth-century. One of the volumes gives clear evidence of a professional female scribe penning the book, either for a customer or herself, and the other two imply that professionals had been commissioned.


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