The New Family Receipt Book and a Challenge or, Carolyn goes rather Far Afield.

One of the period books in my possession is the one noted below. I found it in an antique store that had quite a nice collection of old books. Really, really old books. True antiquarian books. If I’d had $3,000 I could have bought a breathtaking book of Dutch maps from circa 1650. Some of the maps folded out to a very large size and I suspect the book was worth far more than $3,000 since all the pages were intact. But it might as well have been a million bucks.

For $1,500 I could have bought a handmade, hand printed, hand illustrated Italian prayer book, bound in velvet, from 1400 or so. It was lovely and obviously once the private possession of a literate and wealthy Italian.

My book below was among these treasures and was completely affordable, too. For some reason.

The New
Family Receipt Book
containing eight hundred
Truly Valuable Receipts
to various Branches of
Domestic Economy
selected from
the works of British and Foreign writers of unquestionable experience and authority.
and from
the attested communications of scientific friends.

The title page also contains a poem:

What lookest thou?
Good Lessons For Thee, and Thy Wife?
Then keep them in memory fast,
to help as a comfort to life”


Mine is a new edition, corrected. Printed in London, 1815.

I try not to handle it too much, thought at times it’s irresistible.

Apparently, lawyerese has been around for a long time. There’s a chapter titled HEALTH which comes with this warning:

[The following Chapter will be found to contain some receipts which perhaps may appear to infringe on the medical profession. It should however be understood, that only such popular articles are here introduced, as may, in ordinary cases, afford help or mitigation, until medical aid can be obtained; and also in such cases as require instantaneous assistance.]

The very first receipt in this section is:

540. Avoid, as much as possible, living near Church Yards.

The putrid emanations arising from church yards, are very dangerous ; and parish churches, in which many corpses are interred, become impregnated with an air so corrupted, especially in spring, when the ground begins to grow warm, that it is prudent to avoid this evil as much as possible, as it may be, and, in some cases, has been, one of the chief sources of putrid fevers which are so prevalent at that season.

I particularly like this quote because of the putrid emanations, the impregnation and the warning to avoid evil. Why, you can practically hear the subtext rising from its moldy grave. Do I need to say the word?

I do?



The whole warning about fevers is a big old (dead) red herring, though, actually, it does sound like good advice. But trust me, if you’re hanging out by the parish church yard in spring, fevers are the least of your problems.

Right about now, you’re probably saying to yourself, Carolyn has gone a bit far afield with this post. Under normal circumstances you’d be correct. But I’m just working up to my challenge.

You’ll notice how I included the entire title of the book. Plus the poem.

The Challenge. . .

dun dun duuunnnnn

If you were living in 1815 and you decided to write a book full of warnings about supernatural creatures without resorting to subterfuge and indirection, what would the full title be?

Here’s my rough effort:

The New Family Survival Book
containing One Thousand and One
Truly Valuable Receipts
for various Branches of Supernatural, Paranormal and Other
Minions of Evil
selected from
the works of British and Foreign writers of unquestionable experience and authority.
and from
the attested communications of scientific friends.

As a bonus, I’m throwing in a poem.

Don’t lookest there!
Good Lessons For Thee, Thy Wife
and thy immortal soul.
(if you didn’t accidentally sell it to a demon1)
Keep these in memory fast,
to help as a comfort to life
With garlic, holy water and
some nice sharp stakes.

1. See Receipt No. 897.

So, what’s your title? Or your poem. Either would be pretty awesome. If I’m allowed, I’ll think of a prize. Maybe a Risky Regency Minion of Evil badge or something.

God, I hope I’m not in trouble for this. I think this may be worse than blood fuckers.

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Janet Mullany
13 years ago

The New
Book of how to Annoy Your Family
containing Tried and True Techniques
from a wide selection
of Aggravating People
of questionable experience and little authority

Included: tuneless humming; removal of key sections of newspaper; abandonment of fruit to fruit flies; putting dishes on but not in dishwasher; a wide variety of annoying questions at inappropriate times; losing key elements of household objects such as the blender, vacuum cleaner, etcetera.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Oh, what a riot!
This is totally out of my league!

Carolyn, your book beats my 1815 Dictionary all to pieces!

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

Carolyn, you are insane in the best possible way! Too funny for words! I can identify completely with the temptation to touch a book like that. I have some great antique books and I have started scanning them into my computer so I don’t have to touch them. Of course everyone knows about my first edition Byron and NOBODY touches that!

Janet, I LOVE your book! I think my relatives may have memorized it.

Mine would have to be –

The New Book of How to Turn Your Co-Worker into a Homicidal Maniac by Asking Inane Questions about Her Efforts to Become a Historical Romance Author

Included :

Standing and looking over her shoulder while she writes on breaks and at lunch.

Asking if she is writing one of “them sex books” every single day!

Asking if she is writing about Wal-Mart at least three times EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Telling her about the book your (insert friend or relative) here is writing in excruciating detail.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

O Doggie One, so funny about your co-worker.
In a positive light, she is fascinated (and a bit envious)that you are writing a book and wishes she could do something so grand. She’d like to be a part of it in some way. She hasn’t a clue how to talk to a writer about writing a book but she tries in her own way.

For Janet’s family members, there is no positive light, except that they show their unfailing need for you (and the possibility that we are related, at least by marriage, because this all rings so true, although you might not wish to be related to me…)

Carolyn, the positive side for you is you made me laugh!!

13 years ago

You guys crack me up! You’re all Evil Minions.

Love your book Janet. And Louisa, I believe Diana is correct about your inquirer’s response but that doesn’t make it any easier. He/she is hoping you’ll share the steamy bits. Best of luck with your project.

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

The New Cat Handbook
Being a Compendium of Behaviors
to Irritate and Frustrate human companions
with suggestions from an international feline community of little long term memory

Tips include: How to lie on reading material; mewing urgently for attention and then ignoring any response; shedding; dismemberment of bugs and rodents; public vomiting; embarrassing staring.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

The New Cat Handbook!

Elena Greene
13 years ago

LOL! Love all these entries–a much needed laugh.

13 years ago


I had to get that out of my system before I could start thinking more creatively as directed.

13 years ago

: “The New Cat Handbook Being a Compendium of Behaviors to Irritate and Frustrate human companions”

You totally nailed this. I just snorted at work.

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