Main content

Quack recipe book


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

James Woodhouse was born in Philadelphia to English immigrant parents William and Ann Woodhouse. William Woodhouse was a Philadelphia bookseller. James Woodhouse studied medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush at the University of Pennsylvania and received his B.A. in 1787. Woodhouse received his M.A. in medicine in 1790, but went on to become a chemist. In 1792 he founded the Chemical Society of Philadelphia, where he was president until his death. Woodhouse was named chair of the chemistry department at the University of Pennsylvania in 1795.

A worn leather bound volume comprising medicinal remedies and formulas compiled by James Woodhouse during the years from 1788 to circa 1790. Written on the front and back cover is Quack recipe book, April 1788. Despite the title, the recipes in the volume were not considered quackery, but standard medicinal cures of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Benjamin Rush urged his students to preserve facts obtained from all manner of sources, not just the medical community and encouraged his students to give this title to this compilation of observations. The first forty-one pages of the volume were compiled by Woodhouse. These pages contain prescriptions and remedies for numerous ailments including burns, cancers, colds, colic, coughs, dysentery, fevers, rhuematism, skin diseases, small pox, toothaches, and worms. There are formulas for balsams, cordials, drops, elixirs, injections, laxatives, liniments, lozenges, pills, and plasters. The recipes have attributions including lay people and physicians, such as Dr. John Redman. One recipe for a rattlesnake bite is attributed to American Indians. At the top of a section beginning on page thirteen are directions for treatments of disorders common in Philadelphia by Benjamin Rush, 1787, listing numerous ailments and diseases along with a remedy. "Quack recipes continued by Wm. Hembel" is written at the top of page forty-two. Hembel complied the remainder of the recipes in the volume with some attributed to Woodhouse. Included in this section is a list of items needed for a sea medicine chest. Hembel added a table of contents at the end of the volume. Some household recipes in the volume include ink, patent yellow, preserving wood from fire, and sealing wax. Each page in the volume consists of two or more recipes or cures. A list of apothecary weights is on the verso of the title page. A bookplate on the inside front cover reads J. Woodhouse. An inscription from William Woodhouse presenting the volume to William Hembel is on the title page dated 1809. One folded leaf of recipes is laid in the volume. The covers are detached, the spine is broken, and there are many loose leaves.

Inscription on first leaf: presented to Wm. Hembel by Mr. William Woodhouse, July 12, 1809.

Sold by Palinurus Antiquarian Books (Jenkintown, Pennsylvania), 2017.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Donna Brandolisio
Finding Aid Date
October 2027
Access Restrictions

Access to this item is restricted.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

Request to View Materials

Materials can be requested by first logging in to Aeon. Then, click on the ADD button next to any containers you wish to request. When complete, click the Request button.

Request item to view
Quack recipe book.
Volume 1

Print, Suggest