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Thomas Ormsby 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

The Ormsby family was a prominent Irish family living in Ballinamore House in County Mayo from as early as 1677 to about the 1930s. The estate was inherited by Adam Ormsby sometime before his death in 1733, and subsequent family members occupied the home for at least two generations. Adam's son, Anthony Ormsby (1708-1755), was born at Ballinamore and raised his family there; and Anthony's son, Thomas Ormsby (1738-1822), did the same. Thomas married Elizabeth Rutledge (1746-1830) in 1762 and they were the parents of ten children (including sons Thomas and Adam).

This volume includes names written into the back inside cover: "Thomas Ormsby, Esq., B'More," dated 1791; "Adam Ormsby, Esq. of B'More in the County of Mayo to wit one of His Magisties [sic] justice of the Peace for the same County of Mayo;" and D. Brown. Most of the recipes appear to be in the hand of Thomas Ormsby.

There are multiple family members across three generations with the same name; and therefore it is difficult to determine which Thomas and Adam Ormsby wrote their names in the book. Thomas Ormsby is probably Thomas Ormsby (1738-1822), but could also be his son Thomas Ormsby, Esquire of Knockmore (1768-1839). Adam Ormsby may have been Thomas's brother, Adam (1742-), who was serving in the military from 1793 to 1815; or Thomas's son, Adman (1775-1835).

In the 18th and 19th centuries in Ireland, the title "esquire" indicated a "gentleman" and according to historian Olivia Martin, the Ormsbys would have been considered "lesser gentry … [or] untitled landowner and landlord."

Sources consulted:

Martin, Olivia. "Within the Big House Family Life of the Lesser Gentry, Mayo, 1760-1880," Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 69, pp. 18-34, 2017.

This volume contains culinary, medicinal, and household recipes compiled by Thomas Ormsby and probably other members of the family from at least 1780 to 1813. The recipes may be indicative of the family's prominence, containing a wide variety of ingredients, many of which are not native to Ireland. There are recipes in at least four different hands, two of which may be identified as belonging to Thomas and Adam Ormsby. The Ormsbys numbered pages for about the the first half of the volume and most of the recipes on those pages are listed in the table of contents at the back of the volume. Pages one and two are listed in the table of contents, but are now missing. A few pages contain dates at the bottom of the pages.

Culinary recipes include both sweet and savory dishes and the variety of ingredients and the types of dishes indicate that the family was probably quite well to do. However, traditional cooking is represented by numerous barm cakes and barm crackers (one taken from an illegible source in 1813); as well as methods for preserving fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Fruits used in the recipes include apples (and pippins), apricots, bogberries, cherries, currants, damsons, gooseberries, lemons, melons, oranges, peaches, plumbs, raspberries, quince, and strawberries. Vegetables include artichokes, carrots, cauliflower (colly-flower), cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, peas, and potatoes. Meats and fish include beef, carp, chicken, eels, ham, herring, lobster, oyster, pork, salmon, and turbot. Desserts and sweets included apile (apple) snow, bath buns, biscuits, cheese cakes, curds, gingerbread, macaroons, pancakes, puddings, queen cakes, Sally Lunn cakes, Shrewsbery cakes, and spun sugar, to name only a few. Herbs and flavorings include angelica, mustard whey, saffron, and tansy. One recipe from la Maitre D'Hotel is included.

Intermixed among the culinary recipes are medicinal remedies and household recipes. Medicinal remedies are for the ague, the bite of a mad dog, consumption in the first stages, "a cancer," "cholera morbus or dysentery," dropsy, headache, "scurvy, evils, and sores," whooping cough, yellow jaundice, and the worms. There are a few patent medicine cures, like "Daffy's Elixir and "Dr. Ratcliff's Restorative" included. Of particular interest may be two adjacent recipes for a cough, one from Captain Semples (described as infallible) and one from Captain Ormsby (possibly Anthony Ormsby (1708-1755), although a fair number of Ormsbys served in the military in India, Ireland, and Mozambique); and a recipe for "for the hooping cough" by Lt. Col. Ormsby (probably either Anthony Ormsby (1708-1755) or John Ormsby, founder of the Loyal Sligo Volunteers in 1782). While the source of most of the recipes are unknown, there are a few recipes attributed to individuals such as Mrs. Arch Deacon, Miss Bowen, Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Arthur Cooper, Mrs. Kenney, Mrs. Linsey, Mrs. Reddington, Rutledge, and Mrs. Vesey. This volume includes instructions for making dyes, inks, paints, potent grease for carriage wheels, varnish, for moulding candles and for cleaning picture frames, and for washing the brick front of a house. There are also instructions both for taking rats alive and for killing rats.

On the flyleaves at the back of the volume are written "Thomas Ormsby Esq. B'more, Feb. 26, 1791; D. Browne and D. Brown; and Adam Ormsby, Esq. of Bimore in the County of Mayo to wit onme of his magisties [sic] justice of the Peace for the [same] County of Mayo." It appears that these flyleaves were used to practice handwriting, possibly before writing recipes in the volume. There is also a sketch of a saddled horse on these pages.

Sold by Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers, 2021.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Holly Mengel
Finding Aid Date
2022 November 11
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Recipe book containing culinary, medicinal, and household recipes, 1780-1813.
Volume 1

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