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Spoonful of Sugar: Medicinal Preparation in the Domestic Sphere

Meredith E. Torre, Guest Curator
December 1, 2006 - February 28, 2007
Sir Kenelm Digby
Digby, Kenelm, Sir, 1603-1665.
The Closet of the Eminently Learned
Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened.
London, 1669
Ebling Library call number WZ 250 D571c 1669

Vitally important was the proper identification of plants and herbs in the art of healing as well as their proper use. Herbs have the power to restore health, but also to cause harm or even death. Drawn to the growing scientific work of herbs in the medicinal context, Digby's text provides directions and recipes for cookery, preserving, conserving, and candying.

The acclaimed Kenelm Digby recipes were not without controversy, however. A noted failure was "Sympathy Powder." The plate shows Digby and the books behind him list his achievements and failures.

Digby is primarily associated with the recipe, "Viper Wine," which was thought to have induced the death of his beloved wife Venetia Stanley Digby on May 1, 1633. While an unprecedented autopsy was preformed by the orders of King Charles II, it was unclear whether Venetia's habitual use of the viper wine was indeed the cause for her death. Speculation on the cause of her death remains today.

This online exhibit has been brought to you by Historical Services at the Ebling Library, University of Wisconsin Madison.

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