Delightes for Ladies

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Originally published in 1602, ‘Delightes for Ladies’ by Sir Hugh Plat is one of the earliest cookery and

Delights for Ladies to Adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distilatories, 1628

Delights for Ladies to Adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distilatories, 1628

household recipe books produced in England.  It contains a fascinating array of recipes, instructions and advice on everything from making almond butter and preserving roast beef to creating candles for ladies tables and dying hair a lovely chestnut colour.

The little book was a perfect companion for the wealthy Elizabethan housewife who owned her own Still Room; a place in the house, usually linked to kitchen and garden, where the ‘still’ was kept for “the distillation of perfumes and cordials,” (Oxford Dictionaries), it was also where food was preserved and stored and where medicines, cosmetics and alcohol could be made.

The author began writing shortly after graduating from Cambridge University in 1572 (Plat, 1955), publishing a number of books which similarly offered advice and new ideas on the topics of agriculture, food preservation and gardening.  Plat’s ‘Delightes for Ladies’ however, was one of his most popular works, having at least thirteen editions produced before the middle of the seventeenth century (Plat, 1955).  The work was more recently reprinted in 1948 amidst post-war austerity by G.E. & K.R. Fussell with the hope that “we may be able to use some of the simpler and less recondite recipes for the zest they may add to our plain, wholesome diet.”

Although ‘Delightes for Ladies’ was often bound together with another similar work, ‘A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen, or the Art of preserving, conserving, and candying,’ believed by most to be by the same author, our edition contains only the ‘Delightes’.  The book itself features a poetical preface and is divided into four sections with the table of contents acting as an index.  The sections cover, ‘The Art of Preserving, conserving, candying, &c’; ‘Secrets in Distillation’; ‘Cookery and Huswifery’ and ‘Sweet Powders, Oyntments, Beauties, &c.’  Below are some of my favourite pieces of advice from the book:

A 29. To make gelly of Strawberries, Muberries, Raspisberries, or any such tender fruite.

Gelly of fruits

Gelly of fruits








C.40 How to hang your candles in the aire without candlestick.

Candles hanging in the aire

Candles hanging in the aire









D.20 How to take away any pimple from the face.

Face full of heate, helped

Face full of heate, helped









D. 37 How to colour the head or beard into a chestnut colour in halfe an houre.

Hair black altered

Hair black altered








It is probably best not to try some of these at home…


Plat, Hugh (1628) Delightes for Ladies to Adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distilatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes and Water.  Read Practice, Censure. London: H.L and R.Y. [Stenton B/G27 – available upon request]

Plat, Hugh (1955) Delightes for Ladies. Reprint of Delightes for Ladies by Sir Hugh Plat, 1609.  Introductions by Fussell, G.E. and Fussell, K.R. (ed). London: Crosby Lockwood and Son LTD. [MERL LIBRARY NUPTO NH10 – available upon request]

Oxford Dictionaries (2016) OUP.

Travel Thursday: John Todhunter Journal

Todhunter journal

Todhunter journal

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

John Todhunter (1839-1916) is best known as a poet and literary critic, but was also a doctor of medicine, painter, composer and traveller.

The University of Reading’s Special Collections Archive contains a fascinating Todhunter collection consisting of roughly 350 items including: personal and literary correspondence, (such as letters from John Butler Yeats, John Trivett Nettleship and William Michael Rossetti); typescripts and manuscripts of various literary works, and three travel journals.

One of these journals, titled ‘Journal of a Tour in Italy with D.L.T. 1880.’ details Todhunter’s travels in Italy with his new wife Dora Louisa.  In December 1879 the newlyweds had been recalled from an earlier trip in Florence as Todhunter’s father, Thomas, was taken ill.  After a rather “dismal winter” the couple were keen to escape back to Italy in the spring and their journey continued from March 1880 into the early autumn.  As might be expected, Todhunter’s journal contains notes on a plethora of typical tourist activities, such as his morning spent at Capitoline Hill in Rome,

Sat on steps, looked at wolves and Marcus Aurelius and then went into gallery.

He lists his favourite pieces from the gallery as including the Capitoline Venus and a “very beautiful Penelope and Telemachus.”  There are moreover, several interesting pieces of travel ephemera, including tickets for visits to archaeological sites of interest, such as this entrance pass for a tour of the catacombs of Rome and the Appian Way:

Photo 11-05-2016, 14 49 19

and a small collection of pressed plants.  One of these specimens was pressed between pages which mention a serendipitous walk through a garden in Rome.  Perhaps Todhunter kept the flower as a souvenir and reminder of the day:Photo 11-05-2016, 15 03 55

We went through a pleasant little garden full of flowers from which we had a splendid view of the Palatine, the best we had yet seen.  A very sweet place.

The travelogue also contains a number of fun anecdotes such as this note from Friday April 2nd:

We had found the caffe latte so bad that we resolved to take a foreign breakfast, and so had wine and an omelet.  Then to the Piazza del Durmo.

The entry for Wednesday May 12th is more celebratory as Todhunter notes it is his and Dora’s six month anniversary, an occassion they celebrated by going to a horse race ‘corsa dei cavalla’ in Rome.

Despite all of the interesting sights, pleasent gardens and new foods to experience, it is good to know that Todhunter did not forget his friends while travelling, on Monday April 26th he notes that he spent the morning “writing letters to Rossetti.”

You can find out more about the Todhunter Collection here, and how to access our archives here.

Archive Animals – Cats

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Our Special Collections Library and Archive is full of interesting creatures, big and small.  They can be found everywhere from our Children’s Collection story books to the detailed scientific tomes of our Cole Library.  So far we’ve explored the Ducks, Horses and Bees but today is the turn of the graceful Cat. Here are just a few of my favourite titles on Cats from our collections:


Cats in Literature

Orlando the Marmalade Cat – Kathleen Hale
[Children’s Collection 823.9-HAL]

This beautiful series of Children’s books created by Kathleen Hale feature the adventures of Orlando the

Orlando the Marmalade Cat, 1964

Orlando the Marmalade Cat, 1964

ginger cat, his wife Grace and their three kittens, Pansy, Blanche and Tinkle.

In ‘Orlando’s Invisible Pyjamas’ poor Orlando gets himself covered in paraffin oil, which makes him bald from waist to tail.  Grace manages to coax Orlando from hiding with the promise of knitting him some fur pyjama trousers.  While Grace knits, Orlando regales the kittens with stories from their family photo album.

According to MacCarthy (2000), Hale wrote to “reinvent a childhood, to recreate the domestic structure she had so badly lacked.”  And the bright story books with their tales of a tightly knit family of cats were a perfect distraction for children during WWII.  Indeed the bright colours of the ‘Orlando’ books are one of their best features; inspired by the series ‘Babar’ (Jean de Brunhoff), Hale had “envisaged a large format book in seven colours,” (MacCarthy, 2000) and although after some convincing from her publisher, only four were used, the effect is just as attractive.  After the publication of her first two Orlando books, Hale even learned the art of lithography herself, (Roberts, 2014) her efforts with the medium setting new standards for Children’s illustrated books.

As well as copies of a number of Hale’s books, our collection also includes archival material relating to their publication, such as uncorrected proofs of the text, holographs, typescripts and carbon typescripts.

For more information on Orlando see our 2007 featured item, Kathleen Hale, Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) buys a farm, 1972 

Roberts, P. (2014) Orlando the Marmalade Cat
MacCarthy, F. (2000) Obituary: Kathleen Hale


Cats in Music and Art

Tabby Polka by Procida Bucalossi / Louis Wain
[Spellman Collection of Victorian Music Covers – Box 11]

This charming image comes from our Spellman Collection of Victorian Music covers, which consists of around 2,500 Victorian sheet music covers, illustrating virtually every aspect of Victorian life, culture

Tabby Polka [Spellman Collection]

Tabby Polka [Spellman Collection]

and preoccupations.

This particular piece, dating to c.1865 was composed by Procida Bucalossi (1832-1918), a theatre conductor and composer at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London who was known for his dance arrangements for the Savoy Operas. (Stone, 2001).

The artist behind the illustration is Louis Wain (1860-1939), a British artist renowned for his wonderful pictures of cats.  Later in life, Wain began to show signs of mental illness but continued to draw and paint.  His artwork however, took on an unusual quality and he “produced the first of his fascinating series of “kaleidoscope” cats,” which included intricate geometric patterns and “images in which the figure of the cat is exploded in a burst of geometric fragments.” (Boxer, 2016)

Boxer, J. (2016) Louis Wain –  Henry Boxer Gallery 


Cats in Science

Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson, 1822
[Reserve Middle Folio 523 JAM]

Felis - Celestial Atlas, 1822

Felis – Celestial Atlas, 1822

One of the many constellations described in “A Celestial Atlas” by Alexander Jamieson in 1822, Felis was composed by French astronomer Jerome de Lalande in 1799 from stars between Hydra and Argos Navis.  Sadly Felis did not make the list of 88 modern constellations when the IAU (International Astronomical Union) created an official set of constellation boundaries in 1930.

International Astronomical Union, (2016) The Constellations
Ridpath, I. (2016) Felis the Cat


The Cat by St. George Mivart, 1881
[Cole Library 185]

Cat Paws - The Cat, 1881

Cat Paws – The Cat, 1881

‘The Cat’ by British biologist St George Mivart is a fascinating, in-depth study of our feline friends.  The book provides highly detailed anatomical descriptions and illustrations, such as this of the cat’s paw:

Of these [pads of the feet] there are seven in the fore paw, and five in the hind paw.  Each pad consists of a mass of fibrous tissue and fat and a large trilobed one is placed beneath the ends of those bones on which the animal rests in walking.

Many of the careful illustrations, particularly those of the cat’s muscles, have been coloured over and annotated, showing that the book was very much in use by its owner.

Annotated Cat Paws - The Cat, 1881

Annotated Cat Paws – The Cat, 1881

As well as anatomy, ‘The Cat’ also delves into the development and psychology of the cats, and one of my favourite features of the study are the small footnotes which include interesting anecdotes about the nature of the cat, such as this one from p369:

Mr Douglas A. Spalding found kittens to be imbued with an instinctive horror of dogs before they were able to see it.  He tells us: – “One day last month, after fondling my dog, I put my hand into a basket containing four blind kittens, three days old.  The smell my hand had carried with it set them puffing and spitting in the most comical fashion.” (Nature, October 7, 1875. P507)

gif of cat anatomy from Anatomie descriptive et comparative du chat by Hercule Straus-Durckheim, 1845. [Cole Large 09]

Anatomie descriptive et comparative du chat by Hercule Straus-Durckheim, 1845. [Cole Large 09]

All items are available upon request, find out more about using our Library and Archives here.

University of Reading Art Collections

Collections Audit


The University of Reading has an eclectic Art Collection. Artistic works are held within the University’s Special Collections, and within the University’s museums – including the Museum of English Rural Life.


History of the Art Collections

The Art Collections exist in parallel to the development of the University. Artworks reflect the University’s institutional history and act as a reference to its teaching practices. The collection includes work by previous staff and students, providing tangible links to the earlier School of Art and the University Extension College. More recently, artworks represent the interests of individuals and departments who have contributed to the collection – acquisition was often the result of idiosyncratic benefaction.

Notable Works

A number of significant artists are represented. This includes: Camden Town Group member Walter Sickert, printmaker Stephen Buckley, painter Patrick Caulfield, surrealist and poet Julian Trevelyan, figurative painter Leon Kossoff, Isotype pictogram designer Gerd Arntz, master of the woodcut Allen W. Seaby, cubist Max Weber, engraver Stanley Anderson, abstract photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, renowned naturalist painter Charles Tunnicliffe, 17th century Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens, and many others.

The Art Collections comprise a series of distinct collections, each with its own focus and trajectory:


  • Historic Picture Loan Scheme

Now defunct, the Picture Loan Scheme was administered by the Fine Art Department. It lent artworks to University patrons on an annual basis, for a nominal fee. The collection includes paintings and works on paper. The scope of the collection is impressive; it contains examples of printmaking practice from important artists – including numerous signed artist proofs.

Historic Picture Loan Scheme label

Historic Picture Loan Scheme label

  • Betts Collection: Sickert Drawings

Professor Anthony Betts was the University’s first Professor of Fine Art. Betts was instrumental in the establishment of an Honours Degree course in Fine Art in 1937. The Betts collection was amassed by Betts himself and later expanded through the acquisition of work from his estate. It contains a collection of works on paper of international importance by Walter Sickert.

Walter Sickert, The Little Bed, 1902

Walter Sickert, The Little Bed, 1902

  • Betts Collection: Master Drawings

A small but noteworthy collection of drawings by artists including Peter Paul Rubens, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Frederick Spencer Gore.

Max Weber, Dancing Figures, 1912

Max Weber, Dancing Figures, 1912

  • Betts Archive

The archive contains artworks, preparatory work and teaching aids produced by Professor Betts and his colleague Cyril Pearce, a lecturer in Design & Composition.

Betts Archive: woodcut prints by Prof Betts

Betts Archive: woodcut prints by Prof Betts

  • Minnie Jane Hardman (nee Shubrook) Collection

Minnie Hardman (nee Shubrook) was a female student at the Royal Academy in the late 19th century. Unrivalled in its ability to document her experience, the collection records the work she undertook as a young adult.  It includes examinations on perspective, anatomical and life drawings, as well as examples of her superb sketches and stippling – many of which were awarded prizes by the Academy.

Shubrook/Hardman Archive

Shubrook/Hardman Archive

  • Paintings

The collection contains commissioned portraits of Chancellors and people of merit associated with the University. This includes portraits of members of the Palmer family, who continue to support the University.  There are a number of historic and contemporary views of Whiteknights Park, including 19th century landscapes by Thomas Christopher Hofland. Attributed as being America’s first cubist painter, the collection includes 15 canvases by Max Weber.  Among others, the collection contains work by 20th century painters Alan Lowndes, John Randall Bratby and Leon Kossoff.

Leon Kossoff, Wilesden Junction Early Morning, 1962

Leon Kossoff, Wilesden Junction Early Morning, 1962

Due to the nature of artistic works and their inability to be defined effectively by a single collection, artistic works appear across UMASCS.  Noteworthy bodies of artworks include:


  • Ladybird Artwork Archive (Special Collections)

The University of Reading cares for over 700 boxes of original artwork used to illustrate Ladybird children’s books. The iconic paintings contributed to the success of the books in raising literacy levels among British children in the 1950s-1970s. The collection includes iconic artwork such as Harry Wingfield’s Shopping with Mother.

Ladybird pop-up display © Ladybird Books Ltd

Ladybird pop-up display © Ladybird Books Ltd

  • Livestock Portraiture (Museum of English Rural Life)

A collection of 18th and19th century Livestock Portraiture, including prints and oil paintings. The images are a historical record, which document the process of English livestock improvement. Artworks capture the physiological changes that are the result of early attempts at selective breeding by pioneering farmers.

MERL Livestock Portraiture 64/104

MERL Livestock Portraiture 64/104

2016 Project

This year, and moving forwards, the University is committed to the development of the Art Collections.  The University is addressing numerous collections management issues and hoping to build the profile of the Art Collections for a wider community of users, through a series of engagement activities.  The project aims to achieve a number of things, the work involves:

  • Auditing the collection and retrospectively cataloguing individual artworks on the Adlib collections database
  • Digitising artworks and making the collection accessible online,  via the University’s Enterprise catalogue and the ARTUK website
  • Improving the physical care of artworks through a programme of remedial conservation and preventative conservation, such as re-framing and improving storage conditions
  • Providing access to the collections through a series of pop-up displays, a programme of lunch-time talks ‘Art Collections in Conversation’, and taking part in University events such as the Collections Fair and Engagement Week. Inviting students and researchers to access material in the Reading Room and encouraging the use of the collections within teaching & learning. Using the Art Collections to enhance Artist Residency programmes.
  • Displaying artworks within the new galleries at MERL as part of the Our Country Lives redevelopment project (opening October 2016), displaying artworks within the new Ladybird Gallery (opening October 2016) and displaying artworks in temporary display spaces around campus such as the 2016 Christmas Display in the Staircase Hall. Improving and installing permanent interpretation of artworks around the University campus.
  • The project also supports the training and development of three young volunteers.


If you have any questions about the Art Collections please contact Jacqueline Winston-Silk and follow our progress on Twitter @UniRdg_ArtCol