[Treatise on cosmetics and conserves] --
The book is evidently based on knowledge that Nostradamus picked up during
his eight years as an apothecary before he entered Montpellier in 1529 to
take his doctorate.
It is entirely untypical of doctors of the time, who were far more
concerned with theories about 'balancing the four humours' than with
The book was variously entitled 'Traité des fardemens et conserves',
'Excellent & Moult utile Opuscule' ('Excellent and most useful little
work) and -- by virtue of Part 1's concentration on cosmetics -- 'Le Vray
et Parfaict Embellissement de la Face' ('The true and perfect
beautification of the face').
It is dated 1552, but first appeared in 1555: one wonders whether the
publisher couldn't understand Nostradamus's writing (about which his
correspondents were always complaining) and was worried lest he get it
wrong and poison somebody, with the result that Nostradamus had to get it
copied up by a secretary first.
Except where otherwise indicated, the text extracts translated below are
taken from the 1557 Plantin edition.
While they are offered in good faith, I make no claims for the correct
identification of the various ingredients as translated, and can
consequently accept no responsibility for readers' use of them!
Contents: Proem (Preface) to the 1555 edition A.
THE COSMETICS MANUAL Part 1 Chapter VI: To make a perfect nutmeg oil Part
1 Chapter VIII [ the important one giving Nostradamus's famous
plague-remedy]: To make the basis of a perfectly good and excellent
aromatic powder Part I Chapter X: To make a sweet-smelling, long-lasting
paste Part I Chapter XI: Another method for making aromatic balls Part 1
Chapter XIII: Powder for cleaning and whitening the teeth Part 1 Chapter
XIIII: Another more excellent method for cleaning the teeth Part 1 Chapter
XV: Perfumed water for impregnating the shapes or forms mentioned above
Part 1 Chapter XVIII (1556): To truly make the lovers' sexual potion which
the ancients used for love-making.
Part 1 Chapter XXIIII: How to make the hair golden blond Part 1 Chapter
XXVI [often erroneously described as for an aphrodisiac]: A supreme and
very useful composition for the health of the human body Part 1 Chapter
XXVII: There follows the way in which one should use the above-mentioned
THE COOKBOOK Part 2 Chapter III: To make candied orange peel, using sugar
or honey Part 2 Chapter VIII: How to make a jam or preserve with
heart-cherries Part 2 Chapter XV: To make a quince jelly of superb beauty,
goodness, flavour and excellence fit to set before a King Part 2 Chapter
XXIIII: To preserve pears Part 2 Section XXV: To make a very fine sugar
Part 2 Chapter XXvII: To make marzipan Part 2 Chapter XXIX: To make a
laxative rose syrup
Proem (Preface) to the 1555 edtion (dated 1552) Michel de Nostredame,
physician, to the Kindly Reader, salutations.
After spending most of my young years from the year 1521 to the year 1529,
O KINDLY READER, on pharmaceutics and the knowledge and study of natural
remedies across various lands and countries, constantly on the move to
hear and find out the source and origin of plants [by a possibly Freudian
error, the original text actually has 'planetes' = 'planets!!] and other
natural remedies involved in the purposes of the doctor's craft [so much,
then, for the constant claims that he went up to Montpellier in 1521!]:
and having wished to imitate the lonely shade of Paulus Aigineta, 'Non
quod velim conferre magna minutis' [Latin: 'Not that I would wish to
confer greatness on the small']: I shall merely say, 'Nostradami laborem
me nosse, qui plurimum terrae peragravit, Sextrophaea natus Gallia'
[Latin: 'Know me (to be) the work of Nostradamus, who wandered through
many countries, a native of St-Rémy in France' -- the reference is to the
Roman Mausoleum of Sextus just to the south of the town].
When I finally reached the end of my eight years, I found myself unable
perfectly to attain the summit of the supreme doctrine [of medicine], and
so I did what the one who represented the summit of the Latin tongue
[Virgil?] said: 'Et egressus sylvis vicina coegi' [Latin: 'And having left
the forest I constrained the neighbourhood' -- i.e.
I ransacked the local knowledge?], and proceeded to complete my studies up
to the present time, which is the thirty-first year of my vocation [the
text actually says 'vacation'!], which we know as 1552.
And having carefully and by dint of frequent and continual study perused
each and every author, whether Greek, Latin or Arab [the text says 'Barbare'],
rendered for the most part into the Latin language, though in other cases
set in the alien tongue, among other things I came across those who had
left writings concerning the embellishment of the face.
And because, during my stays in many countries, even those where the women
because of the swiftly passing years contrived secretly and by means of a
subtle skill to hide and conceal the principal part of the body, namely
the head, in order to show clear evidence that substances applied to the
face have succeeded in deceiving the eyes of onlookers.
[Nostradamus loses the thread of his own syntax at this point!] Ladies
with faces like Phryne [famous 4th century BC Greek courtesan] have no
need to use this [book], other than for the purpose of preserving their
features intact: but those who are much older, and similar to those who
were at the banquet [presumably the celebrated 15-course banquet of one
Signor Trivulzio of some half-a-century before, a Latin account of which
Nostradamus translates elsewhere in the 'Traité'], truly these would be
well advised carefully to read and study this -- though may no such ill
befall them! And I have known eminent people in various regions who
continually practised and applied most of these things to such effect
that, however old they were, they did as Proteus did [mythical sea-monster
and son of Poseidon or Oceanus who frantically and continually changed
shape when asked to foretell the future, like certain people in this
Newgroup!], who could change his appearance whenever he wanted to.
And [even] after [reading] all these books -- at least those that my mind
and ability were up to [studying] -- I was never able to find the things
contained here, for in speaking of the beauty and embellishment of the
face, one [of them] would say one thing and one another.
But most of those who thought to commit themselves to writing have
suggested unguents, liniments [spelt 'liminents'!] and oils -- even though
there is nothing in the world that makes the face browner or more blotchy
than applications of this type -- or else they have quietly withdrawn
their claims, or have said nothing about it.
I am not saying that there may not have been many who had a perfect
knowledge of the entire doctrine of medicine, yet they have not known
about this, just as they have excused themselves [by saying] that it was
more a women's concern than a medical matter, as I myself have been able
As for those of ancient Greek times, it is quite certain that they used
such [techniques] as much as, or more than today -- and that the majority
of women did so (without going into specifics here).
And during Roman times [here Nostradamus uses the phrase 'du siecle Romain',
so confirming his use of 'siecle' -- as throughout the book -- to mean
'age'] it was [even] more frequent than it is today.
If anybody wants to assert that such needs had not yet come to light, does
not Marcus Varro [Roman 1st century BC writer and scholar] affirm that in
the previous thousand years up to his time all the sciences and arts had
been perfected, even though new discoveries are made every day, and
notably in the sphere of medicine where people are constantly describing
them in print -- despite the fact that they [in fact] say nothing that has
not already been said long before? Many have simply taken bits from here
and there, and some of them have even translated from the Arabic language
during the five hundred years that the real documents have been
half-buried, turning them into more ornate and eloquent language -- yet if
you were to have them write [on their own account] without reference to
the Arabs ['Barbares'] whom they quote, they would have a hard time of it.
[But] the truth is that the true Attic [Greek] language has now been
revived, and there are now a great number of scholars, whose present
erudition has scarcely been surpassed since the age of Plato.
Besides, I have not [yet] seen anyone undertake this small burden, nor
anyone who -- [at least] when it comes into the hands of someone who is
not in the habit of rubbishing everything -- will vituperate in any way
against this our little work.
For I have seen many who have dabbled in talking about the embellishment
of the face, and they have talked about it like half-ignorant people.
And as for the scents and perfumes, they have made it quite obvious that
they have never used the many useless things that they have set down and
committed to print, for one of them (supposed to be experienced in such
things) will say that he has 'seen' it, and another that he has 'heard'
In consideration of which, many have been misled just by reading them,
believing that the effects described were true, and have often found
themselves deceived, or possibly that the one setting down in writing some
guaranteed experience [has done so] without ever trying it out,
recommending it as if he had actually tried it out on somebody.
I have also seen many prescriptions for the interior of the human body,
certified by many people of a variety of statuses, describing substances
that the person involved has used in different lands, making exact
distinctions computed by the [principle of] temporal symmetry concerning
the duration of the illness.
It is easier to place faith in one who has studied the qualities of
natural remedies after long research and dangerous experimentation
digested at length than in one who has no such experience and relies on
affected language, eloquent phrases and on an unusually graceful written
style when in fact, by way of elaborating his teaching, he has set down as
his own subtle technique only what he has found described by a whole
variety of [other] authors.
The fact is that he never in his life had any experience [of his own].
Speaking of those who have expressed what they had to say in writing,
Pliny, who is nevertheless a most loquacious author, listed Cornelius
Celsus among the ranks of the authors, but never of the Doctors -- even
though the truth is that the said Celsus spoke extremely well on the
subject of the whole Medical discipline, and that most scholarly people
have assigned to him (by Pythagorian transmutation) the very soul of
Pythagoras, just as Cicero did with Longolius.
And this is so whether he said good things or nothing worth repeating.
Many would affirm that he [Pliny?] never practised Medicine, even though
nobody had a better command of Latin.
Let us [now] come to those of our own time.
On his way back from Venice to France, Erasmus -- who was, with Aldo, a
great friend of Marcus Musurus, as well as of Ambrosius Leo of Nolle --
while passing through Ferrara spoke to Nicolas Leonicenus, a man wise and
learned in all scholarship who continually translated and composed works
on the craft of Medicine, and asked him why (seeing that he was so learned
in the said art) he did not [actually] practise or visit the sick.
He replied -- sagely, as was his wont -- that there was much more profit
and usefulness in learning things from books that in practising, and less
For it is not possible for a person who has many patients to see either to
study or to write anything.
And it is true that those who have written a great deal in whatever
discipline have hardly had need to practice, for the spirit of anyone
preparing written documents needs quietness above all.
Otherwise it would be a case of having to do as Julius Caesar did, who
wrote down at night what he had done during the day.
Nevertheless that Phoenix of the Doctor's craft who was Hippocrates wrote
so divinely that it is impossible for a mere man to know how to imitate
Thus it is that in his works, and specifically in his 'Epidemics', he
shows clearly that he had many patients to see: and yet he wrote a great
deal -- even though so many possible works are attributed to him that if
he were still alive he would deny the greater part, despite the fact that
there is not one of those works that is not redolent of the Hippocatic
Indeed, once when I was at Agen in Agenais, a region of French Aquitaine,
and with Julius Caesar Squaliger [sic!], who was a wise and scholarly man,
a second Marcilio Ficino in Platonic philosophy -- in short, a person
whose like I could not name, other than a Plutarch or a Marcus Varro -- he
affirmed that most of Galen's works had been attributed to him.
It is true that I have also often held discussions with Franois [sic]
I do not know whether the sun for thirty leagues around has ever seen a
man more replete with knowledge than he -- and he, too, was partially of
the opinion that several works are attributed to him that he never wrote,
even though Galen himself set down his catalogue in writing and the way in
which his books should be read.
Among others, has not the soverign sun produced for us and for the whole
of France, including Belgium, another Galen who is Jaques Sylvius, and in
Germany Leonarthus Fuchsius, who by the excellence of their studies have
assured immortality fot themselves, just as their works have acquired an
eternal memory, such that if their shades were to descend to the Elysian
Fields, Galen would recognise them as the true and perfect image of his
own likeness, in that it is not possible for a human being to write in a
more learned way? And there is an almost innumerable multitude [here
Nostradamus pairs 'plusieurs' with 'innombrables', so confirming -- if
confirmation were needed -- that for him the word means 'many'] scattered
throughout Christendom who continually tend fo prepare some praise of this
kind through their written work in order to become glorified in
But I doubt very much whether the time will come when there are more
professors of the medical art than at present.
[The Proem goes on and on and ON! along similar lines, positively stuffed
with classical allusions, until it finally concludes with the slightly
confusing sign-off:] Bidding you adieu from St-Remy in Provence, known as
Sextrophaea, this first day of April 1552, composed at Salon de Crau in
Part 1 Chapter VI To make a perfect nutmeg oil, which not only has all
the potency of nutmeg but, in addition, when applied to the stomach, is a
sovereign remedy against coughs, nausea, retching and all kinds of
stomach-ache: Take half a pound of nutmegs, grind them up coarsely, then
boil them in a pan with a pound of spring water.
When the mixture has come to the boil three or four times, remove it from
the fire and put the whole thing into a little sachet of new linen, tie it
up firmly, put it into a press and squeeze it hard.
Put a dish underneath it to collect what runs through.
You will then see the oil floating on the water like yellow wax, having a
If it is kept for a year, the yellow will turn a brownish colour, and the
smell will become stronger still.
You will not get more than an ounce of oil from half a pound of nutmegs.
Note that, since this produces such a small quantity of oil, it can also
be made another way.
This, though, is the proper and most natural way, confirmed by all as
having all the effects of artificial balsam.
Part 1 Chapter VIII -- it's the important one giving Nostradamus's
famous plague-remedy! To make the basis for a perfectly good and excellent
aromatic powder whose perfume is not strange, but confers an agreeable and
long-lasting sweetness, though it can only be prepared once a year: Take
one ounce of the sawdust or shavings of cypress-wood, as green as you can
find, six ounces of Florentine violet-root, three ounces of cloves, three
drams of sweet calamus, and six drams of aloes-wood.
Reduce the whole to powder before it spoils.
Next, take three or four hundred in-folded red roses [the recent
Bloomsbury version entitled 'The Elixirs of Nostradamus' repeatedly
translates 'rose rouges incarnées' as 'black orchids'!!], fresh and
perfectly clean, and gathered before dewfall.
Pound them vigorously in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.
When you are half through pounding them, add to them the above mentioned
powder and immediately pound it all vigorously, while sprinkling on it a
When everything is well mixed together, form it into little flat lozenges,
as you would pills, and let them dry in the shade, for they will smell
And note that from this mixture may also be made aromatic soaps, cypress
powder, violet root powder, aromatic balls, perfumes, 'Cyprus birds' and
And in order to make the mixture even more excellent, add as much musk and
ambergris as you either can or wish.
If these two are added I do not doubt that you will produce a superbly
Pulverise the said musk and ambergris, dissolving it with rose-juice, then
mix it in and dry in the shade.
Quite apart from the goodness and scent that this mixture lends to the
items and mixtures mentioned above, you only have to keep it in the mouth
a little to make your breath smell wonderful all day.
Or if the breath was stinking, whether as a result of the teeth being
rotten or because of bad smells emerging from the stomach, or because the
person involved had some stinking ulcer somewhere, or some other odd case
that obliged him to flee people's company, keep a little of it in the
mouth without chewing, and it will give out such a good smell that nobody
will be able to tell where it is coming from ['Whence is that goodly
And in time of Plague, keep it often in the mouth, for there is no smell
better for keeping away the bad and pestiferous air.
[The French original of the following is split into only about three
sentences -- and certainly no paragraphs -- and mainly joined together
with 'and's!! I have split it up in order to make it even half
comprehensible!] And as proof of this, in 1546 I was recruited and hired
by the city of Aix-en-Provence, whose senate and people installed me there
to save the city at a time when the Plague was so great and so horrific.
It started on the last day of May and lasted nine whole months, and from
it died an extraordinary number of ordinary, walking, talking [the
original says 'eating, drinking'] people of all ages, such that the
churchyards were so full of dead bodies that nobody knew of any further
holy ground in which to bury them.
Most of them fell into a delirium on the second day, and those who went
into a delirium did not get any spots.
Those who did get the spots died suddenly in mid-sentence, without any
change in [the position of] their mouths, but after death their whole body
was covered with black spots.
And the urine [the Bloomsbury translation has 'drinking wells'!!] of those
who were dying in delirium was thin, like white wine, and after they died
half of all their body was sky-blue and gorged with purple blood.
The infection was so violent and malignant that one had only to approach
within five paces of one of those with the Plague to be infected.
Many had bright red spots ['charbons' = carbuncles] in front and behind,
and even all over their legs.
And those who had them on their backs found that they made them itch, and
most of these escaped, but of those who had them on their fronts not one
There were a few who has the marks behind the ears in the early stages of
the outbreak, and they lived up to six days, and I was at a loss to know
why they should have died on the sixth day rather than the seventh, other
than because of the severity of the disease.
Towards the beginning and middle [of the outbreak] not one escaped.
Neither blood-lettings, restorative medicines, sacred hymns nor anything
else had any more effect than doing nothing at all [So much, then, for all
the claims that Nostradamus 'refused to bleed his patients'!], and [even]
the Tyriac of Andromacus [a patent medicine? -- the Bloomsbury version
suggests 'Venetian treacle', but in view of its other her.bloomers.]
correctly and truly prepared, had no role to play, for the disease raged
with such violence that not one of them escaped.
Once the whole city had been visited [by me], and the Plague victims had
been thrown out, there were even more the next day than before, and no
medicine in the world was found to offer better protection against the
Plague that this composition [above].
All those who carried and retained some of it in the mouth were protected,
and towards the end there was clear evidence that it a lot of people were
preserved from the infection.
And although this fact is not relevant to the subject that we are
discussing, it is nevertheless not a bad reason for reporting how helpful
it was for us in time of Plague.
For this particular Plague outbreak was so malignant that it was a sheer
Many insisted that it was a Divine punishment, for at a distance of a
league all around there was nothing but good health, yet the whole city
was so infected that a mere look from someone who had been infected would
quickly give it to another.
There were plenty of provisions of every kind at virtually dirt-cheap
prices, but death came so suddenly and so frenziedly that fathers paid no
attention to their sons, and many abandoned their wives and children as
soon as they realised that they had been hit by the Plague.
Many who were covered with Plague spots threw themselves down wells in
their delirium, others threw themselves down from their windows on to the
cobbles, others who had carbuncles behind the shoulder and on their
breasts suffered violent nosebleeds that lasted day and night to the point
where they died, pregnant women aborted and at the end of four days died,
and the child, too, died suddenly, and its whole body was found to be
stained a purple colour, as if the blood had spread to all corners of the
In short, the desolation was so great that even with gold and silver in
their hands, people often died for want of a glass of water, and if I
prescribed some medicine or other for those who were afflicted, it was
taken to them, but badly administered, such that many died with it
actually in their mouths.
Among the [most] admirable things I saw, I think, was a woman who, even
while I was paying a visit on her and calling to her through the window,
replied to what I was saying -- still through the window -- while sewing
herself unaided into her own shroud, starting with the feet.
And when the 'alarbes' arrived (which is what we in Provence call those
who take the Plague victims away and bury them) and went into this woman's
house, they found her dead, lying in the middle of the house with her
The above is what happened in three or four parts of the city, one of
which I saw for myself.
And I would happily have recounted more about the whole Plague outbreak
that happened in the city, but this would be to confuse the present work
Part 1 Chapter X To make a sweet-smelling, long-lasting paste, which is
very proper and suitable for forming into aromatic balls and rosary beads
because all aromatic mixtures contain roses, which are what gives them
their goodly smell in the first place, and because, owing to their subtle
and delicate nature, it seems quite easy.
Thanks to this recipe, however, an aromatic ball or rosary retains the
softness of its scent a long time, though it can only be made once a year.
Take some nice, clean, in-folded red roses, as many as you like -- five or
six hundred, more or less -- and boil up as much water as you can see will
be enough to cover them.
When the water is boiling vigorously, put the roses into it, bring them to
the boil five or six times, and then put them in a brand-new earthenware
Then leave them to stand for twenty-four hours.
The next day heat them up again, then squeeze them as hard as possible in
a press until all the goodness has come out and nothing is left except the
Now take the liquid, put it into a pan and bring it to the boil over a low
fire, starting off slowly but increasing the heat towards the end untiI
the moisture has all gone.
Finally, when you can see that it is about to reduce down completely, stir
it with a stick, and when you see that it is as thick as boiled honey,
drain it into a glazed, earthenware dish and leave it in the sun for a few
From this simple mixture there will now issue a sweet smell that will last
for a long time and is suitable for forming into aromatic balls, giving a
better paste than those made by infusing tragacanth in rosewater.
Part 1 Chapter XI Another method for making aromatic balls: Take two
ounces of the purest labdanum, an ounce each of Styrax calamite and Assae
odoriferae (which we call benzoin), half an ounce of rose-tablets, one
ounce of violet powder and half a dram each of amber and musk.
Grind it all into a powder, knead it together with the rose-mixture
mentioned earlier for the space of an hour and you will have an aromatic
ball of the most supreme perfume, and the longest-lasting that can be made
anywhere in the world.
Those who grasp the way of doing this will praise it loud and long.
True, many people have added white sandalwood to it, or lemon-oil (which
has no merit), and many other useless drugs that have smelt more like
medicinal drugs or spices than good perfume.
But it is gratuitous to excuse people who have misled others, committing
to print things that they did not know and had no experience of -- for
such people have set down things that have neither rhyme nor reason.
Be advised, then, that labdanum is very good when it is not adulterated
and is the substance obtained from goats' beards in the Arabia the Blest,
about which Herodotus wrote in his 'Thalian Muse', which is his third
Indeed, three years ago I searched the whole city of Genoa for it, and
came away with half a pound of it on account of its excellence, taken from
For in Arabia they collect it from the stomachs of goats and sheep, in the
same way that sheep's wool is gathered here in Provence.
So if the labdanum is of good quality and unadulterated, you can make
[aromatic] balls out of it because, quite apart from their good smell,
carrying them on the person offers powerful protection against infected
air in times of pestilence or during outbreaks of dangerous illnesses.
For it it rejoices the soul, strengthens the heart and the brain, relieves
fainting attacks and restores the faint heart.
And it has such an exquisite perfume that the nearer you hold it to your
nose, the more pleasant and attractive it is.
It also strengthens the brain in cases of epilepsy to such an extent that
in cases where someone might previously have had an attack once a month,
he would now fall only once in three months.
Part 1 Chapter XIII Powder for cleaning and whitening the teeth and
making the breath sweet and soft, and in a few days cleaning the teeth and
making them as white as ivory, however black and brown they may be: Take
three drams each of crystal, flint, white marble, glass and calcined rock
salt, two drams each of cuttlefish bone and calcined sea-snail shells,
half a dram each of fragmented pearls, two drams of bright riverbed stones
(which form little white pebbles), one scruple of amber and twenty-two
grains of musk, and grind them down thoroughly on a painter's marble slab.
Rub the teeth with [the resultant powder] frequently and gently rub with a
little rose honey any places where the gums have receded.
In a few days you will see the flesh grow back, and the teeth clearly get
[You bet! -- and please remember that this is Nostradamus's recipe, not
Part 1 Chapter XIIII Another more excellent method for cleaning the
teeth, even those that are really rotten and decayed -- for if they have
been tarnished for a long time it is impossible for them to get white
again, and with this you wi/I clearly see quick results: Take some blue
clay, of the type used for tiles which are white when fired.
Take as much as you like, and knead it vigorously for a long time so that
is (above all) clean and free of gravel, and when you have kneaded it
thoroughly, make it into small, long, round pieces of the type and shape
that you see indicated here [diagram follows, looking a bit like the
business end of a small writing-quill, seen side-on and laid across the
page, about 66 mm long and 4 mm thick].
Dry these in the sun and, when they are completely dry, bake them in an
oven used for baking clay pots or tiles: or to bake them more quickly,
place them either on an iron plate, a tile or a brick and put them in a
Then pump the bellows for half a quarter of an hour, and they will be
baked as perfectly as if they had been three days in the oven.
When they are well baked, prepare some water as described hereunder and
soak them in it.
And because the newly fired clay soaks up the water, it will retain the
Whenever you want to clean your teeth, this will remove the stains and
rottenness and unpleasant smell and give the mouth a pleasant taste for a
If you persist with this, you will make them white as ivory, however black
they may be.
It would also be good to wet them with egg-white (after they have been
treated several times with aromatic water) in which a gold leaf has been
placed, in order to add lustre to them.
[recipe for the water follows -- and do remember that this is
Nostradamus's prescription, not mine!]]
Part 1 Chapter XV Here follows the perfumed water for impregnating the
shapes or forms mentioned above.
Take four ounces of Florentine violet roots, one ounce of infolded red
roses [the Bloomsbury translation once again gives 'black orchids'!], one
ounce of cloves, six drams of cyperi [the root of special rushes], a dram
of cinnamon, half an ounce of sweet calamus, a dram of lavender, three
drams of dried marjoram, two drams of orange peel, one ounce of styrax,
one dram of ambergris and half a dram of musk.
Let the whole of it be ground to powder and put into a glass phial with
some good rose-water and some naphtha water made with orange-flowers,
lime-flowers and lemon-flowers all mixed together -- mainly
orange-flowers, but of the other two a pound (of sixteen ounces).
Leave it there for four days, and then take a glass that is more than half
the size of the original.
But [before] you pour it into the glass, mix the contents vigorously by
shaking the phial.
Then, when you have put as much as you like in the glass, leave your
shapes [sticks] to soak in it for an hour or so, as you see fit.
While they are soaking, see that you keep the glass well covered, so that
it does not spoil.
Once they have thoroughly absorbed the water, paint them either wholly or
partially with gold leaf, whichever you think best, and then clean the
Afterwards, to wash away the contamination that the shaped sticks will
have produced, take the rest of the water that has remained in the phial
or flask, and pass it through a straining-bag, just as one does with the
the first straining of Hippocratic wine, squeezing out the bottom of the
bag tightly, so that all the taste is washed away by the water.
Then pour the water again as often as you can until it is clear.
You can use this water in many ways to make pleasant odours, or for the
face, the hands, the beard or as a mouthwash.
Part 1 Chapter XVIII (the rarely seen 'lost' chapter, translated from
Antoine Volant's 1556 edition -- seemingly the last edition in which it
appeared before being quietly removed) To truly make the lovers' sexual
potion which the ancients used for love-making.
The method for making amorous potions which the Greeks commonly called
'philtres' and the Romans a 'poculum amatorium': such that, once a person
had passed it from one mouth to the other, the other died of
All the while the one continually retaining it in his mouth did not expel
it by a certain time, he would die in a complete frenzy if he did not
enjoy the person he was laying claim to.
It was first invented by Medea.Similarly, the poet Lucretius died of it.
And this potion is so powerful and efficacious that if a man were to have
a little of it in his mouth, and while having it in his mouth kissed a
woman, or a woman him, and expelled it with his saliva, putting some of it
in the other's mouth, it would suddenly cause in her a fire that is not so
much a fire as a fever without either thirst or high temperature, but a
burning of her heart to perform the love-act, and that only with the one
giving her the kiss and injecting it into her mouth.
The love between the two remains so long and so inviolable that neither
can endure not being together.
And if the lovers were to be separated, their love would be like those
great, passionate amours [in the past] that have been converted into rage.
In those days people were obliged to make the Amulet of Venus, which we
call a love-charm, with the bird that is called 'cauda tremula'
[literally: 'wagtail'?], which appears only in the winter.
Many of those who once used sacred magic knew how to make it, such as
Diotima -- the woman who indoctrinated Socrates with the occult philosophy
and herself used this potion from the time of her youth onwards, and in
her old age tried to use it on young people but succeeded more in just
fascinating or charming them.
But the version which follows has magnificent power to attract one who is
compatible, constraining the woman or maid to abandon herself [to you] and
to taste what through [purely] artificial conjecture she is imagining in
But beware not to use it for evil ends, nor to keep it in your mouth until
it fills you, for it could harm you.
Instead, you should keep it in a tiny little glass phial, and when you are
close to the person, wherever you like, put it in her mouth, inserting it
while kissing her.
The poet Lucretius (and the way to make it is as hereunder) witnesses in
his fourth book to having used it, saying: Affligunt Amicle corpus
iunguntq; salivas Oris, inspirant pressantes dentibus ora.
[apparently a half-remembered quotation about the potion afflicting and
joining friends' bodies, with the saliva forced past the teeth into the
mouth.] It seems to me that it will be neither alien nor strange to this
our initiative if I describe how it used to be made, despite the fact that
some will not find it good that the recipe be included here, even though
in truth it has not yet been committed to print by any known writer, and
even though it was banned by the occult philosophy of poisons at the time
of Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian, as the Platonic philosopher Apuleius
explains in greater detail in his Apology against Emylianus, referring to
it vaguely and darkly.
However, so as not to exceed our terms of reference, we shall describe the
principal way in which it was made which, after its invention by Medea,
spread through the whole of Thessaly, where the women used it with
TAKE three mandrake apples and go and cull them as soon as you see the sun
rising, and wrap them in verbena leaves and the root of the mullein herb,
and leave them alone until the following morning.
Then take the weight of six grains of magnetite from the point where it
repels the iron, as revealed by the use of the quadrant, and pulverise it
on the marble as finely as possible, sprinkling it a little with the juice
of the mandrake apple.
Next take the blood of seven male sparrows, bled via the left wing; of
ambergris the weight of 57 barley seeds; seven grains of musk; of the core
of the best cinnamon that can be found the weight of 377 barley seeds; of
cloves and fine lignum aloes the weight of three deniers [pence]; of the
arms of an octopus [the original French misprints 'pourpre poisson' for 'poulpe
poisson', as is not impossible with dictated typsetting!] one eyelet from
each, preserved and prepared in honey; of mace the weight of 21 grains; of
sweet flag the weight of 500 grains; of the root of Lyris Illyrica or
Sclavonia ['Illyrian or Slavonian Lyre'] the weight of 700 grains; of the
root of Apii Risus ['Bee's Laughter'] 31 grains; of Cretan wine double the
weight of the whole; of the finest sugar the weight of 700 grains, which
is just a little more than an ounce.
Mix all of this together and pulverise and macerate it thoroughly in a
marble mortar with a wooden pestle.
Ladle it out with a silver spoon and put it in a glass vessel, and set it
to boil on the fire until it reduces in quantity to the point where the
sugar has become like syrup, or julep.
And take care above all that it is not a willow fire.Once it has boiled,
strain it all carefully but vigorously, and put it in a vessel of gold,
silver or glass.
And when you want to use some of it, put just a little of it in your
mouth, as it were the weight of half a crown, and even if you swallow some
of it, it will not harm you at all, provided that if you do not find the
person to transmit it to, you do not fail that very day to have sex,
wherever it seems best to you.
For the increased production of semen that it produces rises to the brain
and causes a madness that is called 'love-madness', as well as having
other powerful effects that rejoice the person involved -- indeed, if made
without the magnetite, these are quite incomparable.
However, if it is to have power and efficacity for the consecration of
love it is necessary that the stone be in it, for by its power the
mandrake has the effect of summoning up the power of the expelled genital
seed by removing the Apii Risus.
And note that if the person is married and the love between them has grown
cold, and some divorce [is pending] bythe fault of either party,
especially the man (who is generally affected by the imperfection that the
woman lacks), you should add oil of faeces [?], 31 grains by weight of
ambergris, dissolved in white dove's blood and mixed with a little Philtre
Amuleti ['amulet potion'], which has the effect of chasing away all hate
and rancour, provided that it is not for a woman who is maddened or
enraged and whose nature is malign, for this may well keep her quiet for a
few days, but in the end she would be just as inclined to evil malignity
again, especially if she is egged on by nasty relations full of hidden
It is of course possible that some students of Platonic philosophy will be
inclined to class all this as frivolous.
But if they think about all the reasons carefully, they will find that it
has in fact escaped and emerged from their own school, ae, ae [Hee hee?],
that it is pleasing to the sovereign sun, which is the true light of God,
and that none was ever so bold as to try and make it other than in the
context of marriage: for to use it for fraudulent and libidinous sex it
would be wrong to use the knowledge of it [sic].
Part 1 Chapter XXIV How to make the hair golden blond, no matter how
black or white it is, making it pale yellow without losing its colour for
a long time, and retaining it in its entirety, and making it grow in such
a way as to be that colour right down to the root, just as it is to the
Take a pound of twigs of the wood called fustet, ground to a fine powder,
half a pound of box-wood shavings, four ounces of fresh liquorice, four
ounces of nice, dry, yellow orange-peel, four ounces each of celandine
root and papaver, two ounces of the leaves and flower of glaucium or
guelder-rose [?], half an ounce of saffron, and half a pound of paste made
from finely ground wheat flour.
Boil it all up in some lye made with half pounded ashes and then pour it
all out [through a strainer?].
Next, take a large earthenware pot or jar, and make ten or twelve little
holes in the bottom.
Then afterwards take equal quantities of sacred ash [?] and pounded
wood-ash and put them in some large wooden mortar or something of the
kind, as you please, and sprinkle them with the said concoction while
pounding them vigorously for the best part of a day.
Keep doing so until the ash is fairly hard, and while pounding it add a
little rye- and wheat-straw, continually pounding it so that it soaks up
most of the concoction.
Then take the said pounded ashes and put them in the said pot or jar, and
in each of the holes in the said pot stick an ear of rye that passes out
to the exterior and make alternate beds of straw and ashes until the said
pot is full, but leave a little room for the rest of the concoction.
Then, towards evening, position another pot or jar to collect the lye that
dribbles out of the holes along the ears of rye.
When you want to use it in the morning, go and see what has oozed out,
sponge it up and apply it to the hair by wiping.
And at the end of three or four days you will have hair that is as
golden-blond as a golden ducat.
But before you put it on your head, wash it with another good lye, because
if it were greasy it wouldn't take so easily.
And you must understand that the contents of the present recipe are
sufficient for one or two years, and are sufficient, if used properly, for
the needs of ten or twelve women, for only a little of the liquor is
sufficient to colour the hair quickly and easily, and there is no need to
wash with anything other than this for a woman whose hair was black as
coal to become quickly blond, and for a very long time.
Part 1 Chapter XXVI [often erroneously described as for an aphrodisiac]
There follows a supreme and very useful composition for the health of the
human body that is of great power and efficacity.
I should like to set down here for you details of a composition which I
have often prepared for the Most Reverend Monsignor the Lord Bishop of
Carcassonne, Ammanien de Foys, which has brought life back to his body.
Since the soul from the point of view of medicine is none other than
natural heat, and where there is no heat there is no life, so, by means of
this composition, a melancholy complexion has been changed into a sanguine
one, even though the humours of the two are diametrically opposed to each
other in every way -- just as smoke, which is a warm, moist substance,
instantly converts itself into murky soot, which is cold and dry after the
manner of the earth.
So it is that this composition rejuvenates the person who uses it.
If the person is sad or melancholic, it makes him bright and joyful: if he
is a timid man, it makes him daring: if he is taciturn, it makes him
affable by changing his qualities: if he is a malicious man, it makes him
gentle and slow to anger, changing him as it were into a thirty-year-old:
if the hairs of his beard are starting to turn grey, it slows down the
ageing process considerably, and preserves the colour no less than the
It rejoices the heart and whole person so entirely, that from the day when
he has taken it it will make the breath smell so sweet that he will feel
very pleased about it.
Without overheating his nature, without changing him in any way,
protecting him from headaches and pains in the side, it keeps the four
humours in such balance and proportion that if the man had not been born,
he would never be able to die.
But he who taught us about nature also taught us that we must die.
The clarification that [this composition] brings is so restorative that it
prolongs one's life, extending it to such an extent that unless some great
accident or excess befalls the user, his life will be as long as that of
the ancient barbarians.
Anyone who is sickening for tuberculosis, be it of the first, second or
third kind, will evade and escape the danger.
Preserved at times of plague, he will not come to any harm, and whoever is
struck by it -- provided that it be within ten hours -- is sure to escape
it, provided that he also has a change of air by going at least three
leagues from the any plague-carriers.
Then you will be sure to escape, and will pose no risk or danger to
anybody.Its powers are to be commended.
Take note, then, of how to make it, and carry out of the printed
instructions exactly, for nothing [in it] is impossible to prepare.
The recipe follows [the ingredients are all in abbreviated Latin, rather
like a doctor's prescription, presumably so that clients are forced to get
the genuine ones from their apothecaries]: Take the powder of sweet musk,
of cold pearls, of gemstones and of master coral, 150 finely chopped gold
leaves, and lapis lazuli (washed nine times and prepared and similarly
Do not, however, use the type that the apothecaries have, for that is
worthless, but rather the kind stocked by jewellers or goldsmiths.
Take as much as four drams of this (if you can find so much), a dram each
of best broken pearls, one dram of oak shavings, one dram of unicorn
scrapings [rhinoceros horn?], two pieces of deer antler, half an ounce
each of aloes wood and the heart of cinnamon, one dram each of preserved
roses, alkanet and violets, six preserved nuts, half a dram of preserved
lemon peel (well steeped in sugar), six drams of preserved ginger, three
drams of the preserved fruit of the 'mirabulanum embulicum' [?], one ounce
each of finely chopped, preserved oranges, lettuce and pumpkin, four
ducats' weight of the finest gold filings from golden ducats that you can
find, half an ounce of occidental amber and two drams each of senna and
Let the powders be put together, and the conserves and confections ground
up hard in a marble mortar with the gold leaves and the filed-down gold,
and all of them vigorously pounded together.
Then take six ounces of fine white silk that has never been used and bring
it all to the boil with two ounces of 'fraissel', which is the powder of
scarlet-grains [?], together with half a pound each of the juice of
good-smelling apples, rose-water and blessed edible thistles, and six
ounces of fine sugar.
Boil them all together with the 'fraissel', the liquids and the juice
until you see that they have turned quite red, but take care that no sugar
is present while you are boiling the silk [Ooops!!].
Once the silk, the juices, the water and the wine [?!!] have been well
boiled, remove them from the fire, pour them out carefully [into a
straining cloth?] and squeeze the liquid out as strongly as you can.
Then, once it has been strained, add the sugar and boil it up like a
When it is almost ready, pour two ounces of the best malmsey over it, or
white wine, and boil it all a little more until it is [again] like syrup,
then take it off the fire and add some ambergris to it. If it is the right
stuff it will dissolve.
When it has cooled, add the musk, and finally add the rest of the
conserves, confections and well-ground up-powders.
Stir the mixture well for the space of half an hour so that it is well
Then take four ounces of preserved alkanet bark and one ounce of 'Doronicus
Romanus' [leopard's bane?] and put it in last.
Mix everything thoroughly and finally add the gold leaves.
When the whole concoction is ready, put it in a tightly closed receptacle
of gold, silver or glass.
Part 1 Chapter XXVII There follows the way in which one should use the
above-mentioned composition, which is equal in power and efficacity to
potable gold and its power.
If one takes a dram's weight of it every morning, washed down with a
little good wine or malmsey, an hour and a half before dining, it will
protect against the hassle of falling ill, strengthen the heart, the
stomach and the brain, cure epilepsy in those who are not yet twenty-five
years old, rejuvenate the person and slow down the ageing process.
If anyone takes it during an epidemic, he will not be infected that day.
A crown's weight of it provides much better nourishment than a whole
capon, protects the person against leprosy, drives away melancholy and
But its greatest virtue is that if mixed with alkanet water, and taken by
someone on the point of death and in his last agony, when nature and his
sickness are doing battle with each other, it will so invigorate and
strengthen the patient that the outcome of the crisis will be in his
favour and the illness overcome [didn't work for Nostradamus himself,
For the greatest virtue that it can have is that it benefits the heart a
hundred times more than Alchermes's confection.
Also, if some woman cannot have children, it so adapts the womb that both
seeds, once united, are retained in its vessels and are adapted for true
Therefore when my lords the doctors of medicine [interesting expression --
it suggests that he himself wasn't one!] assess this composition in
detail, they will bestow on it no less than the highest praise.
Again, if someone were to faint, even a little of it would restore the
soul to its seat, even the soul of life.
However, this composition is not suitable for everyone, even though all
humans are human.
However, let anyone who wants to preserve his life and live a long time in
health and happiness have some made up.
But be well advised, do not trust just any apothecary: I guarantee you
that for every good one there are a hundred, if not a thousand bad ones.
Either they are so poor that they do not have the necessary ingredients,
or they are rich and powerful, but miserly and corrupt, and so fearful of
not being paid what they ask that they don't include the half -- or even
the third -- of the prescription's ingredients.
Others are ignorant -- not only not knowing, but not even wanting to know,
which is a terrible evil in men of any estate [yes, we have some of those
around here too!] -- while yet others are dirty and unclean, and act
I will not say that there are not some among them who have it all, who
have what it takes, who are conscientious, who have the know-how, but
[even] they are negligent and have their medicines made up by others who
do it badly.
I will not deny that there are some who do well what they do, but that is
I have travelled extensively throughout the kingdom of France, or at least
most of it, and have frequented and known many apothecaries and become
acquainted with them, but I have seen them do so many unspeakable things
that I believe one could not find any other trade in which there is more
malpractice and unconscionable misuse than pharmaceutics.
.[He then goes on at considerable length about the dreadful practices he
has seen in a whole variety of places -- especially ones with Roman ruins
to explore! -- finally recommending Louis Serre at Marseille, Joseph Turel
Lecurin at Aix-en-Provence and François Bérard at Salon.]
Part 2 Chapter III To make candied orange peel, using sugar or honey,
that will be excellently tasty.
Take some oranges and cut them into four or six sections, but at least
Remove the insides, so that nothing remains except the peel, with the
flesh and the pips removed.
Now take your peel and leave it to soak in good clean water, on this first
occasion adding a good fistful of salt, because the salt will take away
the superfluous bitterness from the oranges.
Leave the peel to stand for twenty-four hours, then change the water and
replace it with fresh.
Carry on changing it for nine days.
At the end of nine days, boil the peel in good spring water (throughout,
the Bloomsbury/Bell translation says 'well water' -- precisely the type
that Nostradamus *didn't* want!), until, when you are ready to test it
with a pin, this will go in easily.
When you notice that the pin does go into the peel easily, remove the peel
from the fire and use a straining-spoon to put it into cold water.
When the pieces have cooled, dry them a little on a white linen cloth and,
when you dried off some of the water, put them into a glass or earthenware
vessel until it is full of them.
Next take two or three pounds of sugar, depending on the size of the
vessel, and if the sugar is of good quality do not clarify it, but
dissolve it in the same weight of water as the sugar itself weighs.
Once it has dissolved, let it boil until it attains the form and
consistency of a syrup that has been thoroughly boiled for the first time.
Then remove it from the fire and let it cool.
And when it is cool, put the peel into it and let it soak well in the said
The following day put the said syrup in a pan, without the peel, and bring
it to the boil, just as you did before, and let it cool again.
Then put it back into its vessel containing the said orange peel, and
leave it to stand for three days.
And at the end of three days boil it up again as before.
When you see that the syrup is boiling, throw the rind or peel into the
mixture and bring it back to the boil five or six times -- but no more,
lest it become too hard.
Then afterwards remove it from the fire, let it cool again, and put it all
back into its vessel and do not touch it for a month or thereabouts.
If a the end of a month you deem that it needs boiling up again, do so, or
else just leave it as it is.
And if you wish, after it has all been well and truly boiled, you can add
a small stick of cinammon and some cloves pounded together -- which will
make a preserve of quite perfect goodness.
If, however, you wish to preserve your orange peel in honey, take as much
honey as you like, put it in a pan and melt it until until all the scum
rises to the top, and when all the scum has risen to the top, leave it to
stand until it is cold.
Then remove the scum on the top with a skimmer or pierced spoon and
Now take the de-scummed honey and add it to the oranges, and carry on as
described for the sugar.
Part 2 Chapter VIII How to make a jam or preserve with heart-cherries,
which the Italians call 'amarenes' ['long-lasters'?], and to prepare them
in the best and most beautiful way in the world, such that when [even]
they are a year old they will seem to have been prepared that day, and
most tasty, too.
Take some of the nicest heart-cherries you can find, good and ripe (for if
they are not completely ripe, only skin and marrow will remain after
cooking) and cut the stalks somewhat if you feel that they are too long.
Take three pounds or so of them.
Then take a pound-and-a-half of sugar, and let it dissolve in the juice of
three or four pounds of other heart-cherries.
And take care that once the juice has been extracted you add it to the
sugar at once and without delay.
Then place it over the fire, making sure that the sugar melts in no other
liquid than the juice.
Boil it up as quickly as possible and when it is boiling remove all the
scum that is floating on the top.
When you have removed all the scum and can see that your sugar is as red
as it was to start with and is thoroughly clarified, don't let it go off
the boil, but immediately -- without taking it off the fire -- put in the
heart-cherries to boil, stirring them neither too much nor too little,
until they are perfect, all the while removing the scum on the top with a
Do not take them off the fire until they are cooked right through without
any need to put them on the fire again.
Then put one drop on a pewter plate, and once you see that it will not run
down in either direction, they are ready.
As soon as you see that they are done to perfection, pour them while still
hot into small containers holding three or four ounces each.
You will then have beautiful red, whole heart-cherries with a wonderful
taste that will keep for a long time.
I have been to many different parts of the world, and have been with
people who have prepared them some in this way and some in that, such
that, if I were to describe what I have seen everywhere the paper would
I would have thought that the land of Italy would have been best at doing
this, but while there (at least so far as I have observed) they go about
I have seen it made in Toulouse, in several ways at Bordeaux and at la
Rochelle -- indeed, throughout the lands of Guyenne and Languedoc, and the
whole of Provence, the Dauphiné and the Lyonnais.
But I have never come across more beautiful nor better ones than these.
In Toulouse they boil and re-boil them five or six times and several times
in Bordeaux, as well as throughout the region of Agen.
Eventually, though, when they are five or six months old, they spoil: some
go rotten, while others dry out.
For if you want to preserve them properly you must use no liquid other
than the juice of heart-cherries, as it increases their goodness, body and
taste to such an extent that, if a sick person takes just a single one, it
will be to him like a balsam or other restorative.
And after a year they are just like they were on the day they were
Part 2 Chapter XV To make a quince jelly of superb beauty, goodness,
flavour and excellence fit to set before a King, and which lasts a good
Take whatever quinces you like, as long as they are fully ripe and yellow.
Cut them up into quarters without peeling them (for those who peel them do
not know what they are doing, since the skin enhances the smell), and
divide each quarter into five or six pieces.
Remove the seeds, because the fruit will turn into jelly perfectly well
As you are cutting them up, place them in a basin full of water, for
unless they are plunged into water the moment they are cut up they will
Once they are cut up, boil them in a good quantity of water until they are
well done, almost to the point of shrivelling up.
When they have boiled thoroughly, strain this liquid through a thick piece
of new linen and squeeze the whole preparation through it as hard as you
Then take this decoction, and if there are six pounds of it, take one and
a half pounds of Madeira sugar and put it into the decoction, and bring it
to the boil over a gentle charcoal fire until you see that.
towards the end, it is reducing in volume considerably.
Then damp the fire down, so that it does not burn at the sides -- which
would give a bad colour to the jelly.
Then, when it is nearly done, and so as to know when it is done perfectly,
take some of it with a spatula or silver spoon and put it on a platter,
and if you see that when it has cooled it comes off as a globule, without
sticking either here or there, then it is done.
Take it off the fire and wait for the scum on the top to settle, then
pour the still-hot liquid into small wooden or glass containers.
And if you want to write or gouge something on the bottom of the
container, you can do so, for it will be seen easily [through the jelly].
For the colour will be as diaphanous as an oriental ruby.
So excellent will the colour be -- and the taste even more so -- that it
may be given to sick and healthy alike.
Part 2 Chapter XXIIII To preserve pears Take as many of the best small
pears, or muscatels, or others -- any, in fact, that on the basis of local
and regional knowledge you know to be suitable for preserving.
Peel them and clean them as thoroughly as you can.
And if it seems to you that the stalks are too long, cut a little off
them, though it is better that they should be too long than too short, so
as to be able to get hold of them when you want to.
When you have peeled them as and how you can, drop them into fresh water,
so that they do not turn black.
When they have all been cleaned, boil them up wherever you like in good
spring water (as usual, the Bloomsbury translation says 'well-water',
precisely the kind that Nostradamus *didn't* want!) -- or the best that
can be found -- and carry on until they are sufficiently cooked (such
that, when you pierce them with a pin, the pin goes in easily).
And when they are sufficiently cooked, take them off the fire, remove them
with a skimming-ladle and cool them down in clear water, then put them on
a nice, clean, white cloth and leave them to dry by themselves for a bit.
When they are dry, put them in any well-glazed earthenware vessel, or just
an earthenware pot, and turn it upside down, so that any last drop of
water that has failed to run out will the more easily do so.
Then take as much sugar as your eye tells you is necessary, dissolve it in
the same amount of water -- whether more or less is neither here nor there
-- and, when it has dissolved, clarify it if necessary.
But if the sugar is in sugar-loaf form, and particularly if it comes from
Madeira, there is no need to clarify it, since it is normally whiter.
This is because, when sugar is made, soft earth is piled on top of a jar
whose pointed end is place in a small hole through which the sediment and
all the moisture from the sugar trickles.
What remains on top, at the wider end, is the most purified.
When it begins to dry out, it is covered with a piece of dry clay, to
cover it and absorb moisture.
For this reason, take your sugar from the wide part of the sugar-loaf, and
when it has melted, boil it up into a syrup, and when it is done, leave it
to cool down for a bit.
When it is cold, put in the pears, and if you see that the pears have been
cooked too much, add a bit more hot sugar, to firm it up.
When the sugar-syrup has been with the pears in their pot for two days,
boil it up again into a syrup and when it is completely cold, pour it back
into the vessel with the pears.
Leave it to stand for four days and then pour the sugar into a pan and the
pears into a dish or cooking pot, and put one or two cloves and some
cinnamon on each pear.
This done, replace the pears back into their vessel and boil up the sugar
into a proper syrup once more.
Once it has boiled, pour it back over the pears and seal the pot well.
You will then have a confection excellent enough to set before a prince.
Part 2 Section XXV To make a very fine sugar candy.
Take nine pounds or so of nice white sugar-loaf or muscovado (for
beautiful materials make for a beautiful work, and ugly ones for an ugly
or nasty one) and dissolve or liquify it in a sufficient amount of water.
If you do not feel, though, that the sugar is fine enough, clarify it
until it has lost all its sediment such that, once clarified, you can
easily run it through a strainer.
Then boil it up until it takes on the consistency of a syrup.
It is better to overboil, rather than underboil it, for then it would
candy to a salt.
As soon as it is boiled, take some specially-made unglazed earthenware
pots and place in each of them a little stick of pine-wood, or a length of
reed, in order that the sugar may candy throughout as a result of having
something to form around.
When the sticks have been properly fitted inside them all, pour the
still-hot sugar into each pot, put its lid on (which should be of
earth[enware?]) press it in thoroughly and seal it roughly with clay, for
no other reason than to keep the heat inside for longer.
Then immediately bury it under some dung -- which should be warm -- in
some hidden or secluded place.
If you see that the dung is not hot enough, warm it up with some hot water
it and see that the dung is deep and that the pots are right in the middle
Cover them up well and leave for nine whole days and nine whole nights.
At the end of nine days, take them out of the dung heap, open them and
pour out the syrup which has not yet candied and you will see that out of
nine pounds of sugar, five or six pounds will have candied -- perhaps
more, perhaps less.
When you have thoroughly drained all the syrup, heat up some water until
it is good and hot, then immediately wash out [each pot] two or three
times, rinsing it out thoroughly, so that any syrup remaining does not get
in the way, and then add the washing-water to the syrup.
Note, by the way, that when you want to prepare this you should not make
less than you can easily manage, since a little costs just as much as a
You should also understand that if the sugar were to stay under the dung
longer than nine days and the dung were hot, the sugar would de-candify
because the steam from the dung contains moist fumes that would penetrate
inside to some extent, and there would be as much [sugar] de-candifying
itself as candying.
Note that if you want all or most of the sugar to candy, you should just
boil the sugar up into a syrup and see that the pot has not been fired at
too high a temperature and has not been washed (or even in contact) with
water just before you put in the sugar, so that the only moisture the pot
absorbs is from the sugar.
Also, such pots should be made expressly for this purpose.
For when you want to take the candied sugar out all in one piece, once you
have removed any syrup you must place the pot over the fire directly on
the charcoal while turning it a little, until you can feel the sugar
Then break the pot and remove the sugar, which will all have candied --
and you will get not less than eight or nine pounds of it.
Anybody can make this, but it is disgraceful for a lot of idle chatterers
to say that beautiful sugar candy can be made from an impure sugar.
'Quia ex non musico non fit Musicus' [Latin: 'For you can't get good music
out of a bad musician'].
If, however, you mean that something beautiful can be made from a sugar
which is not very nice, I will tell you how it can be done.
Take a quantity of well-refined sugar, well clarified and boiled to a
syrup, but only just -- then put it into a large earthenware jar.
Make a hole at the bottom such as one makes at the bottom of a barrel or
cask, and leave the said syrup in this long, deep jar that is commensurate
with the amount of syrup.
Leave it there for four or five days, and at the end of five days run a
good half or more of the syrup out through the hole in the bottom.
What is left will then be good, for sugar acts differently from honey in
that the best sugar rises to the top, as is the case with oil.
The best honey, however, is that at the bottom.
Thus it is possible from an impure sugar to make a fairly good sugar
candy, but it will still be of inferior quality.
This, then, is how to make sugar candy as it is made in Genoa and Venice.
Here at home, in fact, I have even had it made in olive-barrels once the
oil has been emptied out, and this was very good and very much like that
which is brought from Venice.
Part 2 Chapter XXVII To make marzipan paste, which Hermolaus in the
following letter calls 'Martios panes' [Latin: 'Soldiers' loaves'], and
which can easily be prepared at home or in any place whatever, as you will
see in the said letter.
Take a pound of cleanly peeled almonds and pound them thoroughly in a
marble mortar with half a pound of Madeira sugar.
When it has all been thoroughly ground up together, add a little
rose-water while still pounding, so that they do not turn oily.
And once they have been well ground up, make little cakes or little round
tartlets out of them and lay them out on top of wafers.
Let these be of high quality.
You can set them out in squares on top of the said wafers.
Then bake them in the oven.
When they are half-baked, take some powdered sugar and make up a paste
with egg-whites and a little orange-juice: make it quite runny, and when
the marzipan is almost baked, take it out of the oven and, with a feather,
brush on some of the liquified sugar, then return the marzipan to the oven
simply to colour it.
When it is finished, you will find that it has a really delectable and
Any greater quantity of sugar makes it doughy and unpleasant to eat, and
consequently less delicious.
If you want to bake them easily at home at any hour of the day, heat up an
iron shovel, of the kind you use for the fire, until it is red-hot, and
place the marzipan or little biscuits made with the said paste on a stool
Then pass it lightly over the marzipan without actually touching it, until
you can see it starting to colour up.
And when it is done on one side, turn it over and do it again.
When they are done, you will have the same colour as mentioned above, and
when made this way they are better than in the oven to the extent that
they don't get smoky.
[Medieval equivalent of grilling?] However, this way of making them is
only for emergencies, since they are [even] more quickly baked than
This is what Hermolaus Barbarus called 'soldiers' loaves', being used for
medicine and for light snacks at all hours.
Some may mock me for recording such a minor detail, which all apothecaries
But my main aim has been to set it down in writing for common folk and for
ladies who are curious to find out, and indeed for all kinds of people.
In point of fact, there are [even] many of the pharmaceutical profession
to whom this is unknown, even though they know a lot.
Note, though, that if you want to make a really fresh and tasty marzipan,
you must make it when the almonds are freshly picked from the tree.
If you taste first the one and then the other, you will find a great
difference in taste and succulence.
Part 2 Chapter XXIX To make a laxative rose syrup, of which one ounce
will be wonderfully effective, and totally gentle, such that it can be
given [even] to a pregnant woman of any age during her first or last
months or at any time, without any danger whatsoever.
Take 900 roses that are red, blue and/or red and white ('saraceus', as we
call it) that are still in-folded, even if they are only leaves, or
half-open buds, or open ones.
When you have removed the leaves, let there be nearer a thousand than
900[, in fact].
When you have cleaned them, rub them a little between your hands, so what
any whole buds disintegrate to allow the hot water to get inside them more
Now put all the roses in a big, glazed, earthenware pitcher.
Then take some spring-water and boil it up.
When it is boiling, pour it into the pitcher and stir it vigorously with a
sick, so that the boiling water mixes properly with the roses.
Once you have poured in enough water to cover all the roses, leave them to
steep for 24 hours in the said pitcher.
And at the end of 24 hours pour it all into a pan or cauldron and bring it
to the boil two or three times.
Then strain off the decoction and squeeze the roses as hard as you can in
a press or between two pieces of wood until nothing remains except dry
Now pour the decoction -- which will look as red as wine and will smell
like rose-water -- into a flask.
Next take a further 500 roses, defoliated as previously, and put them into
Then take the decoction in the flask, heat it until it is almost boiling,
and when it is good and hot pour it over the roses.
If there is not enough of the decoction, you can add a little boiling
Leave it all to steep for another twenty-four hours.
At the end of twenty-four hours bring it to the boil, then strain it and
squeeze it as hard as you can and, when it has all been strained, take a
eighteen ounces) of sugar (without clarifying it) and put that into the
decoction. Boil it until it takes on the consistency of badly-prepared
syrup -- for the roses have a certain viscosity of their own that will
thicken the syrup.
When it is done, take it off the fire and, when it has cooled, pour it
into a glass or glazed earthenware vessel.
One ounce of this taken in the morning willl have a wonderful and
Some people enrich this with rhubarb and then it works even better and is
known as 'Catarticum imperiale', which is as good as to say that it is a
laxative medicine for Kings or Emperors.
This is how to do it.
Take four ounces of good rhubarb and a dram of good cinnamon.
Grind them to powder.
When the syrup is almost done, take the said rhubarb, wrap it up in a
piece of clean worsted cloth, pierce it with a thread and suspend it in
the syrup while it is boiling.
Squeeze it out often, and when the syrup has boiled, pour it into its
vessel, hang the said rhubarb in it and seal it tightly.
This syrup should be used by noble lords who have authority over people
but who are poor masters of their own anger, for one ounce of the syrup
will evacuate it, curing and protecting against the Third Fever for a long
It is numbered among the royal medicines that may be taken quite safely.
It can equally well be prepared in another way that is just as good and
[This is duly detailed in the following, final chapter, which then goes
into great length about the varying skills of a number of medical
colleagues and acquaintances whom he has met during his travels, rather as
per the 'Proem' of the original edition, concluding with the words --
presumably addressed to his younger brother Jean, to whom Part 2 is
dedicated -- 'Therefore be pleased to receive this little Book, which I
present to you as a novelty gift.
English translation copyright (c) Peter Lemesurier 2000