Duff House houses an extensive Library – part of the Dunimarle Collection. In recent years this has not generally been accessible to the public so regular “Stories” are published here to share some of the splendour of what is a really fine library. The Stories will share some of the background, details of some of the books, information about those that made the collection, their bookmarks, their scribbles – in fact anything and everything to do with the Library!
With many thanks to Historic Environment Scotland and the Trustees of the Erskine of Torrie Institution (SC002440) for their support for this project.
30-May-21 BOOKMARK TO CHOLERA
The Duff House Dunimarle Library was a family library, collected by several generations; and most importantly it was clearly used by the family members, and not just a set of books for show. This can be readily seen from the sketches and hard-writing found in various books, but also from the other items found within them, presumably used as bookmarks.
One of these seems quite innocuous, but serves as an example of how a small reference can lead a researcher down an interesting path.
Duff House Library reference 236 is an 1830 copy of John Burke’s “A general and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the British Empire”; this is the third edition now of course a well known reference work. Within the pages of the Duff House copy is a handwritten letter:
“The Convener of the Committee for administering the General Subscription for prevention of Cholera in the Cupar District requests a meeting of the Committee in the Court Room Cupar on Thursday first at 12 o’clock noon, on the subject of police.
23rd April 1832”
The signature is just initials and is not clearly decipherable.
Balgarvie House was just outside the town of Cupar, and it’s occupant at the time was believed to be Major General Webster – a rank that seems to fit with the title of Convener.
But the references within the letter to Cholera, and to the police, perhaps need explanation.
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Cholera was first identified in Bengal in about 1813, but it did not spread to Europe for several years. Medical science was of course not as developed as it is today, and the causes of cholera – and what made it so contagious – were not understood.
Today we know that cholera is an infectious gastroenteritis bacterial disease transmitted from human to human by ingesting contaminated water or food. The bacteria produces a toxin that acts on the lining of the small intestines to induce massive diarrhoea. In its most severe forms in the 19th century, cholera was one of the most rapidly fatal diseases known and infected patients could die within three hours if treatment was not provided. More commonly death occurred after 18 hours to several days without therapy. Cholera spread quickly through germ-infected bedding or personal touch contact with infected victims. It was one of the most feared diseases of the nineteenth century, perhaps not least because the mortality rate of those that caught it was 50%; the newspapers often referred to the disease as being “virulently contagious”. By the end of the 1832 outbreak the cholera death toll in Scotland was about 10,000.
Once the disease became prevalent in north west Europe, the UK Board of Health at the time ordered that all ships arriving from the continent should be quarantined for 10 days before being inspected by a public health official. For whatever reason the officials in Sunderland didn’t apply this, and some infected sailors passed it to the local population in October 1831. From there it started to spread north and south.
The first case reported in Banff and Macduff was 30th July 1832 (according to the Annals of Banff, Mr Robert Barron of Macduff).
The Edinburgh Journal of 25th February 1832 provides an article that clearly states that “dirty” locations where people of “intemperate habits” tend to live, are most at risk. It is of course now known that it is passed on in dirty water or contaminated food and therefore can – and did – affect any person, but it wasn’t until 1855 – after a second cholera wave in 1848) that Glasgow became the first city in the UK to have a proper clean water supply and started building miles of sewers.
Until then the government issued guidelines about cholera. A Scottish one reads:
- Be clean in your person. Wear flannels next the skin.
- Keep the bowels well defended from cold, and never sit down with wet or cold feet.
- Abstain from small beer, and use spiritous liquours very moderately.
- Use no water that is not pure.
- The use of strong broth and butcher meat is salutary.
- Avoid raw vegetables, and boil well what you eat.
- Do not go out in the morning without breaking your fast.
- Avoid getting wet, or going out at night.
- Avoid also large towns, infected places, and public houses.
- Piggeries, Dunghills, and Cess-pools ought to be at some distance and frequently cleaned.
- Let the house be regularly ventilated, and well swept. When you wash it, choose a sunny day, and do it in the morning, so that there may be no damp when you shut up at night. Keep your doors dry.
Symptoms and treatment
Cholera generally begins with giddiness, languour, and uneasiness in the bowels, accompanied by looseness more or less. When such symptoms appear, no time ought to be lost in sending for medical advice – but in the mean time, 30 drops of Laudanum, and 3 teaspoonfuls of Castor Oil may be taken in a little hot brandy and water. Go to bed immediately, and keep yourself warm. Heated bricks or hot bottles may be applied, or bags of hot bran or salt. Place a mustard blister on the stomach. Let your drink consist of warm barley-water in small portions. Cold water is dangerous, and Salts must on no account be taken.
Should the Castor Oil &c be thrown up, take 30 drops of plain Laudanum.
Families ought to provide themselves with Laudanum and the other articles, as all depends on taking the disease at the first.
18th February 1832.”
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The reference to police is also relevant. Further south, near Glasgow, in March 1832, records that a Constable was hired “to patrol the road to keep strangers out”. And then further, roads had manned barriers:
“At the Schooolhouse, met this day the members of the Committee of health, and appointed Mr Gibson & Mr Willm Killoch to employ and station a Constable at Walkinshaw Bridge to prevent beggars & unlicensed hawkers from passing out from Paisley. Mr Lockhart & James Snodgrass to arrange with the toll keeper at Inchinnan Bridge so as to prevent vagrants from getting into the Parish by that quarter.”
So by April, further north at Cupar, it seems that the local board were about to discuss doing the same sort of thing to try to keep the disease out. They had already had at least one case, and had burnt all his belongings and his lodgings!
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One little letter, left inadvertently in a book used for another purpose, has led to insights into a piece of history and the actions government and local authorities took within a pandemic.
20-Apr-21 TAKE 5 OUNCES – how a Dunimarle recipe ends up in the Times
Take 5 oz of butter, melt it in a pan without oiling & add to it whilst warm 5 oz of pounded sugar & yolks of ten eggs* beat them a little first & after all is mixed together beat it till it turns white have the bottom of yr. dish covered wth. puff paste & spread it pretty thick wth. orange mar-malade & pour the rest of the ingredients on it – Bake it in a moderate oven & when it goes to the table slip it out of the tin it was baked in. Dunnikier and Abercairney”
Transcribed from DH LIB 59 Vol2
*It really is 10 eggs – apparently they were only about half the size of todays’ eggs.
In the Times of 2nd October 1866 there appears, with some light editing, the above recipe under the title ‘Dunnikier Orange Pudding’. Mrs Oswald of Dunnikier is the source of several more recipes in the 2 volume cookery book, of just under 250 recipes, which is part of the Dunimarle Library at Duff House. As can be seen from the photos this book is a collection of handwritten recipes.
The journey of the recipe to the august pages of the Times is not as odd as it seems. The link is down to two women: shown below on the left, the doughty Magdalene Sharpe-Erskine [1787 – 1872] the last surviving member of the Erskine family who are so important to the story of the Dunimarle Collection in general and the library in particular – the photo below is taken from Duff House; and to her right, her great-niece Harriet – Lady Harriet Elizabeth St Clair Erskine, Countess of Munster, 1831-1867 – and author of a published book, Dainty Dishes. The interesting image of the painting of Lady Harriet is her preparing some baking on board “The Ladye“, a boat owned by the artist Katherine Jane Ellice.
First published in 1866 Dainty Dishes went through many editions including a couple in America and Germany – the latter through the offices of Harriet’s husband, Count Munster (later to be Prussian ambassador to Britain).
A methodical check reveals that over 50% of the recipes in the manuscript have been included in Dainty Dishes. Plus, it becomes obvious that great-aunt Magdalene not only contributed many recipes but also some stalwart words of wisdom (in the preface to the first edition):
“A near relation of the Compiler’s, and one who thoroughly understood and enjoyed good living and from whom she acquired many receipts and much culinary lore, once said to her, – ‘Original English, or what is called plain cooking, is the worst, and most ignorant, and most extravagant in the known world!”’
It was not only great-aunt Magdalene who was critical of contemporary English cookery -– Harriet includes in the same preface:
“What can be more unpalatable than the horrible attempts at entrees, dignified with some high-sounding French name, made by the general run of English cooks? The sodden pieces of meat, soaking in a mess of flour and butter, commonly called a roux, which, with the addition of a little melted glaze, forms the English cook’s universal idea of a sauce, and which they liberally and indiscriminately bestow of fish, flesh and fowl”
Harriet much favours German cooking – influenced by her country once married – and includes many German ideas in the book.
Given her views it is curious to see just what Harriet selected for publication. In fact though no detailed analysis has been done yet, a brief scan of the database of those that made it in and those that did not, does not reveal any instant pattern.
The recipes Harriet did include in Dainty Dishes are a large variety, from M. Bonard who was “French Cook to Genl Campbell of Monzie” and his somewhat prosaic White Sauce; to the slightly dizzier heights of M.Boucher “Cuisinier to H.R.H. the Duke of York”’s ‘Poulet a l’Estragon’. Then there is Lady Preston’s instructions for preserving currants, Lady Thomond’s for Veal Cake and Mrs Bates at Weymss Castle’s for ‘Preserved Cucumbers’.
There is so much still to be discovered about the cookery manuscript, its sources and this later partial appearance in print – and of Lady Harriet in that wonderful red Fez!
But this blog ends with one little puzzle and asks for your help. Has anyone ever come across ‘Habberbrie of Herring’, a recipe from Torrie – the Erskine family home? So far it has not been traced anywhere else.
Habberbrie of Herring
Take about ½ lb butter, melt it in a sauce pan, put in 2 handfuls of oatmeal, put the pan over a clear fire, keep it continually stirring till you see it of a yellowish colour, then put in 2 or 3 ladle full of strong broth made of beef, veal or mutton – Skim off all the fat & let it boil till it becomes pretty thick, then take 6 or 8 herrings, score them on each side, turn them over in melted butter, then strew them all over wth. crumbs of bread – put them in the oven & bake them, when they are baked enough, crisp & of yellowish colour – then dish yr. habberbrie wth a rim of paste round the dish & put yr. baked herrings out of sight & garnish wth. 3 or 4 round the dish. – Torrie
Researched and drafted by Sandra Cumming
31-Mar-21 The GRAMPUS !
If you look up “Grampus” today you will be referred to “Grampus Griseus”, a cetacean better known today as the Risso’s Dolphin – a very, very rare visitor to the Moray Firth. However, one of the joys of a library with old books is being able to research the history to certain animals – and in the eighteenth century, the time of the start of the Dunimarle Library and Duff House, a Grampus was most definitely not a Risso’s dolphin!
DH 601 is a 1779 edition of an 8 volume set of “A History of the Earth and Animated Nature”. The first version of this was published in 1774, with many new editions over the next 200 years. Oliver Goldsmith was a novelist (best known book perhaps “Vicar of Wakefield”), poet and journalist, but he also published several books on natural history.
One of joys of this book is it’s illustrations, some of them resembling the animals we know today, others a bit different. But this Library Story is focussing a bit closer to home on a beastie he called the “Grampus”. This word has a different derivation to “Grampian”, but the Grampus, or “grand fish”, can be seen from our coasts. Unfortunately Goldsmith doesn’t include a picture, but describes it can be distinguished “by the flatness of it’s head, which resembles a boat turned upside down”. Still not making it clear which animal he is describing — today’s Risso’s dolphin, or something else?
One of Goldsmith’s contemporaries however was, Thomas Pennant, well known for his “Voyage to the Hebrides” (DH 2050) which took him through Macduff, Banff and Duff House, but he also wrote “Pennant’s British Zoology”, published in 1776. For the Grampus he quotes “the color of the back is black, but on each shoulder is a large white spot, the sides marbled with black and white”. As they can be today, he describes them as sometimes appearing on our coasts – clearly the animal we know today as the Orca, the Killer Whale (killer that is of porpoise and seals, no recorded humans!). He also describes them as having both upper and lower teeth – the Risso has no teeth on the upper jaw!
The first picture of the original “Grampus” appears a few years later, in a letter written to Sir Joseph Banks in 1787 by John Hunter. Joseph Banks – who does feature in the Dunimarle Library – was a key figure in the study of natural history. A 24 foot Grampus had been caught in the mouth of the River Thames in 1759, and clearly studied in some detail, which John Hunter describes in terms of it’s skeletal resemblance to other mammals, how it’s pectoral fins resemble a human hand, how it has the same internal organs as a human. This is a copy of the first known drawing of a Grampus – with many thanks to the Royal Society Philosophical Transactions.
28-Feb-21 Duff House Library Background
There are at least two meanings of the word “Library”. The first meaning is a room where books are kept. At Duff House there were very grand plans for what would have been a truly wonderful library space. The East wing, part of the original William Adam design, was to have it’s whole top floor, 80 feet by 60 feet, designated as the Library. Of course this was never built due to the dispute between William Adam and his client, William Duff, who later became the 1st Earl Fife – who never lived at Duff House anyway!
The 2nd Earl Fife, James, was however clearly – from references in his letters many of which still exist – a very well read gentleman, and he designated what we know today as the Long Gallery in Duff House to be his Library. He certainly tried to look after his book collection and, for example, in February 1789 he instructed that the windows and bookcases be thrown open, and his large books of prints laid out for airing. The 4th Earl was an equally avid book collector and by the end of the 19th century the Duff House Library held 15,000 volumes.
Today, the designated “Library” is two rooms on the second floor, which contains a number of glass fronted bookcases with a very fine collection within them – but not the original Duff Library! This is because the 1st Duke of Fife gave Duff House and it’s estate to the people of Banff and Macduff in 1907 and the collection of books was taken out of the House. When the restoration, completed in 1995, was being planned Duff House was very fortunate to get permission from the Dunimarle Trustees to allow it’s collection of furniture, artefacts and books to be installed.
The Dunimarle Library – now stored in various places in Duff House – has over 4,500 volumes collected by members of the Erskine family from Torrie House in Fife. The Erskines thrived at much the same time as the Duffs and shared many parallels; this even extended to their names, such as William and James! Both families were avid collectors, of artefacts, paintings and books. The subjects covered by the Dunimarle Library are similar to those known to have been in the original Duff House Library, classics, history, geography, news, law, economics, heraldry, travel; typical subjects for serious libraries of the 18th and 19th centuries to include. One clear – and interesting – difference was that the original Duff House Library included many Spanish books – because of the 4th Earl Fife’s travel there; and the Dunimarle family library instead has a major section on India and the far east because of John the 4th Baronet of Torrie.
Some of the key books were, perhaps not unexpectedly, the same in both Libraries. A 17th century Bible, Hume’s 1786 History of England, 18th century works of Shakespeare, Bartolozzi engravings. While enquiries continue for a complete list of the original Duff House collection, the Friends of Duff House many years ago completed a full catalogue of the Dunimarle Library – which can be viewed in the Study inside the House (once it re-opens) and which it is hoped will go on-line in the future. Meanwhile all 929 Dunimarle Library books published in the British Isles before 1801 are listed on the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).