The book's first contents page lists recipes for a range of medical remedies, including concoctions for lethargy, swimming heads, stinking breath, and hair loss.
About Countrey Contentments
Countrey Contentments or The English Huswife was written by Gervase Markham in 1615, and was a best-seller of its time - reprints continued up until 1683. In fact, Markham did not write most of the recipes contained in the book: he admits in the preface 'this is no collection of his whose name is prefixed to this worke, but an approved Manuscript which he happily light on, belonging sometime to an honorable Personage of this kingdome, who was singular amongst those of her ranke for many of the qualities here set forth.' Later editions of the book attribute the recipes to 'an Honourable Countesse.' It was not uncommon for male cookery book writers to transcribe recipes found in unpublished manuscripts, many of which would have been written by aristocratic women, who would have had regular access to key ingredients.
Although the title of the book suggests that it is written for a female readership, it is thought that very few women (between 5 and 10%) were literate at the time. Historians believe that most readers would have been members of the clergy, the gentry and the professions.
Markham (1568-1637), poet and writer, was the third son of Sir Robert Markham of Gotham, Nottinghamshire. He served in the army in the Low Countries and then in Ireland, he spoke several modern languages, and was knowledgeable on the subjects of horse-breeding and forestry. His work included various tragedies and comedies, a study of horsemanship, an account of his military experiences, and a number of books on managing a country household.