Posted by: Hourglass PJ2 APR 2013
According to an article in this winter’s Wellcome History magazine, a 17th century book of medical cures has been brought to life for a modern audience in the form of a play called ‘Johanna’s Miracle Garden’. Performed for the first time in 2012, the play tells the story of Lady Johanna St John’s “cure for all ills” from her recipe book.
Lady Johanna was apparently a fascinating and formidable woman who combined running her household, raising her children and entertaining the king with compiling a book of medical cures. The play is described as “bringing together an enchanted world where brainy alchemists, hippy herbalists and spooky superstitionists all competed to deliver the ultimate panacea”.
A flavour of the play can be gained from some of its dialogue:
Hardyman (steward at Lydiard): “George, what does it say in the booke?”
George (household servant): “To treat malignant infection, strap a dried toad under each armpit, this will draw out swelling and gradually conquer the infection.”
Hardyman: “Has it been tried before?”
George: “It doesn’t say.”
Hardyman: “Ah well. Lads, the toads please.”
A transcription of Johanna’s book has now been produced and forms the basis of a new collaborative digital humanities project based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. This aims to be a one-stop digital hub for studies of pre-modern recipes.