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Title page of 1718 edition
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mary Eales (died before 1733) was a writer on cookery and confectionery and author of Mrs Mary Eales’s Receipts,[a]Receipt is a name historically used for a recipe: “A statement of the ingredients and procedure required for making a dish or an item of food or drink”.[1] published in 1718. Slightly modified editions of the book were later published under the title of The Complete Confectioner, or, The Art of Candying and Preserving in its Utmost Perfection. Her biographer, the historian Sara Pennell, observes that what little is known about Mary’s life comes from the title pages of the various editions of her books.

Mary’s date of birth and parentage are unknown, as is whether the surname Eales is her birth name, or one acquired through marriage.[2] She may have died in 1718, but it is certain that she was dead by 1733, when editions of her book referred to her as “the late ingenious Mrs Eales”.[3] Although her book claims she was a confectioner to King William and Queen Anne, there is no record of her in the accounts of the royal household. The historian Gilly Lehman has suggested that although not an employee of the household, Mary may have provided confections to the court which the royal kitchen did not or could not provide.[4]

Mrs Mary Eales’s Receipts

A manuscript copy of Mrs Mary Eales’s Receipts, dated 1711, is recorded as being “a copy from Mrs Eales book”; the manuscript was owned by Elizabeth Sloane, the daughter of Sir Hans Sloane.[2] Manuscript copies were also in circulation in 1713, at a cost of five guineas.[5][b]Early publication was a manual process of handwritten texts copied from an original. Known as scribal publication, it was an economic method of producing a small number of copies without the expense of printing.[5] The first printed edition appeared in 1718, comprising 100 pages.[6]

Jam at the time of the book’s publication was a solid food eaten in slices, but Mary’s recipe more closely resembles the semi-runny food stored in sealed jars common today. The book also contains the first recorded recipe in English for ice cream. Although ice cream is recorded as being available in Britain as early as 1671, Mary was the first to record a recipe for it in print.[7] The historian Kate Colquhoun describes Mary’s recipe as “confident, practical and detailed, if slightly roundabout”.[8] The recipe is a simple one according to the food historian Laura Mason, consisting of frozen sweetened cream with a fruit flavouring,[7] possibly derived from a French source.[9]




Colquhoun, Kate. Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking. Bloomsbury, 2007.
David, Elizabeth. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Penguin, 2014.
Eales, Mary. The Compleat Confectioner. J. Brindley, 1733.
Lehmann, Gilly. The British Housewife: Cooking and Society in 18th-Century Britain. Ebook, Prospect Books, 2003.
Mason, Laura. Food Culture in Great Britain. Greenwood Press, 2004.
OED. “Receipt, n.” Oxford English Dictionary, Online, Oxford  University Press, 2009,
Pennell, S. M. “Eales, Mary (d. 1717/18?).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online, Oxford University Press, 2011,
Theophano, Janet. Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote. Palgrave, 2002.