Elizabeth Talbot Grey’s recipes for “Gascon’s Powder”

There are four recipes for cure-all powders given in Elizabeth Talbot Grey’s book, A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chyrurgery Collected and Practised by the Right Honorable, the Countesse of Kent, Late Deceased: the three versions of “Gascon’s Powder” given below (nos. 1, 2, and 3) and the recipe for “the Countess of Kent’s Powder” (given separately on the calling page for this second-window page, and repeated below for convenience as no. 4).

Grey’s Manual of pharmaceutical preparations — which was not in fact written by the much-admired Lady Kent (1581–1651), but by the book’s editor, William Jarvis, a “professor of phisick” who claims that all the medical recipes included therein were “collected and practiced” by the countess — was enormously popular. Originally printed in 1653, the book was still selling well in the 18th century, with the 22nd edition appearing in 1726.

The 17th-century chemist Robert Boyle owned a copy of the first edition, printed in 1653 by Gertrude Dawson, from which the following four recipes are reproduced.



Gascons own Pouder.

Take of pouder of Pearl, of red Corral, of Crabs eyes, of Harts-horn, and white Amber, of each one ounce, beat them into fine pouder, and searce them, then take so much of the black toes of the Crabs clawes as of all the rest of the pouders, for that is the cheif [sic] worker, beat them, and searce them finely as you doe the rest, then weigh them severally, and take as much of the toes as you do of all the rest of the five pouders, and mingle them well together, and make them up into balls of jelly of Hartshorn, whereunto put or infuse a small quantity of Saffron to give them colour, let them lye till they be dry and fully hard, and keep them for your use.

The Crabs are to be gotten in May or September, before they be boyled.

The dose is ten or twelve grains in Dragon water, Carduus water, or some other Cordial water.

The Apothecaries in their composition of it, use to put in a drachm of good Oriental Bezar to the other pouders, as you may see in the prescription following.

This is thought to be the true composition invented by Gascon, and that the Bezar, Musk, and Ambergrice, were added after by some for curiosity, and that the former will work without them as effectually as with them.”

(from A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in
Physick and Chyrurgery
, 1st edn., 1653, pp. 172–3)


The Apothecaries Gascon Pouder, with the use.

Take of Pearles, white Amber, Harts-horn, eyes of Crabs, and white Corral, of each half an ounce, of black thighs of Crabs calcined two ounces, to every ounce of this pouder put a drachm of Oriental Bezar; reduce them all into very fine pouder, and searce them, and with Hartshorn jelly with a little Saffron put therein, make it up unto a paste, and make therewith Lozanges or Trochises for your use.

You must get your Crabs for this pouder about May or in September, before they shall be boyled; when you have made them, let them dry and grow hard in a dry air, neither by fire nor Sun.

Their dose is ten or twelve graines, as before prescribed in the former page.”

(from A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in
Physick and Chyrurgery
, 1st edn., 1653, p. 174)


The Pouder prescribed by the Doctors in their last London Dispensatory, 1650, called by the Pouder of Crabs clawes.

Take of prepared Pearles, eyes or stones of Crabs, of red Corral, of white Amber, of Hartshorn, of Oriental Bezar stone, of each half an ounce, of the pouder of the black tops of the clawes of Crabs to the weight of all the former; make them all into pouder according to Art, and with jelly made with the skins or castings of our Vipers, make it up into small Tablets or Trochisces [sic], which you must warily dry as before prescribed, and reserve for your use.”

(from A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in
Physick and Chyrurgery
, 1st edn., 1653, pp. 174–5)


The Countesse of Kents Pouder, good against all malignant and pestilent Diseases, French Pox, Small Pox, Measels, Plague, Pestilence, malignant or scarlet Fevers, good against Melancholy, dejection of Spirits, twenty or thirty grains thereof being exhibited in a little warm Sack or Hartshorn jelly to a man, and half as much, or twelve graines to a Child.

Take the Magistery of Pearles, of Crabs eyes prepared, of white Amber prepared, Hartshorn, Magistery of white Corral, of Lapis contra Parvam [sic; should read: Lapis contra Yarvam], of each a like quantity, to these pouders infused put of the black tips of the great clawes of Crabs, to the full weight of all the rest, beat these all into very fine pouder, and searce them through a fine Lawn Searce, to every ounce of this pouder adde a drachm of true Oriental Bezar, make all these up into a lump or masse with the jelly of Hartshorn, and colour it with a little Saffron, putting thereto a scruple of Ambergrice, and a little Musk also finely poudered, and dry them (made up into small Trochises) neither by fire nor Sun, but by a dry air: you may give to a man twenty graines of it, and to a child twelve graines.”

(from A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in
Physick and Chyrurgery
, 1st edn., 1653, pp. 175–6)

[ NOTE: “Parvam” is a printer’s error. Later editions of A Choice Manual consistently use “Yarvam,” by which was meant the Contrayerva root imported from Peru (and known as Lapis Contrayerva when made into a fine powder). The root-stock and scaly rhizome of species of Dorstenia (D. Contrayerva and D. braziliensis, family Urticaceæ) served as an antidote for the juices from the Yerva plant (white Hellebore), used by the indigenous populations of South America to poison arrows (hence the root’s Spanish name, meaning “Against Yerva” or counter-poison). ]