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Henley's Book of Formulas, Recipes and Processes

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Henley's Twentieth Century Book of Recipes, Formulas and Processes

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Welcome to the main page for The Science Notebook edition of “Henley’s Twentieth Century Book Of Recipes, Formulas and Processes” (1914 Edition).

This book was a wealth of information in its day, and makes for a fascinating glimpse into how things were done around a century ago.  However, while this book provides a fascinating glimpse into the state of the technology of the time, like many other old books found on this site, it is being provided here for informational purposes only.  With that in mind, we offer the following...

DISCLAIMER:   There are many good reasons not to try to reproduce any of the formulas today (see below), and The Science Notebook assumes no responsibility whatsoever if you decide not to heed this caution.  You have been warned!

Links to Content

The following table links to the book in increments of about 25 pages each.


There are two ways to browse using this table.

First, if you are looking for a particular topic, you can start by clicking on the "Index" link which will carry you to the index pages at the back of the book.  When you find the page number you want, just click on the desired 25 page link to find it.  Each of the above links will open in a new tab or window to allow you to better find what you are looking for.

If you just want to browse, you can work your way straight through by starting with the first link and following the links at the bottom of each page to the next 25 pages, or just jump in wherever you want.

The original text is in the public domain and may be downloaded for free from the Internet Archive in one of several electronic formats.

So why not try something from this book?

OK, if you have to ask, there are several reasons, but first and foremost, many of the substances used in these recipes are now known to be extremely toxic.  For example, many of the formulas given call for the use of mercury or lead, or one of their compounds, and many of the recipes they are used in here could present serious health hazards.  It is just not worth the risk.  


Second, some of the reagents called for may still be available, but the names used in Henley's are now archaic.  In some cases, it is possible to identify the modern name for the reagent by using a search engine to at least some degree of accuracy, but even with some of these reagents, you had better be sure you are using exactly what the author had in mind and in the concentrations used in the recipes.

Many other ingredients called for are no longer available, having long since been replaced by better synthetic materials.  Items such as gutta-percha, isinglass, or gum Arabic are a little tough to find nowadays.  In addition, many herbs are listed that were once part and parcel of the corner drugstore, but they have also been replaced.

Some of the reagents or substances that are still available are very dangerous in inexperienced hands, such as concentrated hydrochloric and sulfuric acids.  This is also true of mercury and its compounds, as well as lead compounds.  Also, concentrations of some solutions are based on the Baumé system which is no longer used.  Converting these concentrations is possible, but it would require some effort.


Our understanding of chemistry has advanced considerably in the last century, and much of the information regarding atomic weights, etc., is simply outdated.  Best to use this as a glimpse into the way things were done several generations ago, and to reflect on how far we have come. 

Finally, the web version was created by comparing the scanned PDF obtained from the Internet Archive with the text version generated by OCR software.  There were numerous errors in the generated OCR text, and while every effort was made to weed out the errors, we are confident that not every error has been found!  Some errors have probably crept in from the conversion to HTML as well. 


And if those are not enough good reasons, understand that even when this book was first published, a common complaint was that some of the recipes included in collections such as this did not always work. So for all of the above reasons, we once again offer the following...

DISCLAIMER:   There are a many good reasons not to try to reproduce any of the formulas today (see above), and The Science Notebook assumes no responsibility whatsoever if you decide not to heed this caution.  You have been warned! 

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