Recipe books with precise, apparently fail-safe instructions are mostly modern phenomena. Earlier books required interpretation. Here is a recipe for "dolpettes of cold meat" from The Breakfast Book by Georgiana Hill (1865), one of three Victorian collections reproduced in The English Breakfast by Kaori O'Connor. (I reviewed The English Breakfast in the Guardian.)
"Prepare the meat as for a hash -- or some hashed meat that has become cold will answer for the purpose -- add to it some bread-crumbs, enough to stiffen the consistency, mix it together with the yolk of eggs, shape it into small balls, dip them into egg, roll them in bread-crumbs and grated parmesan cheese, and fry them brown. Glaze them or serve them with tomato sauce."
I had a cereal bowlful of cold chicken, which I chopped into small pieces. I seasoned it and mixed it with one egg yolk, and added breadcrumbs gradually, until the mixture was sticky and coherent. I formed the mixture into six balls, about the size of golfballs. With my new enthusiasm for breadcrumbing, I rolled the balls in flour, then in a beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs; I half-filled a saucepan with sunflower oil, heated it on a low to medium flame until a breadcrumb start sizzling in it, and deep-fried the dolpettes for about seven minutes, until brown.
You have to learn not to worry if the mixture threatens to fall apart. Mould the balls gently. Once breaded and frying, they cohere.
By chance, I later came across a recipe for "crochette di pollo" in The Food of Italy by Claudia Roden. You mix 300 g cooked chicken with a double strength bechamel made with 300 ml milk, and add an egg, 3 tbsp Parmesan, and nutmeg. I'd like some cayenne in there, too.