The Foyle Special Collections Library holds King’s College London’s and its affiliated institutions’ historical medical collections and we wanted to let Library customers, researchers and colleagues know about recent work we have been doing with them. Promotion and access to the collections is important, as they reflect King’s long and continuing history of medical teaching and research.
UK Medical Heritage Library project
Over the past year we have been participating in the UK Medical Heritage Library project. This Jisc funded project, administered by the Wellcome Trust, has seen 15 million pages from UK institutions’ 19th and early 20th century medical collections digitised for research purposes.
Our work has involved identifying, packing and sending 2,000 items to the Wellcome Trust to be digitised and made freely available online, as part of the project.
The logistics of the project have involved the employment of a Project Officer; ensuring the safe return and handling of rare items; and liaison with the Internet Archive who have undertaken the scanning of the books.
Read more about the project here in a recently published COPAC feature
Now all the books have been safely checked back in, (we’ve checked very carefully!) we have just made the records accessible through the Library catalogue. If you see a catalogue record like this one to the Household medical adviser it should provide a link directly to the digitised record…if it doesn’t, please let me know!
With special thanks to Victoria Parkinson (Metadata Coordinator) and Liz Serebriakoff (Service Development Coordinator) for their help with the technical aspects of this project.
Recently acquired material from the Weston Education Centre Library store
As well as putting the finishing touches to the UKMHL project, we have also been identifying Special Collections material that is currently in other Library Services locations. Generally, we are especially interested in pre-1900 books, items with significant provenances, those that are fragile, or those connected with the history of King’s.
While the image of librarians rooting around in stores for rare books has long been a staple in the library world, we do use the library management system and spreadsheet lists to identify material which needs to go into Special Collections. We are also happy to hear from colleagues who spot books that they think should be in Special Collections, or who receive information from a library customer to such effect, as has recently happened.
Following consultation of aforementioned lists and liaison with Pablo Paganotto (Senior Library Assistant at the Weston Education Centre) – thanks, Pablo! – we visited and rooted around in the store with a refined purpose. My colleague Brandon High, Special Collections Officer, describes one of the transferred items, below:
Among the material which the Foyle Special Collections Library has recently acquired from the WEC Store are several items with very interesting provenances. One of the most distinguished owners of these books is the surgeon Joseph Lister (1827-1912). Lister established the scientific basis of antiseptic surgery, and for clinical medicine in general.
The book which stands out is a copy of the 1898 edition of Sir Patrick Manson’s Tropical diseases, which bears the author’s inscription as well as Lister’s bookplate. Sir Patrick Manson (1844-1922) was responsible for discovering the causation of malaria, and for founding the London School of Tropical Medicine.
Another book, Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton’s Pharmacology and therapeutics (1880) bears the author’s inscription. Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton (1844-1916) was a distinguished physiologist and pharmacologist who undertook pioneering research on the action of enzymes in the digestive system. He was also the first medical scientist to establish the connection between high blood pressure and heart disease.
Another item with an interesting provenance is Annales mèdico-psychologiques, which has the bookplate of the psychiatrist George Henry Savage (1842-1921), one of Virginia Woolf’s psychiatrists. The psychiatrist in her novel, Mrs Dalloway was modelled on him.
Purchase of a new acquisition
From our acquisitions budget we are also able to enrich the (medical and other) collections by purchase, and Brandon describes a recent acquisition below:
John Wesley. Primitive physic: or an easy and natural method of curing most diseases. Birmingham: printed by J Russell, 1823. Rare Books Collection RC81 WES
This is a very rare edition of a very popular work, which was first published in 1747, and which ran to many editions. This book was written at a time when many families self-medicated from choice or necessity. Its prescriptions avoid complicated pharmacology. Cold water bathing (a favourite of the 18th century), food (a diet of turnips for a month as a cure for scurvy, the application of toasted cheese to cuts) and exercises (rubbing the head for quarter of an hour as a cure for headache) feature heavily.
The book is informed throughout by a strong scepticism about orthodox medicine and medicines, but its underlying theoretical basis is humoural and Hippocratic.
Gifts gratefully received
We also recently received some items which were the gift of Rachel Paton, daughter of Dr Alex Paton, formerly of St Thomas’s Medical School, who died in 2015. With many thanks to Alan Fricker (Head of NHS Partnership and Liaison) for facilitating these acquisitions. Dr Paton evidently led an interesting life, being one of the first doctors to enter Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
The items formerly owned by Dr Paton are significant 19th century works on the liver, on which Dr Paton was an expert. These include:
A treatise on the structure, economy, and diseases of the liver by William Saunders.
A practical treatise on the diseases of the liver and biliary passages by William Thomson
If you have any questions about our medical or other collections, please feel free to contact us, or have a look at the guides to our collections