15 September 2014

An Apothecary’s Annotations: Eighteenth-Century Medical Notes in a Seventeenth-Century Text

[First posted on University of Melbourne Library Collections blog]

Since 2009, the rare books collection of the Brownless Medical Library has been housed by Special Collections in the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne. This collection, which numbers 1,850 volumes, is strongest in eighteenth and nineteenth-century material. Some earlier texts are also held, such as sixteenth-century editions of the Galeni librorum quarta classis and La farmacopea o’antidotario dell’eccellentissimo Collegio de’ signori medici di Bergomo (both published in Venice, 1597) and a copy of the 1698 edition of John Browne’s Myographia nova, or, a graphical description of all the muscles in the humane body.[1]
Plate 87. Engraving of a human skeleton in an allegorical pose, likely influenced by Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (1543).
Plate 87. Engraving of a human skeleton in an allegorical pose, influenced by Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (1543).
Another seventeenth-century anatomical text in the collection is William Cowper’s The anatomy of humane bodies, printed in Oxford for Samuel Smith and Benjamin Walford, printers to the Royal Society, and published the same year as Browne’s 1698 Myographia nova.[2] Cowper’s book is known for its folio-sized anatomical plates by Gérard de Lairesse previously published in Govard Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis (Amsterdam, 1685), which caused a vitriolic exchange between the two anatomists after Bidloo accused Cowper of plagiarism.[3]

What makes the Melbourne copy of Cowper’s Anatomy particularly interesting are the copious notes written between 1724 and 1740 by an English apothecary, who compiled a combination pharmacopeia and prescription book on the blank versos of sixty-two plates.

The notes refer to treatments for thirty-four diseases or groups of diseases, such as rheumatism, asthma, dysentery, pulmonary tuberculosis, and cancer. In her 2008 study of the book, Dorothea Rowse (Honorary Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies and former Sciences Librarian) described the notes as consisting of ‘a comprehensive list of available remedies, evidence of remedies that had been used for named patients, a guide to the physicians recommended for particular medical conditions … and a record of patients who had been treated for serious medical illnesses’.[4]
Notes on breast cancer (verso of plate 19).
Notes on breast cancer treatment (verso of plate 19).
The inclusion of named physicians and patients, some of whom were children, add a very real, very human element. Rowse counted fifteen physicians whose names appear in the notes, along with the names of ninety-three identifiable patients who lived in the vicinity of the village of Hambledon in the county of Hampshire.[5] Her research suggests the author of the notes was Edward Hale, an apothecary and barber surgeon, resident in Hambledon from 1720, whose son (also Edward) continued the practice.[6]

All of the notes are available on the Special Collections Flickr page:[7]


Unfortunately, due to the book being rebound, some of the notes run into the inner margin. Anyone consulting them is welcome to contact Special Collections at special-collections[@]unimelb.edu.au for assistance.

Dorothea Rowse’s full account is available on-line as a PDF at the following URL:


[1] The Melbourne copy of Browne’s Myographia nova is from the Chatsworth House library of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire (1640–1707). The text was first published in 1681. 

[2] Cowper's The amatomy of humane bodies (London, 1698) purchased with funds from the estate of F. M. Meyer. 

[3] Cowper mentioned neither Bidloo nor de Lairesse in his text. According to Cowper’s ODNB entry, Bidloo 'published a complaint in 1700 addressed to the Royal Society accusing Cowper of plagiarism … which included copies of letters to Cowper, most of which had gone unanswered, correspondence with his publishers, and a list of errors. The Royal Society, with some discomfort, declined to adjudicate on the matter’. 

[4] Dorothea Rowse, ‘The Hampshire Apothecary’s Book: An 18th Century Medical Manuscript in the Baillieu Library’. University of Melbourne Collections issue 3 (Dec. 2008), p. 13. 

[5] Ibid, p. 15. 

[6] Ibid, pp. 16-17. 

[7] To view the original or larger-sized images, single click on the ‘Download this photo’ icon towards the lower right, then select ‘View all sizes’ (‘Large 2048’ file size option is recommended).

08 September 2014

The Rothschild Prayerbook Comes to Australia

Virgin and Child on a Crescent Moon, f.197v.

News is circulating that the exquisite Rothschild Prayerbook (ca. 1505-1510), sold earlier this year by Christie's, New York, for USD $13.6m, was purchased by Australian businessman Kerry Stokes.

Mr Stokes, who also collects works of art and printed books in addition to medieval manuscripts, made his fortune in a variety of industries. His acquisition of the Rothschild Prayerbook featured yesterday on the Channel 7 'Sunday Night' programme. The segment can be viewed here:


According to the programme, the manuscript will go on tour next year, with public exhibitions planned for Canberra and Melbourne.

For a description of the Prayerbook, including a number of images, see its entry in Wikipedia, or visit the Christie's on-line catalogue at the following URLs:



10 July 2014

The Gutenberg Bible on Exhibit in Melbourne

Next week sees the launch of the third annual Melbourne Rare Book Week (17 to 27 July). Bibliophiles from across Australasia and beyond will descend upon the city and enjoy an array of talks, demonstrations and exhibitions, ending with the Melbourne Rare Book Fair (25 to 27 July). Visitors to this year’s Rare Book Week will also be able to attend a range of events in the university’s biennial Cultural Treasures Festival (26 and 27 July).

The university will once again host the fair in Wilson Hall, but also add something very special to the 2014 Rare Book Week programme: A 10-day exhibition of the Gutenberg Bible.

The Bible, on loan courtesy of The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library, will be displayed from 18 to 27 July in the Dulcie Hollyock Room located on the ground floor of the Baillieu Library.

Like all Rare Book Week events, the exhibition is free and open to the public. Viewing hours are 11.00am to 5.00pm daily. Bookings not required.

A series of floor talks connected with the exhibition are also taking place. Details and how to book can be found on the Gutenberg Bible exhibition and Cultural Treasures Festival webpages.

A selection of incunabula and later religious texts from Baillieu Special Collections is also on display on the ground floor of the library in support of the Gutenberg Bible exhibit.

Whether you are local to Melbourne or just visiting, a chance to see a copy of the first substantial book printed in the Western world is not to be missed!

21 June 2014

Warburg Institute: library saved from Nazis awaits its fate

[Originally posted on the Centre for Material Texts bog]

The Times Higher Education Supplement reports that the Warburg Institute library is under threat again, as the University of London heads off to court to contest the terms of a deed of trust made in 1944.
Anyone who has worked in the library, based in the Institute’s building in Woburn Square, will know how special it is. With vast amounts of material, much of it available nowhere else in the UK, and instantly accessible on open shelves, it’s a goldmine for scholar working on the history of European art and literature.
The Warburg apparently runs a £500,000 annual deficit–which is presumably small change for an institution of the size of the University of London. Let’s hope that the administrators can be made to see sense.

09 June 2014

Australasian Rare Books Summer School 2015

The 10th anniversary Australasian Rare Books Summer School will be held 26-30 January 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. The event is hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.

Three exciting courses are on offer, each of which runs for five full days:

History of Cartography/Maps
Tutor: Julie-Sweetkind Singer, Stanford University, USA

Geographic Information Systems for Digital Humanities
Tutor: Ian Gregory, Lancaster University, UK

Artistic Printing
Tutors: Marty Vreede, Quay School of the Arts, Whanganui and Sydney Shep, Wai-te-ata Press, Victoria University of Wellington

Follow the links above for full course descriptions and instructor bios.

The cost of each course is NZD $800 + gst per person. Places are strictly limited.

For more details about RBSS 2015 visit: http://wtap.vuw.ac.nz/wordpress/digital-history/events/rare-books-summer-school/

If you would like to attend, please use the Expression of Interest on-line form, and a member of the RBSS team will contact you with more information.

Hope to see you there!

23 May 2014

Provenance in Pictures: Tracking the Ownership of Three Early Printed Books

[First posted on University of Melbourne Library Collections blog]

Last week a group of Melbourne bibliophiles were treated to a delightful talk by preeminent bookman Nicolas Barker, editor of The Book Collector since 1965, and whose bibliography records an impressive 1,000+ entries.[1]

Barker examined twenty or so works from Special Collections and talked to the salient points of each book. This post highlights three of the selected items that had multiple signs of ownership, all of which caught Barker’s eye.

1. Johannes Meder, Quadragesimale de filio prodigo et de angeli ipsius ammonitione salubri per sermones diuisum [Basel: Michael Furter, 1495].

Title-page of the Quadragesimale

Judging by the number of inscriptions on the title-page, this copy of Meder’s Quadragesimale certainly travelled, but not very far. All of them can be localised to the province of Limburg in the Netherlands. The earliest is the inscription by Johan van Kessenich, shown above in between two other inscriptions towards the top of the title-page. Kessenich was born ca. 1522, served as steward of the Augustinian cloister of St Elisabeth in Nunhem, and died ca. 1608. The book then passed to a Wilhelm Horst, whose tidy inscription notes that he was a pastor in the town of Haelen (just 1km south of Nunhem), and came into possession of the Quadragesimale the same year as Kessenich’s approximate date of death. The last two pieces of evidence recorded on the title-page puts the book in the library of the Augustijnenkerk (Church of the Augustinians) in Maastricht, about 55km southwest of Haelen.

Quadragesimale binding

The book was bound in a contemporary style by the twentieth-century French binder Roger Devauchelle (1915-1993), who preserved the original clasp catches, the paper spine label, and presumably the pastedowns: two fragments from a thirteenth-century Breviary.

Manuscript pastedown

Affixed to the front pastedown is the book label of ‘B. Couissinier’, and Devauchelle’s stamp can be found in the upper-left corner.[2]

Purchased by the Friends of the Baillieu Library with funds from the George Shaw Trust.

2. Eusebius Pamphilus[Greek title:] Evangelicae praeparatio lib. XV … [with] Evangelicae demonstrationis lib. X. Paris: Robert Estienne, 1544-1545.

Signature of Rudolf Gwalther

The earliest sign of ownership on Estienne’s 1544 edition of Eusebius is an inscription dated just five years after its publication. It reads: ‘Sum Rodolphi Gualtheri Tigurini 1549′. The owner, Rudolf Gwalther (1519-1586), was a Reformed Protestant pastor in Zurich (‘Tigurum’) who married the daughter of Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), one of the leaders of the Reformation in Switzerland. He became head of the Zurich church upon the death of Zwingli’s successor Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575).

Heidegger collection inscription

The book can next be placed in another Zurich collection, the ‘Bibliothecae Heideggeriana’. This collection was formed by Hans Heinrich Heidegger (1711-1763), whose son, Johann Heinrich (1738-1823), continued to expand the library. A slip pasted on the front free endpaper with the date ’1783′ written upon it suggests the Eusebius was acquired by the younger Heidegger that year. The Heideggeriana collection was sold in 1810 when Johann moved to Geneva.[3]

Stamp of Hachette and Co.

Sometime after the Heidegger sale, the Eusebius made its way to France and into the stock of the great bookshop and publishing house L. Hachette et Compagnie, whose acquisition stamp on the title-page dates to 1918.

E. Doheny book label

The volume next appeared in the library of Estelle Doheny (1875-1958), who amassed one of the great twentieth-century book collections in America. Doheny left her library, which included a volume of the Gutenberg Bible, to St John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California.[4] In her bequest, Doheny stipulated that the collection must be kept together for 25 years after her death. In 1986, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Seminary Board of Directors made the controversial decision to sell the Doheny collection. The books were auctioned by Christie’s, New York, in six sales held between 1987 and 1989. The Eusebius was sold to Parsons Books in the 1 February 1988 sale (lot 559).[5]

Purchased by the Ivy M. Pendlebury bequest in memory of Gerald Frederic Pendlebury.

3. De recta pronunciatione Latinae linguae dialogus. Antwerp:  Christophe Plantin, 1586.

Stamp of Anton Fugger dated 1586

This copy of Plantin’s 1586 edition of Lipsius has a long connection to families that wielded financial power. The first being the stamp of Anton Fugger dated 1586. He was a member of a wealthy German banking and merchant family, their financial prospects secured by his namesake, Anton Fugger (1493-1560), whose trade empire extended to the Americas and the West Indies, and who also held mining interests in Scandinavia.

Bookplate of Zacharias Geizkofler von Gailenbach

This beautifully engraved bookplate is the most physically impressive piece of provenance evidence found among these three books. Measuring 17 x 14 cm, the ex libris belonged to Zacharias Geizkofler von Gailenbach (1560-1617), who had his name and that of his wife, Maria (nee von Rehelingen), along with her date of birth, engraved along the central oval frame. From 1597, Geizkofler served as Reichspfennigmeister (treasurer) of the Holy Roman Empire, and as an adviser to the emperors Rudolf II (1552-1612) and Matthias (1557-1619).

Lipsius title page

The Lipsius eventually travelled to what was Austria-Hungary. There it came into the possession of the noble Magyar family, Zichy, though which family member has yet to be confirmed. The title-page is stamped with the arms and name of Count Ödön Zichy. This may refer to Count Ödön (1809-1848), a governmental administrator who was executed as a result of a court martial, or Count Ödön (1811-1894), founder of the Oriental Museum in Vienna and a great patron of art and industry.

Bookplate of Jan Szasz

The second Hungarian collector to own this book was Jan Szasz, about whom I have been able to find very little.[6] It appears, however, that Szasz immigrated to the Antipodes, for a number of books with his bookplate are found in Australian institutional and private libraries.

Purchased by the Ivy M. Pendlebury bequest in memory of Gerald Frederic Pendlebury.


[1] See A.S.G. Edwards, Nicolas Barker at Eighty: A List of His Publications to Mark His 80th Birthday (New Castle, DE; London: Oak Knoll Press; Bernard Quaritch Ltd., 2013).

[2] Do you recognise the ‘B. Couissinier’ bookplate? If you know who he or she was, please leave a comment or email me at Special Collections.

[3] Selecta artis typographicae monumenta e bibliotheca Heideggeriana sive Catalogus librorum seculo XV impressorum … qui pro adjectis in margine pretiis publica auctionis lege divenduntur d. 18. Jun…(Zurich, 1810)

[4] The Gutenberg Bible volume was purchased by the Maruzen Co. of Tokyo for USD $5.3m (with premium) in the 22 October 1987 sale (lot 1). It was acquired by Keio University Library in March 1996.

[5] The Estelle Doheny Collection … Part III: Printed Books and Manuscripts including Western Americana (New York: Christie, Manson & Woods, 1988) 173 (lot 559)

[6] As with the book label of M. or Mme Couissinier, I would welcome any information on this collector named Szasz.

04 May 2014

Original Les Miserables Manuscript on Its Way to Melbourne

[The following is from the Herald Sun website]

The original 1862 manuscript of Les Miserables — considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century — is on its way to Melbourne.

Victor Hugo’s 945-page handwritten document will leave the Bibliotheque nationale de France for the first time to be exhibited exclusively at the State Library of Victoria.

Arts Minister Heidi Victoria said the loan to Melbourne was an act of enormous trust and generosity by the French people.

“It is also significant that the State Library of Victoria is the first institution that France has entrusted this great work to,” she said.

Victor Hugo’s handwritten manuscript. Source: Supplied

[Exhibition] curator Tim Fisher said the “talismanic object” would be the centrepiece of the library’s forthcoming exhibition 'Victor Hugo: Les Miserables From Page to Stage', which coincides with a new production of Les Miserables premiering at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

“Victor Hugo had this amazing way of writing, where he would write down one side of the page and then sometimes, years later, go back and make corrections or additions,” Mr Fisher said. “It’s not a neat object; it is full of humanity.”

Victor Hugo started working on Les Miserables in 1845, completing it 17 years later in Guernsey, where he had been living in exile after declaring Napoleon III a traitor to France.

Les Miserables has been translated into 20 languages, reprinted at least 248 times, been adapted for cinema at least 50 times, and is the foundation for three major musical adaptations.

'The Victor Hugo: Les Miserables From Page to Stage' exhibition also features the six quills Hugo used to write the manuscript, portraits of the author, photographs of scenes from various movie, theatre adaptations and comic books.

'Victor Hugo: Les Miserables From Page to Stage' opens at the State Library of Victoria on 17 July. Visit victorhugoexhibition.com.au