24 September 2014

Memorialised in Manuscript: A Unique First World War Honour Roll

[First posted on University of Melbourne Library Collections blog]

Memorial lists recording the names of people who have died in service to their country or local community are a tragic, but important, part of library and institutional collections worldwide. For the First World War alone, Special Collections holds seventeen separate registers published between 1919 and 1926. There is, however, one further register in the collection that was neither printed nor published, but artfully crafted by a member of university staff.

Opening page.
Opening page.


This manuscript Honour Roll was created by Vincent J. Hearnes, who was chief mechanic in the Department of Metallurgy workshop during the early 1930s.[1] According to an index card enclosed in the book, one of Hearnes’ hobbies was the production of books and decorative texts using coloured inks he prepared. This Honour Roll is one surviving example of his work.

The book consists of 34 hand-decorated leaves recording in a calligraphic script the names of 102 graduates killed on active service between 1914 and 1918.[2] Hearnes was clearly influenced by medieval manuscript decoration and Celtic art, but added an Australian touch by using eccentrically stylised kangaroos and emus to form his knotwork patterns as exemplified in the previous images.

Rather than design decorated initials for each individual name, Hearnes instead used either one large initial for all the names on a given page, such as in the first and third of the following three examples, or incorporated multiple initials into a single design element, e.g. the combination of ‘E’, ‘F’ and ‘G’ in the middle image.

Surnames Corbett and Creswell.
Surnames Corbett and Creswell.

Surnames Elliott to Garnett.
Surnames Elliott to Garnett.

Surnames Mathison to Miller.
Surnames Mathison to Miller.

Introduction by Professor Earnest Scott, 25.3.1932.
Professor Scott’s Introduction, 25.3.1932.
The work was also a collaborative production. The book was tastefully bound in blue (the university colour) pebble-grained morocco with ornamental gilt turn-ins and marbled endpapers by the prominent Melbourne binder Harry Green. There are brief contributions by Professors L. J. Wrigley (Department of Education) and J. Neill Greenwood (Department of Metallurgy), and an Introduction was provided by noted historian Professor (Sir) Ernest Scott.[3]

When and why did Hearnes compile the manuscript? Thanks to the colophon, we know he completed the Honour Roll in March 1932. The year is significant for two reasons. First, the twentieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I was just two years away. Second, Melbourne’s war memorial, the Shrine of Remembrance, was under construction and scheduled to open in time with the anniversary in 1934.

To create a record of the Victorians who served overseas between 1914 and 1918, the committee tasked with founding and constructing the Shrine opted to have the names inscribed in a series of Books of Remembrance.[4] To ensure the longevity of the books, they sought the advice of the Victorian Arts and Crafts Society, which specified: ‘The books will be made of the best Roman Vellum, and hand bound in Levant Morocco … The binding would be done by Mr Harry Green, one of the best craftsmen in Australia in the production of Edition de Luxe. The lettering would be done by [Jason] S. Forman and assistants’.[5]

Although Hearnes’ Honour Roll was also bound by Green, he was not among Forman’s assistants, though it seems evident that their work inspired Hearnes to create a similar Book of Remembrance focused on graduates of the university.[6]

The Honour Roll was not the only calligraphic work Hearnes wished to present to the library. In a letter to the Registrar dated 5 April 1933, he wrote: ‘As I mentioned some months ago, I intended having another manuscript book finished for presentation … this year, but owing to illness … I have been unable to do any considerable amount of drawing’.[7] The letter closed with an offer of a third manuscript, one comprised of prayers written alternately in Irish and Latin. Neither book mentioned, however, is held by Special Collections.

Eight months after writing to the Registrar, Hearnes was dismissed from the university due to conflict with other staff, which, it is safe to presume, also ended any inclination on his part to donate further books.[8] This makes the Honour Roll the sole example of his calligraphic work held by the library, and a fitting object to write about, as we enter the final months of the centennial year marking the start of the First World War and prepare to commemorate the centenary of the costly Gallipoli Campaign in 2015.

Colophon dated 28.3.1932.
Colophon dated 28.3.1932.

[1] Essington Lewis, Development and Activities of the Metallurgy School … Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1935, p. 7.

[2] For the official university Roll of Honour, see The Melbourne University Magazine: War Memorial Number … Compiled by Graduates and Undergraduates of the UniversityMelbourne: [Printed by Ford & Son for Melbourne University Magazine], 1920.

[3] Scott was knighted in 1939. The School of Historical and Philosophical Studies maintains a chair in his honour, and the university awards an annual prize in Scott’s name, which was established by his widow, Lady Emily Scott (1882–1957).

[4] The books, which number forty in total, are housed in individual bronze caskets displayed in the Ambulatory.

[5] J.B. Forman to Philip Hudson, 10 October 1929; quoted in Bruce Scates, A Place to Remember: A History of the Shrine of Remembrance. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 129. Fine vellum proved cost prohibitive, so parchment, cheaper but no less durable, was used.

[6] My thanks to Leigh Gilburt at the Shrine of Remembrance for confirming Hearnes was not among the calligraphers.

[7] V. J. Hearnes to the University Registrar, 5 April 1933; the letter is enclosed with the Honour Roll.

[8] File ‘H. V. [sic] Hearnes Termination of Employment’; University of Melbourne Archives, Office of the Registrar Collection, UM 312, 1933/ 206.

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: