Monday, May 31, 2010

Quacks and Cures: new and improved!

Friday 4th June sees the return of Wellcome Collection’s hugely popular Quacks and Cures all-building spectacular. The event aims to present a snapshot of some of the opinions and ideas threaded through three centuries of medical history.

Friday’s event will see a new line-up, including Hope Springs Eternal, a talk on medical spas and waters by Medical London’s Dr Richard Barnett, as well as the return of the advice panel spanning three centuries of practitioners, which will now be relocated to the more stately atmosphere of the Wellcome Library due to its popularity last year. We are very excited to be welcoming science writer and broadcaster Dr Simon Singh who will be speaking in the auditorium. The hugely popular leeches will be making a return visit too.

For those who missed the event, have a look at this short clip on our first event here on the Wellcome Collection site.

The event is free and there is no need to book.

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshop is:

Free for all: history of medicine on the Web
From full-text books to online exhibitions, find the best places to start if you are looking for reliable, accessible history of medicine resources on the internet.
Thursday 3rd June, 2pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Item of the month, May 2010: Defying "Old graviation's sway"

Etching and stipple print by P.W. Tomkins,1798,
after Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1786. Wellcome Library no. 536282i
In Roman history, the keepers of the temple of Vesta were the Vestal Virgins, who play a part in many myths and stories. One such is the story of Tuccia, who, when her virginity was challenged, offered to prove it by carrying water from the Tiber to the temple in a sieve. The story became very well known in the Middle Ages, and also subsequently, owing to its inclusion in a book by Valerius Maximus (Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri IX, or nine books of memorable deeds and sayings) which was used for centuries as a school textbook.

It was one of the stories used as a model by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds (1723-1792) was a specialist among portrait painters in posing his sitters in the guise of appropriate characters from history, myth, literature or antique art, and thus endowing his clients with the serenity of Apollo or the beauty of Venus. A visit to Kenwood House in Hampstead alone gives one a good idea of his method, for there one can see Reynolds's portraits of Mrs Musters as Hebe, Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra, and Mrs Tollemache as Shakespeare's Miranda.

Tuccia however is a special case. What kind of sitter would be most appropriately portrayed as a woman whose chastity had been impugned, and subsequently vindicated by an unlikely suspension of the laws of nature?

Unfortunately Reynolds's painting of Tuccia has been lost since it was sold in New York in 1933, but its appearance is recorded in a large-format stipple engraving made in 1798 by Peltro William Tomkins (above). Comment on the picture in contemporary newspapers named the sitter as Mrs Seaforth, who appears several times in Reynolds's business records for 1786. So who was Mrs Seaforth?

The first place to look for any information about Reynolds's paintings is the magnificent two-volume catalogue by Dr David Mannings, published in 2000, with entries for the subject pictures by Martin Postle. [1] Although the Tuccia could be described as a portrait historié, it is catalogued not with the portraits but among the subject pictures. There the sitter is described as Rebecca Lyne, called Mrs Seaforth, mistress and child bride of the nabob Richard Barwell (1741-1804). "The reason for the intense interest in Mrs Seaforth centred on the issue of her age and the question of her virginity: she was fifteen when she became the second wife of the forty-seven year Barwell." (Mannings and Postle no. 2171, p. 568). Barwell is described as a "nabob" because he had made his fortune in business in India.

However, the fine detail of this account is corrected by the Oxford dictionary of national biography, and by Mannings himself in his entry for another portrait of Mrs Seaforth in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight (Mannings p. 408 no. 1595). From this it emerges that Barwell married as his second wife on 24 June 1785 Catherine (1769-1847), the daughter of Nathaniel Coffin from Boston, Massachusetts, and his wife, Elizabeth. Mrs Seaforth (Rebecca Lyne, who took the name of Seaforth) was the mistress of Barwell by whom she had three girls and a boy. So while Barwell did have a "child bride", it was the sixteen-year old Catherine Coffin rather than his mistress Rebecca Seaforth, the latter being the model for Tuccia.

In comparing Rebecca to Tuccia, which part of the story did Reynolds intend us to take away: the impugnment of her chastity or her demonstration of it? Perhaps the social historian would first look at the client relationship between Reynolds and Richard Barwell (assuming the wealthy nabob was Reynolds's real patron) and infer the latter interpretation: the painting proclaims her innocence. Surely Barwell would not have paid Reynolds a substantial fee to insinuate that Rebecca's virtue was as implausible as the carrying of water in a sieve?

Detail of the lettering (click on image to enlarge)
This point of view is supported by the lettering on the print, which was added by the print publisher Thomas Macklin (who, as a dealer, was also the owner of the painting). Purporting to come from "Dr Gregory's Ode to meditation", the verses read:

Lo! In the injur'd virgin's cause,
Nature suspends her rigid laws;
By power supreme constrain'd;

The trembling drops forget t'obey
Old graviation's potent sway,
And rest on air sustain'd.
No other reference to this ode has been found, and it has been suggested that Macklin might have had the verses written to illustrate the message of the painting. That message would be that the law of gravity ("Old graviation's potent sway") was indeed suspended to aid "the injur'd virgin's cause". ("Graviation" is unknown to the Oxford English dictionary, but as the lettering is engraved by hand instead of being printed in movable type, it should not be a misprint for "gravitation", both meaning gravity.)

However a different interpretation might be suggested by today's literary and art historians, who, for reasons not relevant here, favour a hermeneutics of complexity, irony, and subversion. According to this argument, the vindication of Tuccia's virtue is put forward as a subject in order to draw attention to the possibility of the opposite. Barwell and his girlfriend may have been pleased with the dignified portrayal, while the commentators would treat the portrait as a satirical representation of immorality, with Reynolds either subconsciously or covertly in the role of the satirist. While much favoured today, this kind of interpretation can often be over-sophisticated.

In this case however, perhaps surprisingly, the "ironic" interpretation was actually put forward at the time. The Swiss painter Henry Fuseli commented on the painting in the Analytical review in 1789, as follows:

"It is not necessary to know that the Vestal is the portrait of Mrs B—ll, to discover the whole is an irony; the humid side-leer of this eye can as little issue from the face of chastity, as a vestal from such a mother -– but the picture itself –- as a composition of certain beauties, and certain character, its expression, tones and forms … never let us once remember that it ridicules what it pretends to celebrate." [2]

As Luisa Calè says in her book on Fuseli, the identification helps "less knowing viewers into the cult of celebrity that was such an important feature of Royal Academy exhibitions ... recognition is essential to the insider joke about The Vestal's embodiment of chastity." [3] Such multiple interpretations may be commoner than we might realize when we see what looks at first sight like a routine retelling of an ancient myth.

[1] David Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: a complete catalogue of his paintings; the subject pictures catalogued by Martin Postle. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000

[2] ibid. p. 568

[3] Luisa Calè, Fuseli's Milton Gallery: 'turning Readers in Spectators', Oxford: Clarendon Press (Oxford English monographs), 2006, p. 72

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Big Picture: Addiction

The latest edition of Big Picture, the Wellcome Trust resource for teachers and students, has just been published. It looks at the topic of 'Addiction': analysing the different forms addiction can take and the science used to understand it.

There's more to Big Picture than the magazine, however: extra online resources for 'Addiction' include teaching plans, video interviews and also an image gallery of material drawn from the Library's collections, exploring drug and alcohol use across time.

More information on Big Picture - including downloadable copies of previous issues - is available from the Wellcome Trust's website.

A rose in Bloomsbury







Oh, to be in England in the summertime. Fans of the Chelsea Flower show and all things horticultural may want to see some 'living history'. From the library, take a stroll to the nearest patch of grass - Gordon Square where you can watch the emergence of the 'Gertrude Jekyll' rose. She was a famous garden designer whose brother, Walter, was, possibly, the eponymous inspiration behind a well-known work by his friend - Robert Louis Stevenson (available in the Library: The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

Gertrude famously worked on many architectural projects with Sir Edwin Lutyens, who designed BMA House in Tavistock Square which is adjacent to Gordon Square. You can read more about this building, once the home of Charles Dickens, in BMA House : a guide and history also available in the Library. We also have a lovely collection of books on garden history, as a search on the catalogue will reveal.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Outreach and events

Our Behind the Scenes topic this month is cross-departmental, focusing on the outreach and events programme. Although many staff in the Library have duties that involve public-facing work, there are a handful who spend a large proportion of their time planning, managing and carrying out the organised outreach activities.

Tours, Insights talks, and Library Workshops are held on a regular basis at the Library, and these can be booked in advance. Ross Macfarlane (Research Officer) manages tours specifically centred around the Special Collections, and Danny Rees (Assistant Librarian) focuses on the library User Services tours. Strongly focused around our academic audiences, these tours are tailored to meet the interests of each tour group and to ensure that we are giving people a good sense of how the Library’s holdings and services are relevant to them.

Insights talks are managed by Eleanor Lanyon (Library Outreach Officer) currently on secondment to the Wellcome Trust Events Team. The Insights talks are held on a weekly basis (usually on a Thursday), focusing on specific topics relevant to the Library and its holdings such as “The Occult”, “Fascinating Faces” and “Madness”.

Workshops are held a couple times a week and provide a forum for our users to learn more about how to use the Library’s resources more efficiently, to highlight the services that we provide, and to provide more information on research topics. These are managed by Lalita Kaplish (Assistant Librarian) and draw on expertise across the Library staff. Examples include “Wellcome Images” and “Plants and Medicine” among others.

Library also runs one-off or annual events that are geared toward particular audiences and help to raise the profile of the Library in the History of Medicine world and beyond. Phoebe Harkins (Assistant Librarian) is involved in the planning of these including the Medicine in Literature series, where authors who have used the Library collections for their working talk about their research processes. Authors including Phillip Hoare and Mike Jay took part in the launch of the series last year, and Michelle Lovric will be presenting her latest work “The Book of Human Skin” (Bloomsbury 2010) in July.

In order to coordinate all these internal events, a committee including key staff as well as Tracy Tillotson (Library Administrator) meet on a weekly basis. This ensures that there is good cross-departmental communication on all aspects of the events, and assures a high level of quality and relevance for the Library’s users. Tracy is the hub of much of this activity, liaising with the Trust Events team to make sure that Library events are coordinated with the rest of Wellcome Collection and the wider Trust as appropriate.

The Library is not, however, limited to its own four walls – externally-located events are also part of its outreach agenda. Events such as the Midsummer Picnics, activities in schools around medical humanities, and others are planned and managed by Eleanor, targeting a more general audience and younger groups.

The Library’s holdings are also displayed for public consumption in exhibitions. Wellcome Collection exhibitions usually incorporate a number of items, and items are loaned to external museums, galleries and libraries. Rowan De Saulles (Library Exhibition Liaison), manages all aspects of these loans, and is currently working on material to be used in the “Skin” exhibition coming up in Wellcome Collection in June.

Although it is impossible in the space of a blog post to detail all the work that goes into the Library’s outreach activities, it can be seen that there is a dedicated programme, and staff with time dedicated to supporting, promoting and contributing to them. These events add great value to the service the Library provides to its users, allowing our holdings to be used and understood creatively, and leading to a broader and deeper understanding of the subject of the History of Medicine across a wide range of audiences.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sun, Sea and Seeds

As the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual jamboree opens this week in Chelsea it is timely to remember the man who not only donated land at Wisley in Surrey in 1903 for the Society's new national gardens, but also with his brother Daniel, an unassuming pharmacologist and amateur botanist from south London, played a vital role in the construction of the visual landscape of one of the world’s most characteristic pleasure grounds.

The role of the British in the creation of the French and Italian Riviera as health resort and tourist destination is well known. Celebrity visitors such as Edward VII and Winston Churchill, or residents like Somerset Maugham, jostle with the innumerable hotels Windsor and Bristol in the public perception of the pre-war Riviera as the playground of the English upper classes. Less well-known is the part played by altogether more sober Britons who, equally drawn south by the Riviera’s equable winter climate, devoted themselves not so much to fleshly pleasures and the gaming tables of Monte Carlo but to study, horticulture and good works.

One of these was - shown above - Sir Thomas Hanbury (1832-1907), a Quaker merchant in the China Trade, who was so entranced by the area round Menton when travelling on the Continent that in 1867 he bought a ruined palazzo and its extensive grounds at La Mortola on the Franco-Italian border with the aim of restoring it and constructing a botanical garden. In 1871 Hanbury and his wife settled at La Mortola permanently.

So began the Hanbury Gardens, the most famous botanical destination on the Riviera by the time of Hanbury’s death.

‘’A visit should be paid to the late Sir Thomas Hanbury’s beautiful Botanic Garden and Saracenic Tower, an interesting restoration of a 9th century building, converted into a villa, situated at La Mortola, about 2 miles east from Garavan, open to the public Monday and Friday from noon to sunset. Admission 1 fr, for the benefit of local charities. The charming grounds of 100 acres slope down to the beach in terraces amidst orange and lemon tress and palms. A feature of the garden in the Pergola, a delightful walk covered with trellis work, up the supporting pillars of which climb a hundred varieties of creeping plants. The house is built in the Italian style on the site of an ancient Saracen castle, with white marble terraces and loggias, affording superb views of the Mediterranean.’’ The Traveller’s Handbook for the Riviera and the Pyrenees (Thomas Cook & Son, 1912), p.12.

The Hanbury Gardens were not merely a pleasure garden however. From the first the project embodied an urge to investigate how foreign species acclimatized, with the subtext of learning more about the pharmacological qualities of exotic plants, as befitted the interests of a scion of the house of Allen & Hanburys, the pharmaceutical chemists.

In this Thomas was assisted by, or more properly left the greater part to his eldest brother Daniel (1825-1875), a pharmacologist whose primary research focus was on vegetable material medica. His principal method of investigation was via a world-wide correspondence, often with British merchants, consuls and other government officials overseas, who supplied Daniel Hanbury with information about the local flora, and sometimes seeds and other botanical specimens. This correspondence is preserved in the Wellcome Library, in Daniel’s series of copy letter and notebooks dating from 1858 to his death (MSS.5304, 8353-8367).

The correspondence and papers show that Daniel was a frequent visitor to La Mortola and was instrumental in introducing many exotic varieties to the garden, from the Americas, and especially Australia and South Africa, mainly from seed. An entry for May 1869 lists in detail the succulents growing on the various terraces at the villa (MS.8361, ff.42-43) – the gardens today are still noted for their agaves and aloes.

Elsewhere in the notebooks are lengthy inventories of seeds obtained from the botanic gardens in Cape Town and Adelaide, with notes on the success of planning at La Mortola. It is tantalizing to speculate not only how many of the present occupants of the Hanbury Gardens, but also the denizens of more homely villa gardens all along the Riviera, owe their existence to these packages of seeds transported half way round the world to Daniel’s house in Clapham and then forwarded or carried by him by rail to Menton.

Author: Richard Aspin

Wellcome Library gets a Healthcheck


The most recent web edition of the BBC's Healthcheck series aired last week, discussing Professor Gareth Williams's new book The Angel of Death, on the history and eradication of Smallpox.

The feature is illustrated by an oil painting from our collections ('Edward Jenner vaccinating a boy' by Eugène-Ernest Hillemacher. Wellcome Library, no. 45436i) and is available to watch through the BBC website.

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Plants and Medicine
An introduction to contemporary and historical resources relating to the use of plants in medicine found in the Wellcome Library's online and print collections.
Tuesday 25th May, 2-3pm

Making the most of my library:
the Wellcome Library catalogue and how to personalise it

Learn the most effective way of searching the Wellcome Library catalogue and the best strategies for finding the resources you need. Discover what you can do with your Library Account, and what it can do for you.
Thursday 27th May, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chevalier D'Éon: a bi-centenary

Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée
Chevalier D'Éon de Beaumont
died 200 years ago on
21 May 1810

REQUIESCAT IN PACE

Spy: his cloak-and-dagger activity in a world of smoke and mirrors would have baffled George Smiley. He practised this trade in Russia, France and England.

Soldier: being trampled by a troop of cavalry in the Seven Years' War may have left him unhinged, but he could still outwit the Prussians.

Person of two genders: the French government under Louis XVI insisted he wear female dress in compliance with his unreliable statement that he was a woman.

Blackmailer and whistleblower: having been employed by a secret branch of the French diplomatic service run by Louis XV to spy in London on the public branch run by Madame de Pompadour, he used his ownership of the secret papers to persuade the French government to pay off his debts; specifically, papers setting out plans for a French invasion of the British Isles.

Inventor and collector of secret remedies: his unpublished compilation of inventions and remedies resides in the Wellcome Library.

Fencer, entertainer, bibliophile, and more besides …

Top: mezzotint of the Chevalier D'Éon as a man, 1764, either by Victor Vispré or by his brother François Xavier Vispré, both Huguenot artists active in France, Ireland and England. Wellcome Library no. 274i

Above left: the Chevalier D'Éon as a woman. Engraving by R. Cooper after J. Condé, 1810. Wellcome Library no. 277i The stipple technique was considered appropriate for boudoir, sentimental and feminine subjects.

Right: the Chevalier D'Éon as a woman and as a man. Etching, 1777. Wellcome Library no. 275i


Below: the Chevalier D'Éon's collection of inventions and remedies. Wellcome Library MS.2100. Click on image to enlarge. Note bottom right: "What is the most up-to-date book on English cuisine?"

"S'adresser à Mlle. D'Eon No. 38 Brewer Street Golden Square."

Channel 4 abortion ad: part of a long history

When Marie Stopes (1882-1958) first began her crusade for birth control and better sexual knowledge, she was horrified to discover that a significant proportion of the correspondence she received following the publication of her books Married Love and Wise Parenthood in 1918 consisted of requests for the termination of a pregnancy already begun, rather than the prevention of potential pregnancies. A similar phenomenon greeted the opening of her Mothers’ Clinic in Upper Holloway, London, in 1921. Desperate women (and some men) sought her advice on how to intervene in suspected or confirmed conception.

In her public statements, Stopes was adamant that birth control was nothing to do with abortion and that wider knowledge of sound methods of contraception would obviate the large number of abortions. As abortion, even by medical professionals was illegal at that date, and often conducted in dangerous and unhygienic circumstances, this was the strategic line to take. She also endeavoured to pursue with legal force the manufacturers of supposedly abortifacient pills who used her name in their advertisements.

However, in private correspondence with specific individuals, Stopes was sometimes more sympathetic. In cases where a delayed period was causing anxiety, she occasionally advocated the use of Widow Welch’s Female Pills, as an emmenagogue. In a few cases which seemed to her particularly deserving, she was prepared to go further and recommend ‘evacuation of the uterus’ and even to pass on the name of doctors who were known to be prepared to perform abortions (usually for a price).

This prudent line was continued by the National Birth Control Association (subsequently the Family Planning Association) when it was established to coordinate the activities of the various groups running clinics or lobbying the government for legislation to permit birth control advice in local authority welfare centres. There is some evidence from oral history that in at least some clinics, the workers were prepared to assist in procuring abortions by qualified medical personnel. But since abortion was still illegal (even if performed by a registered medical practitioner) this would not be recorded at the time.

During the 1930s awareness was growing of the high level of ‘backstreet’ abortion either self-induced by women or performed by some local person known to ‘help out’, with their significant death and morbidity rate. There was also a widespread belief that wealthy women were catered to by profiteering Harley Street doctors prepared to risk the law for a good price. There were increasing calls for a reform in the law and in 1936 an Abortion Law Reform Association was established.

In spite of the severe constraints upon advertising its presence and the difficulties it faced in setting up clinics, the birth control movement continued to expand quietly throughout the 1940s and 1950s, although contraceptive services were not included in the National Health Service when it was set up in 1948. The Family Planning Association remained the main provider of these, though it also trained general practitioners who wanted to develop these skills.

During the 1960s birth control gradually became a more respectable cause. The Pill was introduced in the early 60s, and in 1967 the Labour Government finally passed legislation permitting, but not requiring, local health authorities to provide free contraception. In the same year Liberal MP David Steel’s Private Members Bill for abortion law reform was finally passed, with significant support from the Abortion Law Reform Association. This had been given a new lease of life when the thalidomide scandal revealed that it had been legal to prescribe this drug but that it remained illegal for a pregnancy affected by it to be terminated.

For many decades London Underground had refused to carry even the most discreet advertisements for FPA clinics, but by the 1970s posters advertising the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, a non-profit abortion provider, began to be seen along the sides of the escalators.

Television commercials for contraception lagged significantly behind. It was only with the advent of the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s that advertising for condoms, previously very discreet, became more high profile.

It is therefore remarkable that at last, nearly ninety years since Stopes opened the first birth control clinic in the UK, eighty years since the Ministry of Health first permitted the giving of contraceptive advice in maternal welfare clinics to women whose lives were threatened by another pregnancy, that there is at least a strong possibility that an advertisement for abortion advisory services by the sexual health charity Marie Stopes International - based in the Whitfield St London WC1 premises to which Stopes moved her own clinic in 1926 – may finally appear on television.
This story of the long slow road to visibility and acceptability of the right to control reproduction is reflected in numerous collections in Archives and Manuscripts in the Wellcome Library. We hold a large collection of Marie Stopes’ own papers (including thousands of letters from her readers); the archives of the Family Planning Association and of the Abortion Law Reform Association; and even a small group of surviving papers of the Widow Welch’s Pills company. An overview of our copious holdings relating to birth control can be found here. The Library also holds numerous relevant published works and ephemera.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wellcome Images at the Picture Buyers' Fair, 2010


On 19 and 20 May 2010, Wellcome Images will be exhibiting at stand no. 42 at the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) Picture Buyers' Fair 2010. This year, the Fair is held at a new venue: the Barbican Centre, London. The team will be on hand to show how Wellcome Images can provide easy access to its huge diversity of material for publishers, designers and broadcasters.

Now in its ninth year, the BAPLA Picture Buyers' Fair is the largest event for image buyers in the world. Exhibitors, including the Imperial War Museum, The Natural History Museum and the V&A, cover every conceivable subject from news and nature to architecture and art with powerful, high-quality images and a vast fund of expertise.

Wellcome Images represents the unique collections of the Wellcome Library and is the world's leading source of images of medicine and its history, from ancient civilization and social history to contemporary healthcare, biomedical science and clinical medicine. Over 180 000 images ranging from manuscripts, rare books, archives and paintings to X-rays, clinical photography and scanning electron micrographs are available free of charge for teaching purposes, and are licensable for commercial use.

Wellcome Images is online and all images are available electronically on demand. Discover anatomical atlases; beautifully illuminated Persian books; award-winning clinical photographs from the UK’s leading teaching hospitals and research institutions, and the very first DNA fingerprint.

Author: Louise Crane

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The One Show


Items from the Wellcome Library's collections featured on last night's edition of BBC1's early-evening magazine programme The One Show.

Reporter Gyles Brandreth told the story of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, pathologist and so-called 'Father of Forensics'. As discussed in previous Wellcome Library Blog posts, we hold nearly 7,000 cards detailing autopsies carried out by Spilsbury.

The show not only included a film - partly shot in the Wellcome Library - in which Gyles discussed Spilsbury's achievements and but also featured Gyles showing presenters Matt Baker and Christine Bleakley some examples of the Spilsbury cards we hold.

This edition of The One Show is available for the next seven days for readers in the UK, through the BBC's iPlayer.

Jenner's Marvellous Medicine


As part of the BBC's History of the World series, BBC 1 West broadcast last night, Jenner's Marvellous Medicine, a documentary in which presenter Mark Horton told the story of Edward Jenner and smallpox vaccination.

The documentary drew extensively on Wellcome Images, our photographic library, and also featured our Head of Library, Dr Simon Chaplin, in his previous role as Director of the Hunterian Museum, discussing Jenner's friendship with John Hunter.

The documentary is available for seven days for readers in the UK, through the BBC's iPlayer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wellcome Library Insight - Madness


This week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - on Thursday 20th May - explores changing ideas about mental illness, 'madness' and its treatment, through material from the Wellcome Library's collections.

Our Insight sessions offer visitors to the Wellcome Library an opportunity to explore the variety of our holdings. Sessions are thematic in style, last around an hour and offer a chance to learn about our collections from a member of Library staff.

The session starts at 3.00pm and tickets are available from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 1.30pm onwards. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Wellcome Library workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Finding published research using Web of Science and Scopus
Do you need to find references in the scientific, medical or social sciences journal literature? Discover how easy it is to search for citations on a particular theme or by a specific author. Stay informed and find the best way to save and develop your searches.
Tuesday 18th May, 2-3pm

Hunt the ancestor: resources for medical family history
Was someone in your family a doctor, nurse or patient? Find out about the wealth of resources available to the family historian.
Thursday 20th May, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Remembering The Middlesex Hospital

The façade of The Middlesex Hospital, Mortimer Street, London, now demolished.
The Wellcome Library receives a steady stream of former members of staff of The Middlesex Hospital renewing their acquaintance with the four well-remembered paintings Acts of Mercy by Frederick Cayley Robinson. The four paintings were displayed for over seventy years in the entrance hall of The Middlesex Hospital and became a familiar feature of Fitzrovia. The Middlesex Hospital was demolished in 2008 but plans to rebuild on the site came to nothing, a fact painfully evident to anyone looking at the site today. Fortunately the Cayley Robinson paintings survived, and are now not far away in the Wellcome Library.

Above, four visitors who joined the nursing staff of The Middlesex in November 1966: left to right, Sally Carroll (Sally Sweeney), Helen Wynne-Griffith (Helen Sandover), Glen Couper (Glen Wright) and Carolyn Kerr (Carolyn Howe), on their reunion at the Wellcome Library on 20 April 2010.

Not only can visitors get to see the paintings from The Middlesex which in some cases they have not seen for many years: they can also bring us new information about the past history of the paintings and the hospital.

Here is a photograph showing the installation of one of the Cayley Robinson paintings in the entrance hall of The Middlesex Hospital. It is set behind a colossal sheet of plate glass in a massive architectural frame with a polished maple veneer. The same maple finish was used for other architectural woodwork in the entrance hall of the hospital. Helen Wynne-Griffith is looking at the brass plaque set into the frame: the plaque, recording the gift of the paintings by Edmund Davis, is now in the Wellcome Library. The grand boiserie inside the building responds in scale to equivalent features in the façade (see top photograph above).

In the dark 1930s interior, the glass and the frame set the pictures apart, cloaking the paintings' deliberate mysteriousness with a further layer of remoteness. The current display in the Wellcome Library is the exact opposite: the paintings are exposed without glass on bright white walls, and are felt as physically present in the room. Both approaches have their rationales.


Above, the Acts of Mercy in the Wellcome Library, March 2010

We should be delighted to receive more visitors to see the Cayley Robinson paintings, but the paintings will be taken down when the Wellcome Library closes for its annual Closed Week on Monday 28 June 2010. They are being taken down in order to go on display in the Sunley Room of the National Gallery in a free exhibition (supported by the Wellcome Trust) from 14 July to 17 October 2010.

At the National Gallery other works by Cayley Robinson will also be shown alongside his Acts of Mercy, including Pastoral (1923-24, Tate), The Old Nurse (1926, The British Museum) and Self Portrait (1898, National Portrait Gallery, London). With Cayley Robinson's modern works, National Gallery paintings by Piero della Francesca (The Baptism of Christ, 1450s), Sandro Botticelli (Four Scenes from the Early Life of Saint Zenobius, about 1500) and Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes (Summer, before 1873) will be shown. Cayley Robinson was a learned painter who spent four years as a fine art student in Paris and three years studying art in Tuscany, which accounts for the wide and unusual range of influences from Piero to Puvis which he absorbed and reconfigured in his own paintings.

Further good news is that, while the Acts of Mercy are at the National Gallery, a new selection of paintings from the Wellcome Library will be temporarily on display in the Library. More will be revealed in July. After the exhibition closes in October 2010, the Cayley Robinson paintings will be returned to the Wellcome Library entrance hall.

New information about the paintings continues to arrive at the Wellcome Library: more in another posting.

The photographs of The Middlesex Hospital were kindly supplied by Sally Carroll.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Free Seminars on Western Herbal Medicine

Middlesex University (with the support of the Wellcome Trust) is offering two free one-day seminars in May and July on the theme 'Researching the History of Western Herbal Medicine: Appraising Methods and Sources'.

The events are designed to promote and support scholarly research into the history of Western herbal medicine, and will cover the classical, medieval and early modern periods. They will be of interest to medical and other historians, medical herbalists, and a range of other academic and independent researchers.

Participants will have the opportunity to discuss the use of archival and archaeological sources, ethnobotanical approaches, and the perspectives of medical herbalists and historians amongst others.

The seminars will be held in May and July 2010 at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London:

Seminar 1: Classical and Medieval Herbal Medicine, 9.30-4.30, Friday 28 May 2010

Seminar 2: Branching Out in Early Modern Herbal Medicine, 9.30-4.30, Friday 16 July 2010
(featuring the Wellcome Library’s very own Research Officer, Ross Macfarlane)

To find out more and to register for the seminars, click here.

Luke Fildes at the bedside


As last weekend was the centenary of the death of Edward VII, it seems an appropriate occasion to highlight this image (46801i) from our collections. It was drawn by Sir Luke Fildes (1844-1927), shows the King on his deathbed, and was published by The Graphic with the permission of Queen Alexandra.

By 1910 Fildes was a successful society portraitist - he had painted the coronation portraits of Edward and Alexandra - but he had come to prominence in the late 1860s as an illustrator with a social conscience depicting (often in The Graphic) the social problems of late Victorian Britain.

Fildes is perhaps best known today for another scene of a bedside, The Doctor. In what has become one of the most recognisable images in the history of medicine, a family doctor sits patiently, attending an ill child in a poor, rural household, with the parents in close - but powerless - attendance.


There's still a debate over the origins of The Doctor: one argument is that it was inspired by a bedside vigil spent whilst Fildes's own son was dying from tuberculosis in 1877 (Fildes being so impressed by the professionalism of the doctor treating his son, that he painted this work, in part, in his honour).

Or indeed, the painting may derive from a royal connection, with Edward VII's mother Queen Victoria, ordering it to commemorate the service of her own physician, Sir James Clark, when she sent him to care for the sick child of a servant on her Balmoral estate.

Either way, we do know that the painting was commissioned by Sir Henry Tate and completed in 1891 for the opening exhibition of the Tate Gallery. Still a part of the Tate's collections, The Doctor was an immensely popular painting in its day, with many engravings and prints made of it. Shown above is such a print in our collections, produced in 1893 (42577i).

The Doctor is a much discussed work. It has been seen as a comment on the professionalism and dedication of Victorian medical professionals but also an idealisation of doctors in a time where industrialisation meant such personal care for individual patients was declining. Another reading suggests it marks a stage before the age of antibiotics, where attendance and patience prove ineffectual against infectious disease. In a recent article for the British Journal of General Practice, Jane Moore even discussed the relevance of the painting to medical practice in the 21st century.

In The Doctor, the light reflecting through the cottage window perhaps suggests the worst of the child's illness is over and that they will recover. In Fildes's other bedside scene, the dying Edward VII is shown alone: his family - and doctor - absent.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wellcome Library Insight - The Occult


This week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - on Thursday 13th May - explores the Library's collections relating to the Occult.

Our Insight sessions offer visitors to the Wellcome Library an opportunity to explore the variety of our holdings. Sessions are thematic in style, last around an hour and offer a chance to learn about our collections from a member of Library staff.

The session starts at 6.00pm, and tickets are available from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 4.30pm onwards. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Wellcome Library workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Wellcome Images
Do you need a picture? Find what you need from the Wellcome Images catalogue: search 160 000 pictures online, covering the history of medicine and the history of human culture from the earliest periods of civilisation to the present day.
Tuesday 11th May, 2-3pm

Finding visual resources in the Wellcome Library Collections
An introduction to the wealth of visual resources available in the Wellcome Library collections, and some practical suggestions and tips on how to locate them
Thursday 13th May, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Archives and Manuscripts cataloguing - April 2010

Three new collections of twentieth century archives dominate this month's cataloguing highlights.

As described in a recent blog post, the papers of the various organisations that combined in 1982 to form the British Thoracic Society have now been catalogued. They include minutes, printed material and some administrative records; correspondence and other papers relating to the training and examination of tuberculosis nurses; a small amount of material relating to the formation and early activities of the British Thoracic Society; and a 1932 London County Council post-mortem examination book of unknown provenance. The catalogue can be viewed in our online database under the reference SA/BRT.

Another, small, collection relating to tuberculosis was released at the same time as SA/BRT (as related in the same blog post): the papers of Alexander Stephenson Hall (1904-1995). Hall was a Tuberculosis Officer in Middlesex in the 1930s and consultant chest physician for a group of hospitals in Buckinghamshire from the 1940s to the 1960s; he was heavily involved in the activities of the British Tuberculosis Association and gathered material for a history of the organisation (never published). His papers include this historical documentation as well as various writings by on the social impact of tuberculosis. The catalogue can be found under the reference PP/HAL.

Thirdly, as noted in last month's bulletin, the papers of the International Epidemiological Association (IEA) have now been catalogued. The collection includes minutes and other organisational and business records; corporate records; membership directories and some photographs; general and Officer's correspondence; printed books, conference programmes, proceedings and abstracts. All this new material can be found in the database under reference SA/IEA.

Finally, as an illustration of the work that goes on behind the scenes in the archive catalogue, it is worth noting that the entire database was modified at the end of the month, to keep pace with recent changes in Library copying procedures (the introduction of self-service scanning and the consequent lifting of the 100 exposures-per-year limit for archive material) and access arrangements. This work involved the modification of over 140,000 archive records; an indication of how fast the database has grown in the 9 years that we have been populating it with catalogue information.

New product trial: The Illustrated London News Historical Archive


The Wellcome Library has set up a free trial for The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, which you can access through the Library catalogue.

The trial runs until the 20th May, and we would really appreciate some feedback about the resource. We think it will make an excellent addition to our existing digital collections, so have a try and let us know what you think. There is a link to the feedback form on the catalogue entry.

Here's more details on this resource, from The Illustrated London News Historical Archive website:

“The Illustrated London News Historical Archive gives unprecedented online access to the entire run of the ILN from its first publication on 14 May 1842 to its last in 2003.

With its debut in 1842, The Illustrated London News became the world’s first fully illustrated weekly newspaper, marking a revolution in journalism and news reporting. The publication presented a vivid picture of British and world events – including news of war, disaster, ceremonies, the arts and science.

Each page has been digitally reproduced in full colour and every article and caption is full-text searchable with hit-term highlighting and links to corresponding illustrations. Facsimilies of articles and illustrations can be viewed, printed and saved either individually or in the context of the page in which they appear. Wherever possible Special Numbers covering special events such as coronations or royal funerals have been included”.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wellcome Library workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Finding full text journals online
A guide to finding full text articles from online journals in the Wellcome Library and beyond.
Tuesday 4th May, 2-3pm

Making the most of my library:
the Wellcome Library catalogue and how to personalise it

Learn the most effective way of searching the Wellcome Library catalogue and the best strategies for finding the resources you need. Discover what you can do with your Library Account, and what it can do for you.
Thursday 6th May, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Wellcome Library Insight - Fascinating Faces


This Thursday afternoon (6th May) offers another chance to explore the provocative idea that faces can be 'read', through our free Fascinating Faces 'Insight' session.

This session will explore face reading, from its origins in Ancient Greece and China up to present day security debates on facial recognition.

Our Insight sessions give visitors to the Wellcome Library an opportunity to explore the variety of our holdings. Sessions are thematic in style, last around an hour and offer a chance to learn about our collections from a member of Library staff.

This Thursday's session starts at 3pm, and tickets are available from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 1.30pm onwards. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

 
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