Thursday, April 28, 2011

New event: Spices, Food and Trade

As partners in the History and Heritage Adult Learning Network, the Wellcome Library is delighted to bring you details of a new event coming up in May.

Dr Richard Aspin, Head of Research and Scholarship, will be discussing Spices, Food and Trade. The talk will illustrate the connection between the three, as represented through manuscripts, artworks and books drawn from the Library's extensive holdings. The talk is part of the Past Caring: A Celebration of Food in History programme, with events taking place in libraries and museums across London.

Spices, Food and Trade will take place on Saturday 14th May, between 2pm and 3pm. The talk is free, but places must be booked in advance. Simply email to book a place. We look forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wellcome Library Item of the Month: 'Nuremberg Chronicle'

Published in 1493 Liber chronicarum is a history chronicle following Biblical precedent, beginnning with the Creation of the World and ending with the Last Judgement. The largest section however, consists of scenes of contemporary life and contains many illustrations of European cities and countries. As the book was produced in Nuremberg – then the centre of the German book trade – it is not surprising that the city is afforded a double page spread (shown) and that the book is known in English as the 'Nuremberg Chronicle'.

It was written in Latin by Hartmann Schedel, a physician, though this medical connection is not purely why this copy came into our hands. This copy was purchased by Henry Wellcome in 1898 at Sotheby’s for £20 10s, at an auction of the Library of the artist and designer William Morris.

This copy has been 'rubricated' (chapter headings, paragraphs and important words have been highlighted in red) after it was printed. Also, some pictures have been hand coloured and an early owner made copious notes.

In the context of Wellcome’s collecting, this was a major early purchase but one made at a time when Wellcome was as much interested in books which could inspire designs for advertisements for his pharmaceutical business, than artefacts relating to the history of medicine.

Due to the variety of integration between its text and images, the Nuremberg Chronicle has been hailed as the most sophisticated printed book published before 1500. As such, it's also one of nearly 600 incanabulas held in the Wellcome Library, and one of our most treasured holdings.

A version of this post features in the latest issue of Wellcome News

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A woman in wartime: Molly Newhouse

Archives and Manuscripts have just acquired a short but vivid memoir of wartime service in the RAMC (MS.8766) by Dr Muriel "Molly" Newhouse, who is primarily remembered for her work in occupational health and in particular establishing the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma.

While there have already been a significant number of studies of medical women's service in the Great War, a good deal less work has been done on their involvement in World War II. This may well be because instead of having to bang fruitlessly on the doors of the War Office demanding to serve their country, or setting up their own hospital units under the auspices of the Red Cross, medical women were taken as a routine occurence and a group who fell under the usual provisions for war service.

Newhouse records that in 1942 she was intending taking a post as a medical officer at an ordinance factory - 'undoubtedly extremely worthy war work, but considerably dull' - when she was called up for the RAMC, She thus spent 4 years in the Army without any great enthusiasm, but found herself later looking back 'with amusement and affection' on those years and thus wrote this memoir.

As a woman she was very much in a minority in the RAMC, but claims to have found 'very little prejudice' on account of her sex, and that 'the Doc's word, man or woman, was law'. There was apparently some hostility among officers of the ATS towards women medical officers, at least partly due to the fact the latter were entitled to wear a cross strap to their Sam Browne, a privilege not accorded to the ATS.

Her early postings were to various camps, depots and hospitals around the UK. Newhouse found her ambition to use this 'ideal opportunity for medical research' thwarted, and her life taken up with the horrors of 'documentation' - 'for every ten minutes by the bedside fifty were spent on paper work'.

In 1944 she accompanied the Expeditionary Force to Normandy, where her first professional activity was to deliver the baby of a local French family who in the circumstances were unable to contact the usual midwife. Later on Newhouse, although a physician who normally dealt with cases of sickness rather than injury, found herself undertaking surgical duties at Bayeux. She later remarked that she had never got any further than seven miles from the coast during the whole time she was in France.

Following her return to the UK she was then posted, rather reluctantly, to India, eventually fetching up in Secunderabad in what she found to be rather startlingly luxurious conditions, given that it was wartime. She was subsequently posted to Singapore but the memoir concludes rather abruptly with an account of an RAMC mess meeting there.

Newhouse concedes that she could 'pretend to no very heroic experiences, no great hardships', but this memoir nonetheless provides a valuable insight into life in the medical services in wartime.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Visiting the stigmatics of the South Tyrol - II. Maria Domenica Lazzari and Maria von Moehrl

Maria Domenica Lazzari. Coloured engraving, ca 1840.
Wellcome Library no. 260i

The previous posting introduced the two stigmatics of the South Tyrol and described the visit of T.W. Allies and his two companions to one of them, Maria Domenica Lazzari, in July 1847. Allies's letter concludes with these observations. [1]

"The points in her case which are beyond and contrary to nature are these :
1st. For thirteen years she has neither eaten nor drunken, except that very small portion of the Host which she receives once or twice weekly.
2d. On the hands and feet, inside and outside, she bears the wounds of our Lord; both sides run with blood; whether the wounds go through is not known; and on the left side is a wound which runs also.
3d. She has on the brow, as I saw and have described, and I believe all round the head, the mark of the crown of thorns; a series of punctures, and a red line as if of something pressing on the head.
4th. All these wounds run with blood at present, and during thirteen years have done the like, regularly, and at an early hour on Friday, and on that day alone.

Combining the first and fourth fact, we get a phenomenon which sets at utter defiance all physical science, and which seems to me a direct exertion of Almighty power, and of that alone. "Medical men," said Signor Yoris, "have been in abundance to see her, and have studied her case; but no one has furnished the least solution of it." He assured me he had seen the wounds on her feet a hundred times, and that the blood flowed upwards towards the toes, as we saw it did on the nose. Since for the last two years she has been contracted and drawn up by her disease the feet cannot be seen. She has refused to allow any man to see the wound on the side, as it did not require to be medically treated; but offered that any number of women, of her own village, or the wives of medical men, might see it. She is a good deal emaciated, but not so much as I have seen in other cases. Nothing can be more simple and natural than her manner and that of her sister. Their cottage is open at all times. Domenica may be closely seen, all but touched and handled. Indeed around that couch one treads instinctively with reverence; the image of the Woe surpassing all woes is too plainly marked, for the truth of what one sees not to sink indelibly on the mind. No eye witness, I will venture to say, will ever receive the notion of anything like deceit."

Allies then proceeds (pp. 136-140) with an account of his party's visit to Maria von Moehrl.

Maria von Moehrl. Watercolour by L. Giuditti after L.G. de Ségur, 1846.

We returned to Neumarkt on Friday, and on Saturday morning, July 31st, walked nine miles to Caldaro, to see the other great wonder of the Tyrol, Maria Mörl, called the Estatica. On arriving, we presented the Bishop of Trent's letter to the dean, and in about an hour, were conducted to the Franciscan convent; from this one of the friars conducted us to the monastery, within the enclosure of which, but only as a lodger, Maria Mörl has withdrawn.

The main points in her history are these. She was born in October, 1812; she lived from her earliest years a life of great piety; about the age of eighteen, in the year 1830, she suffered violent attacks of sickness, in which medical aid seemed to be of no service. At this time she began, after receiving the Holy Communion, to fall into trances, which were at first of short duration, and scarcely remarked by her family. On the Feast of the Purification, 1832, however, she fell after communicating into an ecstacy lasting twenty-six hours, and was only recalled by the order of her confessor. In June, 1832, the state of ecstacy returned every day; in August of the year 1833 it became habitual. Her ordinary and habitual position is kneeling on her bed, with her hands joined under the chin, her eyes wide open, and intently fixed on some object; in which state she takes no notice of any one present, and can only be recalled by her confessor charging her on her vow of obedience.

But I may now as well describe what we saw. In a few minutes the friar had taken us to the garden door of the monastery; we entered a passage where he left us for a short time, and returning, told us to open a door which led into a bedroom; I opened another door, and found myself, before I expected, in the presence of the most unearthly vision I ever beheld. In a corner of a sufficiently large room, in which the full light of day was tempered down by the blinds being closed, Maria Mörl was on her knees on her bed. Dressed entirely in white, her dark hair came down on both sides to her waist; her eyes were fixed intently upwards, her hands joined in adoration and' pressing her chin. She took not the slightest notice of our entrance, nor seemed to be aware of our presence at all; her position was considerably thrown forward, and leaning on one side; one in which, on a soft bed especially, it must have been very difficult, if possible, to remain a minute.

We gazed at her intently the whole time we were allowed to remain, about six minutes. I could see a slight trembling of the eye, and heaving of the frame, and heard one or two throbs, but otherwise it would have seemed a statue, rather than anything living. Her expression was extremely beautiful and full of devotion. Long before we were content to go, the friar intimated his impatience. I asked him to cause her to pass out of her ecstacy, and recline on the bed. He went near to her and spoke a few words in a very low tone; upon which after a slight pause, she slid, in an indescribable manner, down from her kneeling position, her hands remaining closed together, and her eyes wide open, and her knees bent under her, how I cannot imagine.

She is said to spring up again into her former position, as often as her state of ecstacy comes upon her, without disjoining her hands; and this we should have liked to see, but the friar was urgent that we should leave, and we accordingly obeyed. The sleeves she wore round her wrists prevented our being able to see whether the stigmata were visible, which she bears on her hands and on her feet. The Bishop of Trent afterwards told me we should have asked the confessor to order her to show us the former. These were first observed in 1834.

Now, though what we saw bears out the accounts given of the Estatica so far as it went, yet I must admit that we did not leave her with that full satisfaction we had felt in the case of the Addolorata. Maria Mörl's state in its very nature does not admit the bystander to such perfect proof as that of Domenica Lazzari. Had we remained half an hour or an hour instead of six minutes, it must still have been a matter of faith to us how long these ecstacies continue, and how often they recur. None but those who live daily with her can be aware of all her case. I can only say that what we saw was very strange and very striking, and when the Bishop of Trent informs us, as he did, a few hours ago, that these trances continue four or five hours together, I must entirely believe it. He had seen the stigmata on her hands, and she had rendered him, as her superior, the same obedience which she gives to her confessor.

If I may venture to draw any conclusion from what I have seen, it is, that it appears to be a design of God, by means of these two young persons, to impress on an age of especial scepticism and unbelief in spiritual agency such tokens of our Lord's Passion, as no candid observer can fail to recognise. Neither of these cases can be brought under the ordinary laws of nature; both seem to bear witness in a different, but perhaps equally wonderful manner, to the glory of God as reflected from the Passion of His Son on the members of His Body.
Ever yours, T. W. ALLIES."

There is no conclusion about Maria von Moehrl comparable to Allies's methodological remarks about Maria Domenica Lazzari. She appeared less spectacular than Lazzari, her feature being her ability, when in a trance, to kneel at an angle without keeling over – well captured in the watercolour.

What are we to make of these two cases?

The sceptic will see them as, at best, self-harming anorexic young women, and at worst cases of physical and psychological abuse exploited by fraud. At the other extreme is the Earl of Shrewsbury who wrote "A pious fraud so ably conducted would be a greater miracle than those which we see before us". [2]

One point that the visitors made unwittingly is that the stigmatics, whatever may the cause of their condition, had significant economic importance for their communities. The Earl of Shrewsbury for example made his visit in May 1841 with the Countess and six other people in his party, all of whom needed food and lodging. In his letter dated Munich 27 May 1841 he mentions that a Reverend Mr Swarbrick from England had visited them the previous summer; Prince Lichnowsy had visited in 1839; Lord and Lady Dormer (Joseph Thaddeus Dormer, 11th Baron Dormer of Wyng, was or had been an officer in the Austrian Army) had visited; Monsieur de la Bouillerie had visited; a German physician had visited; and Johann Joseph von Görres (1776-1848), the prominent author then writing his book Die christliche Mystik (1836-1842), had visited Moehrl in 1834 but had not been able to get to Lazzari. The visiting group described in Allies's book consisted of at least five people: the three Englishmen, Manzoni's step-son Stefano Stampa, and the latter's servant; Stampa was on his second or third visit. There seems to have been a constant flow of visitors, many of them affluent.

Shrewsbury illustrated his letter with two etchings of the stigmatics by the painter and Catholic convert John Rogers Herbert (1810–1890), calling it "the accompanying print which is copied from one sold at Capriana." So prints of Lazzari were also on sale for visitors to buy, and from its similarity to Herbert's copy it is clear that a print in the Wellcome Library (image at top) is one of them. The brand-names which were used to refer to the stigmatics – L'Addolorata and L'Estatica – also follows best practice in marketing. Therefore, whatever else it might be, stigmatisation can also be the cause of a flourishing tourist business.

However, given that the two watercolours of Maria Domenica Lazzari and Maria von Moehrl which are published here came from Monseigneur de Ségur, it is likely that they came into being not for commercial reasons but for propagation of the faith. Thereafter they descended in the Polish noble family, settled in Belarus, of Dr Andrew Ciechanowiecki F.S.A. They passed from him to the collection of Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan at Malplaquet House, and in 2010 to the Wellcome Library. They are published here for the first time in this Easter week of 2011.

[1] T.W. Allies, Journal in France in 1845 and 1848 with letters from Italy in 1847, of things and persons concerning the church and education, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849, pp. 134-140. A letter follows covering the same ground from John H. Wynne, 1 August 1847, pp. 140-150, of which 143-150 concern the stigmatics, followed by a third letter from J.H. Pollen, 1 August 1847, pp. 150-158. Also on Lazzari: Guido Sommavilla, Maria Domenica Lazzeri: una mistica in Val di Fiemme, Cinisello Balsamo (Milano): San Paolo, 1996 (Protagonisti (Edizioni paoline), 26) (not seen).
[2] Letter from the Earl of Shrewsbury to Ambrose Lisle Phillipps Esq. descriptive of the Estatica of Caldaro and the Addolorata of Capriana, London: Charles Dolman, 1841, p. 36

Visiting the stigmatics of the South Tyrol - I. Maria Domenica Lazzari

Maria Domenica Lazzari. Detail of Wellcome Library no. 708242i

Two watercolours and an engraving in the Wellcome Library show two remarkable people in what is now the the northernmost province of Italy, the South Tyrol (Bolzano-Alto Adige). In the 1840s there was a steady flow of foreign tourists and pilgrims to the idyllic valleys of that region solely to visit two women who were said to have received spontaneously bleeding wounds (stigmata) on their hands, feet, or head like those caused to Jesus Christ when he was nailed to the cross and forced to wear the crown of thorns. One of the two women (shown above) was Maria Domenica Lazzari (sometimes spelled Lazzeri), and the other was Maria von Moehrl (also called Mörl). The former was known as L'Addolorata (the woman of pain), the latter as L'Estatica (the woman of ecstasy), for reasons which will become clear.

A few words on the topic of stigmatism. From the thirteenth century to the twentieth century there are records of more than 300 cases. [1] Some are relatively recent: they include the English stigmatics Ethel Chapman (1921-1980) and Jane Hunt (b. 1957); the American Cloretta Robinson of West Oakland, California (b. 1962); and the Italian Padre Pio da Pietrelcina (1887-1968). They are overwhelmingly female: among the cases studied by Imbert-Goubeyre were 280 women and 41 men.

No authoritative explanation of the phenomenon has been proposed. A rigorous and sophisticated study by René Biot [2] concluded that in many cases fraud had not been detected, that stigmatism was a "neuropathic phenomenon", that each case was different and that it was ultimately an enigma. A later study by Ian Wilson [3] re-examined the cases and proposed that the stigmata may be generated in a rare confluence of four personal traits: in "hysterical" people (1), under stress (2), with strong and overt religious passions (3) and with multiple personality disorder (4), the conditions were present for stigmata to be self-induced by hypnotic suggestion. Various further approaches are found in a volume of essays that appeared in 2001. [4] There is a vast earlier literature, much of it occasioned by Therese Neumann (1898-1962), the controversial (that is, even more controversial than most stigmatics) Bavarian. Many of them combined stigmata with seeingly impossible acts of fasting, such as eating nothing for years.

The two with whom we are concerned here are portrayed in two watercolours made in Rome by Luigi Gonzaga Giuditti. He was copying watercolours made in the Alto Adige on 29 and 30 August 1846, by or for Louis Gaston de Ségur (1820-1881). De Ségur was a Catholic apologist and prolific writer against Protestantism and Freemasonry. Let us look first at Maria Domenica Lazzari, and compare Monseigneur De Ségur's portrayal with the accounts of some of her other distinguished visitors.

Maria Domenica Lazzari, L'Addolorata, lived in the village of Capriana (left).
There her visitors included, in addition to Louis Gaston de Ségur, John Talbot, sixteenth earl of Shrewsbury (1791–1852), one of the leading Roman Catholic apologists in England, patron of the Gothic revival and builder of the mansion in Staffordshire now known as Alton Towers. He described her (and Maria von Moehrl) in a letter which he published as a pamphlet in 1841. [5] Then, during the summer of 1847, three Oxford-educated young men, Thomas William Allies, the rector of Launton, Oxfordshire, and his friends J.H. Pollen and J.H. Wynne, visited Maria Domenica Lazzari and Maria von Moehrl as part of their grand tour of France and Italy. In 1849 they published a volume of letters from each of the three travellers describing some of the things they had seen. As Wilson says (p. 33), "The Englishmen's observations are particularly valuable for their cautious, objective and scientific approach." Let us therefore look at them.

The letter from T.W. Allies is typical of the three letters describing the visit of the three Englishmen. [6] It starts in Milan with their visit to the novelist and poet Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873), author of I Promessi Sposi, to whom they had brought a letter of introduction.

"Milan, July 23. 1847.

We took our letter to Manzoni last night, and found him sitting, after dinner, with Madame. Considering that he lives very retired, we may think ourselves three fortunate birds of passage to have had an hour's conversation with the author of the Promessi Sposi. […] I inquired if he could tell us anything about the Estatica and Addolorata, who are not far from Trent, and whom we wish to see. He replied that one person of his acquaintance who had seen the Addolorata was profoundly struck, and quite convinced of the reality of her state. On further conversation, it turned out that this person was no other than his wife's son by a former marriage, who was at this moment gone on a second visit to the Addolorata with a physician, for the purpose of taking an accurate account of her state. He is to return on Monday, and then we hope to hear his report. […]

We intend to go on towards Venice on Tuesday; we think of stopping at Verona, and going north into the Tyrol, to see the Addolorata, I do no not know if you have heard of her. She has now been many years subsisting almost without nourishment, having on her hands, feet, and side the marks of our Saviour's wounds, and on her head a series of punctures representing the Crown of Thorns. Blood drops from all of these on Friday. I spoke with an eye-witness of this at Paris. The thing seems marvellous enough to go a hundred miles out of one's way to see it. Yours very sincerely, T. W. ALLIES.

Account of a Visit to the Addolorata and Estatica, in the Tyrol
Trent, August 1. 1847. MY DEAR — . Since I last wrote to you, I have seen two sights more remarkable than any that ever fell under my own observation before, and than any that are likely to fall again. I mean to give you as short an account of them as will convey a real notion of them.

Maria Domenica Lazzari, daughter of a poor miller now dead, lives in the wild Alpine village of Capriana, in the Italian Tyrol, which we had a walk of four hours through the mountains to reach. She was born March 16. 1815, and up to the year 1833 lived the ordinary life of a peasant, blameless and religious, but in no respect otherwise remarkable. In August, 1833, she had an illness, not in the first instance of an extraordinary nature; but it took the form of an intermittent fever, confining her completely to her bed, and finally contracting the nerves of her hands and feet, so as to cripple them. On the 10th of January, 1834, she received on her hands, feet, and left side, the marks of our Lord's five wounds; the first appearance of these was a gradual reddening of the various points beneath the skin; this was strongly marked on a Thursday, and on the following day the wounds were open, blood flowed, and since that time they have never undergone any material change. Three weeks afterwards her family found her in the morning with a handkerchief covering her face, in a state of great delight, a sort of trance; on removing the handkerchief, letters were found on it marked in blood, and Domenica's brow had a complete impression of the Crown of Thorns, in a line of small punctures, about a quarter of an inch apart, from which the blood was flowing freshly. They asked her who had torn her so (chi l'aveva così pettinata?) she replied, " A very fair lady had come in the night and adorned her."

On the 10th of April, 1834, she took a little water with a morsel of bread steeped in it; from that day to this she has taken no nourishment whatever, save the Holy Sacrament, which she receives weekly once or twice, in the smallest possible quantity. Some years ago, when the priest had given her the Host, sudden convulsions came on, and she was unable to swallow It; the priest tried repeatedly to withdraw It, but in vain, the convulsions returning as often as he attempted it, and so It remained forty days, when It was at last removed untouched. We were assured of this by the Prince-Bishop of Trent.

From the time that she first received the stigmata in January, 1834, to the present time, the wounds have bled every Friday with a loss of from one to two ounces of blood, beginning early in the morning, and on Friday only; the quantity of blood which now flows is less than it used to be. The above information we received chiefly from Signor Yoris, a surgeon of Cavalese, the chief village of the district in which Capriana lies. We carried him a letter from Signor S. Stampa, son-in-law of Manzoni, whom we met at Milan last Sunday, and who had just returned from a visit to Domenica, exactly a week before our own. He appeared quite overwhelmed at what he had seen, and gave us an exact account, which our own eyes subsequently verified.

We reached Cavalese from Neumarkt on Thursday, having taken especial care so to time our visit that we might see Domenica first on Thursday evening and then on Friday morning, so as to be able to observe that marvellous flow of blood which is said to take place on Friday. Signor Yoris most obligingly offered to accompany us; accordingly we left Cavalese shortly after one o'clock on Thursday, and reached Capriana by a wild road through a mountainous valley, in four hours.

As we got near the place Signor Yoris said, "I will tell you a curious instance of Domenica's acuteness of hearing. My wife and I were going once to visit her; when we were eighty or a hundred yards from her house, I whispered to my wife to go quietly, that we might take her by surprise. We did so accordingly, but much to our astonishment she received us with a smile, saying that she had not been taken by surprise, and alluding to the very words I had used." He showed us the spot where this had occurred, and it was certainly an acuteness of sense far beyond anything I can conceive possible.
Maria Domenica Lazzari. Watercolour by L. Giuditti after L.G. de Ségur, 1846. Wellcome Library no. 708242i

We went straight to Domenica's cottage, and knocked at the door. Her sister was out, but in a few minutes she came from a cottage a little below, and let us in. At the inner end of a low room near the wall, in a bed hardly larger than a crib, Domenica lay crouched up, the hands closely clasped over the breast, the head a little raised, the legs gathered up nearly under her, in a way the bed clothes did not allow us to see. About three quarters of an inch under the roots of the hair a straight line is drawn all round the forehead, dotted with small punctures a quarter of an inch apart; above this the flesh is of the natural colour, perfectly clear and free from blood; below the face is covered down to the bottom of the nose, and the cheeks to the same extent, with a dry crust or mask of blood. Her breast heaved with a sort of convulsion, and her teeth chattered. On the outside of both hands, as they lie clasped together, in a line with the second finger, about an inch from the knuckle, is a hard scar, of dark-colour, rising above the flesh, half an inch in length, by about three-eighths of an inch in width; round these the skin slightly reddened, but quite free from blood. From the position of the hands it is not possible to see well inside, but stooping down on the right of her bed I could almost see an incision answering to the outward one, and apparently deeper. I leant over her head, within a foot of the Corona on the forehead, and closely observed the wounds. She looked at us very fixedly, but hardly spoke. We heard her only cry "Dio mio" several times when her pains were bad. She seemed to enter into Signor Yoris's conversation, smiled repeatedly, and bent her head. But it was an effort to her to attend, and at times the eyes closed and she became insensible.

By far the most striking point in her appearance this evening was that dry mask of blood descending so regularly from the punctured line round the forehead; for it must be remarked that the blood has flowed in a straight line all down the face, as if she were erect, not as it would naturally flow from the position in which she was lying, that is, off the middle to the sides of the face. And what is strangest of all, there is a space all round the face, from the forehead down to the jaw, by the ears, quite free from blood, and of the natural colour : which is just that part to which the blood, as she lies, ought most to run.

After about three-quarters of an hour we took leave, intending to return the first thing in the morning. Don Michele Santuari, the parish priest, on whom we called, was out; he returned our visit for a minute or two, very early the next morning, but was going to his brother's again.

Friday evening, July 30th [1847].
When we visited Domenica at half-past five this morning, the change was very remarkable. The hard scars on the outside of her hands had sunk to the level of the flesh, and become raw and fresh running wounds, but without indentation, from which there was a streak of blood running a finger's length, not perpendicularly, but down the middle of the wrist. The wound inside the left hand seemed on the contrary deep and furrowed, much blood had flowed, and the hand seemed mangled; the wound of the right hand inside could not be seen. The punctures round the forehead had been bleeding, and were open, so that the mask of blood was thicker, and very terrible to look at. The darkest place of all was the tip of the nose, a spot, which, as she was lying, the blood in its natural course could not reach at all. It must be observed again, that the blood flows as it would flow if she were suspended, and not recumbent.

The sight is so fearful that a person of weak nerves would very probably be overcome by it; indeed, Signor Stampa and his servant were both obliged to leave the room. While we were there Domenica's sister, who lives alone with her, stood at the head of her crib with her hands under her head, occasionally raising her. We fanned her alternately with a large feathered fan, which alone seemed to relieve her; for she is in a continual fever, and her window remains open day and night, summer and winter, in the severest cold. She seemed better this morning, and more able to speak, and at intervals did speak several times. I asked her to pray for us, she replied, "Questo farò ben volentieri. Prega che l'Inghilterra sia tutta Cattolica, che non ci sia che una religione, perchè adesso ci sono molte." [7] She replied, I believe in the very words of the Catechism, "Si; non vi é che una sola religione Cattolica Romana; fuori di questa non si deve aver speranza." [8] She observed, that other English had asked the same thing of her. She has light and sparkling grey eyes, which she fixed repeatedly on us, looking at us severally with great interest. We told her that the Bishop of Trent had requested us to call on him, and give him a report of her; and asked her if she had any thing to say. She replied, "Tell him that I desire his benediction, and that I resign myself in every thing to the will of God and that of the bishop. Ask him to intercede for me with the Bishop of all." I said, " Piu si patisce qui, piu si gode dopo." She replied, "Si : si deve sperarlo." [9] Before we left, W— repeated, "You will pray for us," she bowed her head; "and for all England:" she replied, "Quanto io posso.[As much as I can]" After nearly an hour's stay we took leave, hoping that we might all meet in Paradise. There is an altar in her room, at which Mass is celebrated once a week, and many small pictures of saints. Every thing betokens the greatest poverty.

It is most hard to realise such a life as Domenica's continued during thirteen years. The impression left on my mind as to her state is that of one who suffers with the utmost resignation a wonderful and inexplicable disease, on which the tokens of our Saviour's Passion are miraculously and most awfully impressed."

The letter ends (p. 140) with this postscript:
"P.S. Maria Domenica Lazzari died about Easter, 1848, aged thirty-three years."

The description of Maria von Moehrl follows in the next instalment.

[1] Christoph Daxelmüller, "Süsse Nägel der Passion": Die Geschichte der Selbstkreuzigung von Franz von Assisi bis heute, Düsseldorf: Patmos, 2001, p. 97
[2] René Biot, L'énigme des stigmatisés, Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1955
[3] Ian Wilson, The bleeding mind: an investigation into the mysterious phenomenon of stigmata, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988
[4] Dominique de Courcelles (ed.), Stigmates, Paris: Editions de l'Herne, 2001 (Les cahiers de l'Herne)
[5] Letter from the Earl of Shrewsbury to Ambrose Lisle Phillipps Esq. descriptive of the Estatica of Caldaro and the Addolorata of Capriana, London: Charles Dolman, 1841
[6] T.W. Allies, Journal in France in 1845 and 1848 with letters from Italy in 1847, of things and persons concerning the church and education, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849, pp. 122-136. Available in PDF at , but the OCR "Full text" offered there is corrupt.
[7] "That I shall do gladly. Pray that England should be completely Catholic, that there should be one religion only there, because now there are many."
[8] "Yes, there is one sole Roman Catholic religion, outside this one can have no hope."
[9] "The more one suffers here, the more one has joy thereafter". "Yes, one must hope."
Credit: view of Capriana by Marco Vanzo from

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wellcome to the South Pole

Last Sunday, BBC2 broadcast The Secrets of Scott's Hut, a documentary which featured presenter Ben Fogle journeying to Antarctica, to observe the work of a team of conservators, attempting to preserve the hut of the explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott. The hut acted as both accommodation and research centre during Scott's attempt in 1911 to reach the South Pole. It was then abandoned, leaving behind 10,000 items: the everyday and scientific materials of Scott and his men.

We've written before of the connection between Burroughs Wellcome & Co (BW&Co) - the pharmaceutical company co-founded by Henry Wellcome - and Scott's Antarctic Expedition, so it was nice to see within a few minutes of the documentary, Fogle and two conservators unpacking a surving medicine chest, which included Burroughs Wellcome & Co products.

More BW&Co chemicals were visible on screen when the documentary discussed the role of Herbert Ponting, the photographer on the Expedition. To illustrate the importance of Ponting's role, Scott's hut even had a dedicated dark room set outside for Ponting to develop his photographs. And there on the shelves of the dark room... developer supplied by Burroughs Wellcome & Co.

The Wellcome Foundation Archives held in the Wellcome Library include more details on the role Burroughs Wellcome & Co played in this and many other expeditions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The Secret of Scott's Hut is available on the BBC iPlayer to viewers in the UK until Sunday April 24th.

- Medicine bottles in Scott's hut. On the right is Burroughs Wellcome & Co 'Tabloid' Liquorice Compound Powder, to soothe upset stomachs. Taken from this BBC Slideshow.
- Advert for 'Tabloid' 'Rytol' showing Herbert Ponting, official photographer to the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910, developing a plate with 'Tabloid' 'Rytol' in his dark-room in the hut featured in the documentary (WF/M/PB/25/01/10)

Stories of Psychology

Between 2008 and 2009 the British Psychological Society deposited in the Wellcome Library both its own institutional records and the archives of over 30 individual psychologists and small organisations. Since then, work has been proceeding to re-house these collections and to integrate them into our on-line catalogue. Followers of this blog will have noticed that papers relating to Charlotte Wolff (PSY/WOL), Henri Tajfel (PSY/TAJ), and E. C. Tolman (PSY/TOL) have already been opened to public access (and described in earlier blog posts: click here for information on Wolff, Tajfel and Tolman). Other material available includes papers relating to Albert Cherns (PSY/CHE), Grace Rawlings (PSY/RAW), L. S. Hernshaw (PSY/HEA) and C. S. Myers (PSY/MYE). More is scheduled to follow during the coming months.

To celebrate this collaboration between the British Psychological Society and the Wellcome Library, the Society is organising a half-day symposium on the afternoon of Tuesday 11 October 2011, to be held in Wellcome Collection Conference Centre. The theme will be Stories of Psychology: Archives, Histories and What They Tell Us. Speakers include Richard Bentall, Michael Billig, Rhodri Hayward, Graham Richards and Sally Shuttleworth. The symposium is free to attend, but registration is essential. For more information and to register, go to

Monday, April 18, 2011

Inner visions of a twilight world

As already noted here, the exhibition Watercolour at Tate Britain (until 21 August 2011) has a section on Watercolour and War, in which a spectacularly gruesome painting by Charles Bell (1815) from the RAMC Muniments Collection is the earliest exhibit, on loan from the Wellcome Library.

After that, anyone in search of less violent subjects can find them in the next room, devoted to Inner vision. Here the works exhibited show how visionary artists, who seek to capture the fleeting figures which haunt their own imagination, have turned to watercolour for its speed of execution and variety of effects. William Blake, Simeon Solomon, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones (with the largest watercolour in the exhibition), Frederick Cayley Robinson, and the Welsh poet David Jones are among the artists whose unearthly, hallucinatory paintings inhabit this gallery. Quieter and more contemplative, but no less intense.
Gouache by Robert Bateman. Wellcome Library no. 44691i.
Among them is another work on loan from the Wellcome Library: a gouache painting of witches plucking mandrakes by Robert Bateman (1842-1922). Botanist, landscape gardener and Italian scholar, Bateman was the leader of a group of British Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic painters who appeared in the 1860s under the auspices of the Dudley Gallery in London. His taste for exotic flora was inherited from his father James Bateman (1812–1897), the orchid-maniac who founded the gardens of Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire, now open to the public in the care of the National Trust. It contains gardens in ancient Egyptian, Himalayan and Chinese styles.

The strange atmosphere of Biddulph Grange finds an echo in Robert Bateman's depiction of the mandrakes. The mandrake is associated with many legends. Mandrake was said to grow beneath gallows, in a spot where the urine or sperm of a hanged man has fallen to the ground. When uprooted, it utters a shriek so powerful that it can kill people standing too near. There are male and female mandrakes, and infertile women can become fertile by consuming a male-shaped mandrake. A chapter of Sir Thomas's Browne's Pseudodoxia epidemica, 1646, was devoted to these folk-stories (book II, chapter VI).

Bateman's painting shows witches standing at a distance to pull up a mandrake growing near the foot of the gallows. It illustrates Walter Cranes's characterization of the Dudley Gallery school as "a magic world of romance and pictured poetry ... a twilight world of dark mysterious woodlands ... veiled in a dim and mystic light". Crane described Bateman's work as "weird and powerful" (weird meaning supernatural).

The transition from Medicine and War to Inner Vision at Tate Britain reprises an earlier exhibition in which Bateman's gouache was exhibited: the 1913 exhibition of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum and Library at Wigmore Street, London, initially for visitors to the International Medical Congress (June-October 1913) and subsequently to the public. This exhibition, whose centenary will arrive in two years' time, was the occasion on which the private collection started by Henry S. Wellcome in 1880 became a permanent institution opened to outsiders, and was the precursor to today's operations of the Wellcome Library. At Wigmore Street in 1913 the cautious visitor had to step through a gallery lined with watercolours not of war but of epidemic diseases: deadly mosquitoes depicted by Amedeo Terzi lined one wall, engravings of bubonic plague the neighbouring wall -- all still in the Wellcome Library today. If visitors traversed the length of this gallery and had the courage to carry on, they would have had to step between two African witch doctors and go through a door above which were what the catalogue describes as a "trophy of animal and human weapons of offence and defence": the skin of a tiger on one side and a leopard on the other, the horns of a buffalo or similar, the skull of a big cat, the sword of a swordfish, and other edifying naturalia. (Click on image above to see the details.)

Once past those, they were in a narrow gallery with an unusual collection of watercolours. The first painting in the bottom row will be recognized as Bateman's gouache of witches plucking mandrakes. The two paintings above it are apparently no longer in the Wellcome Library. The painting showing a man with his broken leg in a splint is described in the handbook [1] as "Kind enquiries by J. Hayllar": there was a family of painters called Hayllar based in Bloomsbury, of which James Hayllar (1829–1920) or his daughter Jessica Ellen Hayllar (1858–1940) may be the author of this painting. Where is it now? It fits Jessica's description of her father's work as "subjects to bring the poor and well-to-do together, kindly acts and interest shown in various ways" (Oxford dictionary of national biography). It would be ironic if it were a work of Jessica's, as from about 1900 she was confined to a wheelchair as a result of a traffic accident.

The painting above the Hayllar was catalogued as "The arrest of the alchemist [by] Pierre Deville, 1907", which has not been identified, nor has the painting in the tabernacle frame on the lower left, catalogued as "The magician by Professor Delbake" (possibly Charles Alexandre Debacq, 1804-1853). The painting above that one is catalogued as "The convalescent" without an attribution: it is however still in the Library, and is another fine exhibition-watercolour, signed by the Victorian artist R.H. Giles (right: Wellcome Library no. 18206i). Giles lived in Gravesend in Kent, and exhibited at the Royal Academy and elsewhere for the fifty years 1826 to 1876. Thanks to the darkness of this corridor, it still preserves unfaded its original lustrous colours.

In the quiet of this narrow space, the visitor to the Wigmore Street gallery in 1913 could obtain a temporary respite from the more didactic or overbearing exhibits. There will be fewer quiet episodes in 2011 at Tate Britain, with its larger galleries and immense flow of visitors, but the splendid variety of paintings is more than enough compensation. To mention just two examples, Richard Dadd's bizarre watercolour entitled by him "The child's problem", is rarely on display, while among the earlier exhibits, Lucas Horenbout's portrait of King Henry VIII, on loan from the Louvre, provides a temporary remedy for the usual absence outside Great Britain of both this portrait and Holbein's portrait of the king (the latter being in the Thyssen collection in Madrid).

[1] Handbook of the Historical Medical Museum organised by Henry S. Wellcome, London 1913, p. 15

Summer workshop programme

The new Summer programme of free Wellcome Library workshops begins on May 5th. Further details can be found on the Library website at:
The workshops provide training on research and resources in the Library, and are aimed at the general public.

The programme includes:

  • thematic workshops on Medicine and Literature and the History of Medicine;

  • training on specific resources such as PubMed Central, and Nineteenth Century Newspapers Online;

  • and introductions to the Wellcome Images database, and genealogical research resources.

All workshops are free and available to library members (library membership is free and open to all). To book a place, please use the online booking facility on the library website:

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Useful Scot

Physician, Geographer, Antiquarian... the activities and interests of Sir Robert Sibbald - born on this day in 1641 - mark him out as one of the most interesting and influential Scotsmen of the the late seventeenth century.

The third son of David Sibbald, keeper of the great seal of Scotland, Robert Sibbald made the most of his social connections in life, rising to become physician-in-ordinary to the King, Geographer Royal for Scotland and also the first Professor of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Perhaps most importantly, he was one of the founder members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, being elected as its President in 1684 (the Library of the College is named after him).

Sibbald can be seen as an examplar of early Enlightenment thinking: his interlinked interests were central to his aims in rationalising the value of the natural and human resources of Scotland. Or, in other words he sought the "creation of useful natural knowledge" [1]. To Sibbald, attempts at promoting the economic interests of a nation, could only properly be achieved after a detailed survey of its resources was completed.

Although Sibbald's attempts at such a "Scottish Atlas" remained unpublished, the Wellcome Library holds copies of two works, The history, ancient and modern, of the sheriffdoms of Fife and Kinross and Description of the islands of Orkney and Zetland, which stemmed from the collection of correspondence which the unpublished work was based upon. We also hold a copy of Auctarium Musaei Balfouriani e Musaeo Sibbaldino, the catalogue of the cabinet of natural history specimens which Sibbald and Andrew Balfour, a close scientific colleague, presented to the University of Edinburgh.

Sibbald was in close correspondence with fellow virtuosi at the Royal Society in London, sharing with them an outlook on how a closer understanding of the world could shape the future prosperity of a society. Indeed, Sibbald tried - and failed - to establish a Royal Society of Scotland, along similar lines to other learned academies.

A key figure in the growth of Enlightenment values in Scotland, Sibbald also had close relations to another burgeoning Scottish interest. Rather painful ones however, as in 1690 he was injured after being struck in the face by a golf club.

[1] Sibbald, Sir Robert (1641-1722), physician and geographer, by Charles W.J. Withers, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Image: Sir Robert Sibbald. Line engraving by W. H. Lizars after J. Alexander. (Wellcome Library no. 8552i)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blind Granny and her kind

"Blind Granny" with her tankard. Wellcome Library no. 16500i
A new exhibition Reframing disability has opened at the Royal College of Physicians in their spectacular building on the south-east corner of Regent's Park. It includes items selected from a collection of prints ranging from the 17th century to the late 19th century showing people with congenital physical abnormalities or disabilities. The Wellcome Library has similar items, and for many of them the new research in the exhibition catalogue (by Carole Reeves, Julie Anderson and Bridget Telfer) has enabled the Wellcome Library catalogue entries to be upgraded with new information.

One example is "Blind Granny", who is shown above. Her real name is unknown, but her claim to fame was that she could wipe her blind eye with her tongue, a trick she would perform in exchange for a tankard of beer. She was portrayed from the life by the mezzotint artist John Faber (c.1660-1721), from whose portrait many copies flowed as people took away mementoes of her unusual feat of contortion. Other prints show giants and dwarfs, conjoined twins, and people with paralysed, deformed or missing limbs, including one of an armless Swedish woman, Magdalena Rudolfs Thuinbuj (b. ca. 1612), whose star turn involved firing a pistol with her toes. The prints have been in the College for many years, but not catalogued until now, and their origin is lost in time: their original collector is unknown. In addition to the prints, the college has a painting of the dwarf and painter Richard Gibson (1615-1690), apparently after a lost painting by Lely, which is also on show.

But the exhibition of the historic pictures in Reframing disability is part of a larger project. With SHAPE (an organization that works to improve access for disabled people to arts and cultural provision) the Royal College of Physicians gathered a focus group of people themselves with different kinds and degrees of disablement, from different places and professions; invited them to discuss the historic prints; and created new colour portrait photographs of the participants, with their own commentaries, for comparison and contrast with the historic items. This invited a stimulating clash of contexts: it comes as something of a shock to turn from the black and white prints produced by (in many cases) Georgian publishers for their market, to the colour photographs of our contemporaries, accompanied by their own voices. One striking similarity with the historic disabled is that many members of the focus group are also engaged in arts and entertainment (acting, writing, photography, music).

As the accompanying book explains, specialists in the field identify two models for discussing disability: the "medical model", which sees the disabled as patients to be cured of a physical problem, and the "social model", in which society has a problem in making the good things in life available for people with certain physical conditions. As so often ("art" and "science" being another example), the study of history shows up this dichotomy as to some degree an artificial schism created by language. The historic "social model" against which many of the people in the historic prints are portrayed was really one in which they could use their abnormality to make a living, in some cases (Richard Gibson for example) a very good living: far from being excluded from society, they used their talents to join in with society's exchange of goods and services, though even the successful shared the pitfalls of show-business. The "medical model" tends to assume that the scope and character of medicine is unchanging through the centuries, and that medicine is uniform at any given time, neither of which would be admissible for historians. Many of these abnormal people lived in times when the patient could be in charge.

The medical term for Blind Granny's abnormality is apparently macroglossia, which simply means in ancient Greek the state of having a long tongue. Perhaps that really is the "medical model" – use of a language in which many of the College's Fellows in former days would have been at home – though it could be argued that it simply places medicine among the professions, many of which (the law, the military, statecraft, architecture, etc.) have their own jargon and claim ancient forebears.

But the fact that the Royal College of Physicians is hosting the exhibition in its Modern Movement building (right), and has adapted that Grade 1 listed building to allow disabled access, shows that even "medical models" are not exempt from change over time.

Reframing disability: portraits from the Royal College of Physicians is at the Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrew's Place, London NW1 4LE, until 8 July 2011, and will then go on tour: details here. Supported by SHAPE and by the Wellcome Trust. Catalogue and essays: ISBN 978-1-86016-415-6. On-line gallery: here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bank Holiday Weekend Closures

There will be a number of changes to our opening hours coming up, due to the combination of Easter, the Royal Wedding and two Bank Holiday Weekends in May.

Details of our opening hours and the closures can, as ever, be found on the Library website

Wellcome Collection opening hours will also be altered slightly over the holidays. If you're planning to pop in to see the latest exhibition Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life, make sure you check the opening hours over the holiday weekends.

Image: The British Museum: the Zoological Gallery, crowded with holiday visitors. Wood engraving, 1845 (Wellcome Library no. 38466i)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wellcome Library Insight - Women, health and healing

This week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - on Thursday 14th April - explores the changing role of women in medicine and attitudes to female healers through the centuries, with historical material drawn 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.

This Thursday's session starts at 6pm. For more details on attending, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Image: A nurse and a smallpox patient in an isolation hospital, possibly at Ilford, Essex (Wellcome Library no. 527792i).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Edward Chace Tolman

Recently made available to researchers is a small collection of material relating to the career of U.S. behavioural psychologist, Edward Chace Tolman (1886-1959). The material was collected by Professor W. G. Leytham, biographer and former student of Tolman, and as a result contains significant information on Tolman’s life, long career at the University of California, Berkeley, and the influences he had on his students.

Tolman is famous for his study and experiments on learning in rats using maze techniques. This is touched on in two files of reprints (PSY/TOL/2/5-6) in the Tolman collection. However, of particular interest may be file PSY/TOL/1/9, comprising copies of a questionnaire completed by former students, containing their (highly complimentary and admiring) views, reminiscences and anecdotes relating to Tolman the teacher and the individual. There are notable insights in this file (as well as in files PSY/TOL/1/3, 1/4 and 1/8) regarding his resolute stance against signing the Loyalty Oath imposed by the University of California. Unwilling to adhere to anything that infringed upon academic freedom, Tolman became one of the victims of the McCarthyite ‘witch hunt’ era, being dismissed from his position as Chairman of the Psychology Department in 1950. He became leader of the ‘non-signers’ in the university and took legal action against the Loyalty Oath ruling. He was ultimately reinstated a few years later, after the California State Supreme Court held that the oath, prescribed by the University of California Board of Regents, was illegal.

The Tolman papers form part of the archive collections of the British Psychological Society, currently deposited with the Wellcome Library, Archives and Manuscripts. Other material relating to Tolman is housed by the archive repositories of the University of Akron, Ohio, and University of California, Berkeley.

Image: Edward Chace Tolman, circa 1936. University of California History Digital Archive, University Archives,The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

Author: Amanda Engineer

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Archives and Manuscripts cataloguing, March 2011

Last month's archive cataloguing saw the release of three complete archive collections, as well as various manuscripts and supplementary items. The highlights are described below.

John Wilson Boag (1911-2007), radiation physicist and peace campaigner: papers of the influential radiation physicist and peace campaigner Jack Boag (1911-2007) were transferred to the Library last month thanks to the good offices of his colleague, G. Gordon Steel, the National Cataloguing Unit of the Archives of Contemporary Scientists and the Centre for Science Archives @ The Science Museum. With radiation hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, it is timely that the Library is releasing a new archive collection on this topic, which takes its place beside our other archive resources on radiology, radiotherapy and radiobiology. Although a rather patchy representation of Boag’s career, the eight boxes of his papers do contain interesting material relating his early work at the Radiotherapeutic Research Unit, Hammersmith Hospital in the 1940s-1950s, and later research, including at the Institute of Cancer Research; in addition, material relating to lectures and papers that Boag gave during the 1990s on the history of x-rays and radiation dosimetry. (PP/JWB)

Captain George Blair, RAMC (1917-1979): material mainly relating to Blair's service in World War II and period as a prisoner of war of the Japanese: letters to and from family members, friends and relatives, personal documentation, photographs, and bound copy of a typescript thesis by Blair on malnutrition among PoWs in the Far East. The letters from him to his family give some details of his experiences, though some correspondence takes the form of preprinted formulaic postcards. His family and friends' letters give details of life on the home front and in other parts of the world. His sister Lydia's letters often mention her experiences as a Kitchen Supervisor at King's Cross Hospital, Dundee. (PP/GBL)

Otto Neubauer (1874-1957), German biochemist: papers relating mainly to his experiments on liver and kidney function prior to his leaving Nazi Germany for Britain. (GC/207)

Sir John Robert Vane (1927-2004), pharmacologist: two audio visual items were added to Vane’s papers, both recordings on CD: namely, a 1960 Ciba Foundation symposium (PP/JRV/F/8), and the speeches made in 1955 at Sir Henry Dale's 80th birthday dinner, 1955 PP/JRV/F/9), which include numerous anecdotes on the history of physiology and physiologists.

Adolf Stempel (fl.1868-1882): gymnastics notebook, giving highly detailed and numbered instructions on gymnastic excercises, movements and floor routines to be performed, and information on various events and competitions in London (including at the Orion gymnasium and the Bow and Bromley Institute). The notebook also includes several intricate diagrams for the excercises. (MS.7981)

Anna Maria Meysey of Shakenhurst Hall, Worcestershire: domestic recipe book including medical and culinary material and also instructions for household tasks (including one how to wash silk stockings). Late 18th – early 19th century. (MS.8685)

German Household Remedy Book: 17th century medical recipe book and herbal including recipes for cures for common illnesses and for veterinary medicine; also various remedies for the plague. The herbal section includes information on the properties of quinces, lemons, lime, aloe and sage, as well as herbs from the New World such as sarsaparilla. (MS.8454)

“Chyromancy or Palmestrye. Also Physiognomy and Metoposcopie”: an English manual of practical chiromancy or palmistry dated 1648, which will be described in more detail in a future blog post. (MS.8727)

In addition, as noted previously, work continues on the retroconversion of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists catalogue (SA/CSP). Finally, in an earlier posting we flagged up the impending release of the final tranche of Francis Crick's papers (PP/CRI). There has been a slight change of plan here: the catalogue is completed but rather than release them at once the opportunity is being taken to digitise the papers immediately, bringing them forwards in our digitisation schedule, which means that there will be no need at a later date to take them out of circulation again for 2-3 months, as has been the case for the other Crick material to be digitised, and thus once this material is finally opened to the public it will stay opened. As soon as photography is completed these papers will be released, and an announcement will be made on this blog to herald the end of this long-running project.

The image of the X-ray warning sign at the head of this posting comes from Wellcome Images, image no.C0022404.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crime and Punishment

As part of their 'Justice' season, last night BBC4 broadcast Crime and Punishment: The Story of Corporal Punishment. Historians including Professor Joanna Bourke, Professor Vic Gatrell and the Wellcome Library's Senior Archivist Dr Lesley Hall discussed the history of physical chastisement, and how attitudes towards corporal punishment and concepts of pain have changed throughout history.

The programme can be viewed in the UK on the BBC iPlayer until Tuesday 12 April. Tonight BBC4 will broadcast Crime and Punishment: The Story of Capital Punishment which will examine the history and protocol of public execution. The programme can be viewed live at 21.00 on the BBC website and on BBC4, or via the BBC iPlayer for UK viewers for a week after transmission.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Wonders of Watercolour: Sir Charles Bell painting on loan at Tate Britain

Watercolour. What is it good for? Absolutely everything! Or so it seems. The versatility of this medium is explored in the all-embracing Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain until 21 August 2011.

Eight differently themed rooms demonstrate, for example, how watercolour has been used for precise depiction of the natural world, evocative scenes of travel and distant landscapes, and eccentric, charming or disturbing versions of ‘Inner Vision’. A room devoted to ‘Watercolour and War’ includes works ranging from the grotesque carnivalistic scenes of Edward Burra (1905-1976) to graphic depictions of horrific war wounds. In this latter category hangs one of the Battle of Waterloo casualties painted by Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842).

This particular image, selected from an extensive series of Bell watercolours (RAMC/95) held by the Wellcome Library on behalf of the Army Medical Services Museum, shows a soldier suffering the effects of a sabre wound to the stomach, Peltier, Belgian Hospital, 2 July 1815. Lying on his back, shirt pulled up to show what looks like parts of his innards, the soldier’s muted agony and despairing fear is also captured.

Bell’s talent for conveying emotion can be more closely examined in his works on the anatomy and physiology of expression, copies of which are held by the Wellcome Library, including Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting (1806) and Essays on the Anatomy and Philosophy of Expression (1824).

His prolific illustrations of the human body, the human hand, the brain, the arteries and surgical procedures of course also form part of the holdings of the Wellcome Library’s Rare Books Collection and the Paintings, Prints and Drawings Collection.

Exhibition-goers and students of the illustration of war wounds may also be interested in the images hanging next to the Bell watercolour at Tate Britain: First World War facial injuries and reconstructions, which have been loaned to the Tate by the Gillies Archive, Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup, Kent.

This is the second loan from the Bell waterclours at the moment (we described the other back in a post late last year). Catalogue descriptions of the entire series of Battle of Waterloo watercolours by Charles Bell held in the RAMC archive can be found by searching the Archives and Manuscripts online catalogue, entering RAMC/95 in the 'Reference' search box. Researchers should note that due to the fragile condition of the original watercolour paintings photographic reproductions only are normally provided for consultation in the Rare Materials Room. However, bonafide research requests to view the originals will be considered.


- Sabre wound to abdomen, Peltier, Belgian Hospital, 2 July 1815. From Sir Charles Bell's watercolours of wounds sustained by soldiers at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815 (RAMC/95)

- A terrified man holding up his hands. From Charles Bell, 'Essays on the Anatomy and Philosophy of Expression' (1824)

Author: Amanda Engineer

Friday, April 1, 2011

The annual archive popularity contest

The annual popularity contest of our archival collections, based on numbers of readers using specific collections, has recently been completed for 2010.

In 1989/90 the most popular collections were: Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection; Eugenics Society; Marie Stopes papers; Family Planning Association; Abortion Law Reform Association; Medical Women’s Federation; National Birthday Trust Fund.

In 1999/2000 the most popular collections were: Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection; Wellcome Historical Medical Museum; Family Planning Association; Medical Women’s Federation; Marie Stopes papers; British Medical Association; Melanie Klein; Queen’s Nursing Institute; Eugenics Society.

In 2010 the most popular collections were: Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection; Wellcome Foundation; Wellcome Historical Medical Museum; Family Planning Association; Medical Women’s Federation; Eugenics Society; Parkes Weber papers; John Bowlby; S H Foulkes; Queen’s Nursing Institute; Pioneer Health Centre; Lord Moran papers.

Absolute numbers of readers and productions have significantly increased during that time-span. A number of collections have sustained, and substantially increased, their attraction to users: the RAMC Muniment collection, the archives of the Medical Women’s Federation and of the Eugenics Society, all continue popular. This is largely due to the capacity of these collections to be of relevance to a very wide and diverse range of research projects, as well as to the ever-continuing interest in military medicine, women in the medical profession, and the eugenics movement.

Other collections which were not available in 1990, or even in 2000, have garnered a considerable number of users since they first became available: we note in particular that an ever-growing number of researchers can find something for their purposes in the extremely copious archive of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum. The archives of the Wellcome Foundation also demonstrate the extent to which the institutions inaugurated by Sir Henry Wellcome provide fascinating resources for a wide range of investigations.

Some collections have grown and developed a readership over time – usage of the extremely large Family Planning Association archive has undergone an almost seven-fold increase since 1990. The rise in numbers of readers using the papers of John Bowlby and S H Foulkes testifies to the constant interest we observe in the history of psychoanalysis and psychiatry more generally, substantiated by the healthy use statistics of a number of collections falling just outside the Top Ten.

While the collections currently ranking highest for reader numbers are ones which have been available for some years, several others which have been more recently acquired and catalogued are demonstrating their appeal to researchers – reader numbers for the Winnicott papers and the Patients Association archive are already very gratifying.

There are a number of factors affecting the very substantial rise in readers and amount of material produced over this twenty-year period. The importance of the online searchability of the vast majority of our catalogues cannot be underestimated – although certain previously popular collections which do not perhaps adequately reveal their riches through simple searches may have fallen a little off the map. However, a good deal of promotional work has also been undertaken, including the ongoing production of constantly updated thematic and topographical sources guides. There is also an element of word of mouth, or picking up on materials which have already been used by other scholars, which is perhaps particularly noticeable in the sources used by students writing undergraduate dissertations. There is, however, a bit of a tendency to think along established tramlines rather than breaking new territory.

While well over 200 archival collections were consulted during 2010, many of our holdings - over 50% - are not yet getting the attention they deserve. The almost-completed retroconversion of old catalogues into the CALM database is certainly making materials more visible to searchers but this is possibly at the expense of their browsing the complete finding-aids and gaining familiarisation with the wider range of potentially relevant items.

Our most popular collections certainly still have untapped treasures to offer to researchers, but we would also urge our users or potential users to explore beyond the clearly marked pathways.

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