Monday, October 31, 2011

The Smithfield Ghost

"The Smithfield Ghost...[who] scared even the stalwart butchers of that neighbourhood in the 17th century, is probably now forgotten".

So wrote the author of The Mystery and Lore of Apparitions, a work from 1930 whose subtitle fulsomely describes its content as containing "some account of ghosts, spectres, phantoms and boggarts in early times".

The Smithfield Ghost certainly still appears to be on of the capital's lesser-known spirits, although his actions as described in The mystery and lore of apparitions deserve deserve recapping, particularly on Halloween.

As related in the book, the ghost apparently took the shape of a lawyer called Mallet - who was well-known in the area - and behaved in a mischevious way, amusing himself by pulling joints of meat off the butcher's stalls at Smithfield as he passed along them.

And even though the Smithfield Ghost was said to keep regular hours - appearing every Saturday evening between the hours of nine and midnight - the butchers couldn't catch him: "Many have ventured", states a contemporary account, "to strike at him with cleavers and chopping knives, but cannot feel anything but aire".

The same contemporary account offers the image shown above (which is reprinted in The mystery and lore of apparitions). However, once we look at that contemporary account, the Smithfield Ghost takes on a slightly different hue.

The account comes from 1654 and issue 85 of a news book called Mercurius democritus, or, A true and perfect nocturnall, communicating many strange wonders out of the World in the Moon, the Antipodes, Magy-land, Fary-land Green-land, Tenebris and other parts adjacent.

What the author of The mystery and lore of apparitions does not mention is the highly politicised nature of Mercurius democritus - published during the Cromwellian regime, it was produced by John Crouch, a pamphleeter of the time who often fell foul of the authorities. With regards to the substance of Mercurius democritus, Crouch's ODNB entry tells us that "The principal aim of Democritus, Heraclitus, and Fumigosus [other titles produced by Crouch] was to parody the lies and exaggerations of the rest of the press by deliberately peddling half-truths and hyperbole". [1]

As such - and is we know of no other contemporary accounts of the Smithfield Ghost - this account of ghostly goings-on in London should perhaps not be taken at the same face-value as it appears the of author of The mystery and lore of apparitions did. And who was this author? A pivotal figure in the growth of Henry Wellcome's collections - and so the development of the Wellcome Library - C J S Thompson. We'll leave for another time more details on Thompson's fascinating career...

[1] Jason Mc Elligott, ‘Crouch, John (b. c.1615, d. in or after 1680)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 31 Oct 2011]

Item of the Month, October 2011: extract from Servetus’ Restoration of Christianity

This week marks the anniversary of the death of Michael Servetus (1511-1553): theologian, physician, heretic, and author of one of the rarest books in history.

Servetus was one of the most accomplished and controversial scholars of the sixteenth century. Born in Villanueva de Sijena, Spain, he studied law and - later -anatomy and medicine in Paris, where he was a near contemporary of Vesalius. In his own age Servetus was a renowned geographer and astronomer as well as a physician, but his fame among anatomists rests on his claim as the first westerner to describe the pulmonary circulation.

During his studies, Servetus had perceived that blood circulated from the right side of the heart to the left through the lungs, where it was mixed with ‘inspired air’ – a view contrary to the currently held opinion that blood passed through the partition that divides the two ventricles within the heart. Servetus published a description of his discovery in 1553, prefiguring William Harvey’s more complete and detailed explanation by 75 years. Had it been widely publicised, this account could have been one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of anatomy. But Servetus published his findings not in a medical textbook, but in a religious tract. Not only that, but the medical breakthrough was overshadowed by theological content that was – quite literally - incendiary.

Servetus was a radical and uncompromising anti-trinitarian and this work, Christianismi Restitutio (‘The Restoration of Christianity’), described a religious philosophy that was unacceptable to both catholic and protestant church authorities. Although the work was anonymous, Servetus was denounced to the catholic inquisition in French Vienne - possibly by Calvin, with whom he was corresponding. Servetus was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned awaiting trial for heresy. After three days he managed to escape from jail and flee - just in time, for the court condemned the absent Servetus to death by a slow fire. Meanwhile, Servetus was making his way to protestant Geneva en-route to Italy, where he hoped to find safety. There, whilst attending mass, he was recognised and put on trial once more. This time there was no escape. On the 27th October 1553, with the last copy of the book chained to his body, Michael Servetus was burnt at the stake, reportedly calling out his heretical views to his final breath.

For over 150 years every copy of the Christianismi Restitutio was believed to have been destroyed. Then, in 1706, the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, browsing through the shelves of a friend’s library, recognised a copy of the lost work. This was none other than the same copy used by Germain Collardon, the prosecutor at Servitus’ trial, and containing manuscript notes by him. Leibniz realised at once that his friend, Karl von Hessen-Kassel, had in his possession one of the rarest books in history. There isn’t enough space here to do justice to the history of this copy since its discovery. Through theft, forgery, sale and barter it has passed through some of the most significant collections in the world, and now resides in the French Biblithèque Nationale.

In 1723 an illicit reprint was attempted in London. The exemplar was smuggled to England by a Dutchman, Gysbert Dummer, who delivered it to London printers Samuel Palmer and Issac Dalton. 252 pages had been completed when a schoolmaster named Patrick, who had been employed to correct the proofs, reported the scheme to the Bishop of London. On the 27th May the sheets were confiscated by the authorities and once again - 170 years after Servetus’ death - an attempt was made to eradicate his controversial work.

Servetus’ 1553 printing of Christianismi Restitutio is now known to have survived in two complete copies and one fragment. The 1723 reprint fared a little better – just four copies of the text and one of the proofs are known. Our object of the month, then, is a copy of the 1723 printing of Servitus’ Christianismi Restitutio, known as De Trinitate Divina. A banned copy of a banned work whose author was twice sentenced to death, and which now sits innocuously in the basement of the Wellcome Library.

Author: Jo Maddocks

Image: From William Stirling, Some Apostles of Physiology. London : Priv. print. by Waterlow and sons limited, 1902
Further reading: Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone,
Out of the Flames. London: Century, 2003.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Statue of Liberty's sister and S M Burroughs

As well as our own small anniversary, today is also the 125th anniversary of one of the world's most famous cultural artefacts, as it was on this day in 1876 that the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.

Furthermore, there's a connection between the statue and the early days of our founder Henry Wellcome's pharmaceutical business - but it relates not to Henry Wellcome and nor to the statue in New York...

Just visible in the top right of this image is a copy of the Statue of Liberty. As indicated, the image is of Burroughs Wellcome & Co's then head office at Snow Hill in London. It references not only the nationality of the company's founders, but also hints at the activities of Wellcome's business partner, Silas Mainville Burroughs.

The statue that stands in New York was - as every good American schoolchild knows - a gift from the people of France in 1886. What's a lesser-known fact is that a smaller replica of the statue stands in Paris on the Île aux Cygnes - facing west in the general direction of her sibling.

The erection of the smaller statue in Paris was paid for by subscription by Americans resident in Europe to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution and inagurated on 4th July 1889. Silas Mainville Burroughs was a subscriber to the fund. And here's the evidence - preserved in the Wellcome Library's collections - Burroughs's certificate of subscription (WF/E/02/03/05).

Whilst the certificate does not record how much money Burroughs donated, it does add another detail to the life of Wellcome's business partner: a politically motivated individual, who still stands very much in the shadow of Henry Wellcome.

Happy 3rd Birthday Wellcome Library Blog!

As we've marked our previous birthdays, we thought it would be rather amiss not to mark our third birthday with a post summarising our activities over the last 365 days.

The Library Blog still follows the path we set down back on 28th October 2008: aiming to summarise current activities of Library staff and flag up interesting material from our collections. As in previous years, we've shown the breadth of our collections by tying into anniversaries and special days and weeks: for instance, we marked National Curry Week with an 18th Century Botanist, travelled with a doctor to 19th cenury North American for World Tourism Day and followed a particular 'Victorian paper trail' for World Toilet Day.

Insights into our current digitisation work have also been proffered, drawing out stories from the papers of scientists such as Peter Medawar and Arthur Mourant. Whilst thoughts on the Conservation implications of digitisation projects have also been aired along with the announcement of the launch of Wellcome Arabic Manuscripts Online.

Our Items of the Month have again highlighted the breadth of our collections and the blog has also highlighted major acquisitions, none more important this year than a portrait by Pierre Chasselat of the French surgeon Ange-Bernard Imbert-Delonnes. We're also delighted to have featured more guest posts on the Blog, particularly those by both Dr Duncan Wilson and Dr Vanessa Heggie, describing how they utilised our resources for their recent publications.

Thank you very much to all the people who have contributed their time and energies to the Blog over the last year. The writers of the Blog posts, but more importantly, everyone's who's spared the time to read what we've written. Here's to another year of Wellcome Library Blogging!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Maverick analyst

Archives and Manuscripts is pleased to announce a new addition to our holdings of personal papers of psychoanalysts, psychiatrist and psychologists. The papers of the noted psychoanalyst Charles Rycroft (1914-1998) are now catalogued and available (apart from certain files closed for reasons of Data Protection).

Rycroft was something of a maverick figure. During his period at Cambridge in the 1930s he became briefly a member of the Communist Party. He was advised by Ernest Jones to train in medicine if he wanted to demonstrate serious commitment to becoming a psychoanalyst, so became a medical student at University College London, while undergoing his first training analysis.

Although in the early part of his career he held a number of influential posts within the British Psycho-Analytic Society, he became bored with the minutiae of administration as well as more generally disillusioned with the institutional organisation of psychoanalysis and the tensions within the Society between the conflicting groups of adherents of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. He therefore gradually moved away from the Society, and although he withdrew a formal resignation in 1970 (see PP/RYC/B.44), he eventually simply let his subscription lapse in 1978. He continued, however, to see patients up until very shortly before his death

He made significant contributions to the development of psychoanalytic thought, but from 1959 he put much of his energies into reviewing and writing for the serious lay press on analytic and related topics. The collection contains a substantial amount of material relating to the entire range of his writings in PP/RYC/E.

Rycroft’s extensive connections both in the world of psychoanalysis and in the wider sphere of arts and letters are demonstrated in his correspondence (PP/RYC/B).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Cook's Tour

Fed up of the cold already, and wishing you could get away from it all?  Why not sign up for a free Cook's Tour on Tuesday 25 October at 3.00-4.30pm, and journey around the world exploring the historical role of food, remedies and global interchange in our medical and cultural lives?

As part of our Recipes and Remedies series, this free event will investigate the tensions underlying the contents of the kitchen cabinet, and place 21st-century debates around localism and healthy eating in a historical perspective.

The event will consist of a tour of Wellcome Collection's permanent galleries followed by an illustrated talk in the Wellcome Library, plus a chance to view items from the library's Special Collections.


  •  Richard Aspin, Head of Research and Scholarship, Wellcome Library.
  • Valerie Brown, Visitor Services Assistant, Wellcome Collection.
  • Helen Wakely, Archivist, Wellcome Library.
For details of how to attend please see the Wellcome Collection website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Madeleine Simms (1930-2011)

We were saddened last week to hear of the death of Madeleine Simms, who had been present earlier this year and on fine form at the Population Investigation Committee Symposium held at the Wellcome in February.

Our contacts with Madeleine go back to the early 1980s at the time when the archives of the Abortion Law Reform Association were transferred to what was then the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre. She gave us a collection of her own papers reflecting her activities as Press Officer and General Secretary of ALRA (supplementing others already in the original accession) during the period after the passing of the 1967 David Steel Abortion Act, when it became clear that the fight was not yet over and that efforts would have to be made to prevent the terms of the Act being restricted.

As well being passionately committed to activism in that cause, she was also (jointly with Keith Hindell) the author of the first and pioneering history of abortion law reform in the UK, Abortion Law Reformed (1971). Although when she became involved with ALRA a number of the original pioneers had died (Janet Chance, Berthe Lorsignol, Stella Browne) there were still a few individuals around who could remember the early days of struggle before the Second World War, such as Dora Russell and Mrs Garrett, as well as Alice Jenkins, the only member of the original Executive Committee still alive when the Act was passed. She thus had access to their memories before these were completely lost to the record.

Madeleine Simms, in her breach with the 'restrained and discreet' stance of ALRA's campaign in at the beginning of the 1960s, brought back some of the fiery radical outspokenness of Stella Browne in her long campaign to get the significant of abortion recognised as an issue not only to do with women's health and well-being but their freedom.

Voodoo panels bring Wellcome Library to 750,000

It seems appropriate that in the 75th anniversary year of Henry S. Wellcome's death, the Wellcome Library, named after him because it was created by him in his lifetime, has added the 750,000th work to its online catalogue (online at . That's a myriad's worth of catalogue records for every year that has passed since the Library's founder died in 1936. And since The Wellcome Trust came into being on Wellcome's death, these electronic records have all been created in the 75 years of the Wellcome Trust's stewardship of Wellcome's legacy. In their present electronic form they have been created over the last thirty years, but the essential pre-cataloguing work of identification and arrangement started in Henry S. Wellcome's own lifetime.

Work number 750,000 is a set of six paintings in acrylic on wood, which formed the walls of the shack of a voudun healer in Benin, West Africa. A slight detour on terminology: "voudun" is the Benin version, as distinct from the Haitian version "vodou", and the English word "voodoo". That last word has been made familiar in the Anglophone world –- especially for the Louisiana version -- by the tabloid press and through Hollywood films such as White Zombie (1932). It is of course now used in English for irrational beliefs generally, as in "voodoo economics" (over 400,000 hits in Google) and "voodoo neuroscience".

Returning to the paintings, they were found in 2010 in the market-place of Adjarra, near the border of Benin with Nigeria. They were discovered there by Jack Bell, the proprietor of a London gallery specializing in sub-Saharan African paintings and acquired from him by the Wellcome Library in 2011.

Adjarra has a market place about half the size of a football field. Most of the vendors have stalls under a thatched covering, separated by uncovered walkways, similar to the market in nearby Porto Novo shown in this photograph. Alongside dealers in vegetables, clothes and electronic gadgets, there are a large number of sellers of voudun remedies: skulls, wooden fetish figures, dried animal flesh, and talismans in many forms (photograph here).

However, one specialist provider in the market place has his own premises: a corrugated iron shack formerly decorated with what are now the Wellcome Library's paintings.
Inside the shack, the proprietor provided voudun treatments promoting sexual health, by offering animal parts to be used as carriers of spirits against diseases. And on the outside, he advertised, through these paintings, the conditions that he thought would persuade the local populace to seek his services.

The six paintings form three pairs: men, women, and organs, and have text in English – presumably for the benefit of people coming over the Nigerian border, as the main language of Benin is French. (One word, "boile", is in franglais.) The paintings of men show syphilis and gonorrhoea; those of women show pregnancy (desired or problematic) and breast cancer. For both sexes there are graphic depictions of urogenital organs, the eye, and leg-sores. The choice of subjects raises the question as to why only men are shown with sexually transmitted diseases: other factors apart, they may be workers in the trade in oil and petrol across the frontier from Nigeria. Passers-by, even if they did not read English, would be left in no doubt as to the speciality of this healer, and customers would appreciate the ability to have a confidential consultation in the privacy of the healer's shack.

For some people accustomed to different conventions of figuration (not to mention therapy), the painted figures may be disturbing: the outlines are strong but not differentiated in strength, and sometimes seemingly arbitrary: the depiction of the feet for instance, or the thighs of the woman shown above, suggests that a cropping stencil was used. And talking of different conventions: the lettering is in Oxford blue on a background of Cambridge blue, respectable academic associations for our practitioner!

The Wellcome collections differ from many other medically-related historical collections in that they did not arise from a medical institution such as a hospital, a medical school, a college of medical specialists or a university medical department. The Wellcome organizations have never treated patients. Rather they arose from the interdisciplinary research interests of one man, whose collection emphasized the horizontal links across conventional fields of study, unified only as the understanding of mankind. These paintings from Benin arise from an intermixture of cultures, placing English medical illustrations at the service of West African religion and cosmology. What could be more suitable as a 75th anniversary tribute to the memory of that man, Henry Solomon Wellcome?

For copyright purposes, the paintings are orphan works. Rights holders are invited to contact the Wellcome Library.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Louis Wain in Willesden

Amidst the much-publicised closing-down and boarding-up of some of the public libraries in the London Borough of Brent, there has been a cheering event from Brent Archives and Museum at Willesden Green Library Centre: their exhibition of works by the painter of cats, and sometime psychiatric patient, Louis Wain (1860-1939), who resided on Brondesbury Road in Kilburn (now in the borough of Brent) before his confinement in a series of asylums. The exhibition Communicating through cats: the art and mind of Louis Wain ends on Saturday 29 October 2011 (open Mon.-Sat. 10-4). It contains a good cross-section of Wain's anthropomorphic pictures of cats –- bicycling, cricketing, tea-drinking and so on.
Among the rare and remarkable works on display are two large mirrors painted by Wain for his fellow-patients at Bethlem Hospital at Christmas times (one shown above left), lent by the Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust.

No less surprising are examples of ceramic cats designed by Wain as Cubist pastiches. Their rarity may be explained by the unconfirmed story that the stock of them was sunk by a German torpedo on a cross-Atlantic crossing. Marine archaeologists of the future who are not familiar with Wain will have great difficulty in identifying these works, with their unusual combination of Cubist, Egyptian and Art Deco associations. These two examples are on loan from Chris Beetles Gallery.

Wain also knowingly applied historical and fanciful styles to his paintings, a fact which led a psychiatrist writing in a national newspaper to misinterpret them as evidence of psychosis: the story is well set out in the exhibition. That interpretation is however still accepted by some. [1]

Two drawings from the archives of a psychiatrist, Noel Gordon Harris (1897-1963), are lent by the Wellcome Library.
They are impressively displayed in a showcase to reveal a typically mysterious inscription on the verso of one of them, spoken by a smiling cat: "I have more mouth than I want to open, but don't look, it is very dark inside. But I will send you a pretty message from it." That sums up the title of the exhibition, as interpreted in Wain's idiosyncratic manner. Communicating through cats is simultaneously humorous and sinister. An approachable and rewarding exhibition.

[1] Terry Castle, 'Do I like it?', London review of books, 28 July 2011, pp. 19-23

Early English Books Online: medical content now findable on the Library catalogue

We are very pleased to announce that over 9,000 records for medical resources in Early English Books Online (EEBO) have been added to the Library Catalogue. EEBO is one of the most popular electronic resources the Library offers, with access to around 100,000 titles covering many subject areas, including English literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics, and science.

Until now EEBO records could not be cross-searched from the Wellcome Library catalogue. Library staff have identified medical titles in the EEBO database using the subject headings their catalogue records. The records were then loaded into the Wellcome Library catalogue. What this means from a user’s perspective is that links in the catalogue records will now take you directly to the electronic versions where they can view the digitised images of the original pages.

You need to be a registered user to access EEBO materials this way, but joining the Library is very simple

You can still search across all 100,000 records in EEBO. In Encore, search for ‘EEBO’ or ‘Early English Books Online’ and the Resource record for the database appears at the top of the list. The same searches also retrieve the E-book records of every medical resource in the collection with full bibliographic details provided. Click on the ‘View resource’ links to gain digital access to the original works.

Monday, October 17, 2011

'Stories of Psychology' Symposium report

Last Tuesday (11th October) the Wellcome Collection Conference Centre was the venue for the symposium ‘Stories of Psychology: Archives, Histories and What They Tell Us'. The event was held as part of the collaboration between the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Wellcome Library, which has seen the Society’s extensive psychology archives transferred to the Library (and which we've flagged up in previous posts on this Blog).

The afternoon's proceedings begun with Professor Richard Bentall (University of Liverpool), talking on “How we have changed the way we think about madness”. His lecture offered a broad overview of developments in the field, touching upon such key developments as the classificatory work of Emile Kraepelin, Walter Freeman and psychosurgery and the rise of the treatment of mental illness through psychiatric drugs. Understandably, psychology featured strongly in this narrative, with Bentall discussing the behaviourist influence of B F Skinner, offering a personal recollection of "the token economy" at work in a mental hospital and also an interpretation of the work of Carl Rogers on the value of therapeutic relationships. There were some provocative comparisons to be drawn with other branches of medicine: during the years in which psychology has existed as a discipline, he pointed out, prognosis for diseases such as leukemia has improved beyond all measure in the developed West, whilst the prognosis for psychotic states remains much the same.

For his paper, Dr Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey) re-evaluated the work of sexologist Alfred Kinsey through the prism of Kinsey's early research on Gall Wasps. Hegarty's lecture was particularly interesting for how it interrogated the way that notions of the frontier in American society permeated Kinsey's work, both in how the values of insect society were interpreted, and in his account of the sexual behaviour of American men in rural areas (as a result Hegarty's audience may never watch be able to watch Pixar's A Bug's Life in the same way again).

Prof Michael Billig (Loughborough University) took a more personal approach: his paper, “Archival knowledge versus personal reminiscence: The case of social psychologist Henri Tajfel”, was based around Billig's personal memories of Tajfel (Billig was one of Tajfel's research students). It discussed how Tajfel's work on the social construction of groups was strongly influenced by his experiences in growing up in 1930s Europe, but also spoke of the construction of biography through personal and working papers, and how this differed from an individual's personal memories of a colleague. Particular pertinent views from the perspective of the Library, as with the transfer of the BPS archive we now hold Tajfel's papers.

In “Psychological knowledge and the making of the modern state”, Dr Rhodri Hayward (Queen Mary University) questioned the traditional narrative of understandings of psychiatry in the UK in the 20th century, arguing that in the proto-Welfare State of inter-war Britain there was an increased awareness of psychosomatic illness in discussion of states hitherto seen as “malingering”. His wide-ranging talk included analyses of the condition of "Busman's Stomach" in the 1920s and of how notions of stress and emotion became the basis for industrial negotiation as the century progressed. Pertinent issues, particularly with the importance recent Governments have placed on the "emotional wellbeing" of the British population.

Prof Sally Shuttleworth (University of Oxford) concluded the day with “Studying the child in the nineteenth century”. This paper examined the interplay of literature and research, and how the rich and evocative descriptions of childhood in the literature of the 1840s (e.g. Dombey and Son or Jane Eyre), influenced the growth of child psychiatry in the UK, so much so that by the 1890s, developments in the field were feeding back into literature (e.g. Edmund Gosse's Father & Son). Her talk also spoke of the important role played by women in the development of child studies in the nineteenth century and the present day difficulty in tracking down many of child development journals produced in the period.

This last point was indicative of a symposium which illustrated the variety of areas and issues which research into the history of psychology can explore. One hopes the papers of the BPS now held in the Wellcome Library will inspire and encourage further exploration.

Image: Henri Tajfel (from European Association for Social Psychology).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Global Handwashing Day

It is Global Hand Washing Day today and we've chosen to mark the date by highlighting material from a recent library acquisition of African health posters, a number of which remind us all of the importance of hand washing and basic sanitation.

For instance, the simple act of washing hands with soap (752738i) and segregation of toilet facilities (756161i) can prevent common ailments in children like diarrhoea associated with cholera (755196i), eye infections (755601i) and since 2000, avian flu (755530i).

Personal hygiene was key to the 2000 Sara Campaign, an initiative aimed at adolescent girls developed in 10 countries of Eastern and Southern Africa with UNICEF assistance. Originally a radio series, the programme branched out into animated films, comic books, storybooks, audiocassettes, guides and posters. (Source:

Hand washing with soap is said to be the most effective and cheapest way to prevent diarrhoea (associated with cholera and typhoid fever) and acute respiratory infections (like TB and pneumonia). Such infections take the lives of millions of children in developing countries each year, according to the Global Public-Private Partnership for Hand Washing who initiated Global Handwashing Day (GHD) in 2008. Posters are an essential way of promoting the routine which, it appears, is seldom practiced in some areas yet could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. (Source:

Apart from basic hygiene issues, the majority of posters from this collection highlight family planning issues (birth control, family size, contraception etc) but, not surprisingly, many other problems are revealed: malaria (755536i), polio (755539i ), TB (752340i), typhoid (755617i) avian flu (752086i), trachoma and blindness (752498i ), diabetes (755362i) and hypoglyemia (755464i).

Less commonly depicted are issues concerning female circumcision (755185i and 755386i ), genital mutilation (752291i), and in 2001, the ‘flying toilet’ problem in Kibera slums (755701i, and 755711i).

Details of our collection of African health posters can be seen in the Wellcome Library catalogue.


A girl washing her hands in a bowl above a tap in a washing cubicle; health education in Ethiopia. Colour lithograph by Health Education Centre (?), ca. 2000, Wellcome Library ref.

School children visiting a segregated corrugated toilet and washing their hands: hygiene in Kenya. Colour lithograph by Ministry of Health, Kenya, ca. 2000, Wellcome Library ref. 756161i

Women preparing a chicken and washing their hands: preventing avian flu in Kenya. Colour lithograph by Ministry of Health, ca. 2006, Wellcome Library ref.

A girl holds a chicken on a plate as a man washes his hands: protecting against avian flu in Kenya. Colour lithograph by UNICEF and Maskew Miller Longman, ca. 2000, Wellcome Library ref. 755918i

Campaign against female genital mutilation in Djibouti. Colour lithograph by A. Rachid and A. Djama for Ministère de la Santé MGF project, ca. 2010, Wellcome Library ref.

Three toilets in the form of ducks in flight: appeal to improve sanitation in the slums of Kibera. Colour lithograph by AMREF, 2001, Wellcome Library ref.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Remote Access

The Library is constantly striving to improve its help pages, downloadable tools and video tutorials. Our latest video tutorial ‘Remote access to full text databases, e-journals and e-books’ (Running time: 2 m 28 s) is now available. You can also read a transcript of the narration.

For more finding aids and ways of making the most of our Library see the ‘Using the Library Catalogues’ or Guides & Video Tutorials . You can find materials in specific subject areas (like Medicine and Art) and then see the 'tabs' for videos and related information.

We provide Wellcome Trust staff and registered readers with remote access to a wide variety of resources. There is plenty to choose from: full-text historical newspapers, databases, digitised eighteenth century books and browsable e-books. Once you have registered, take full advantage of the latest copy of Nature neuroscience, for example, at home with a nice cup of your favourite beverage.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The ‘Spare-part biologist’: Sir Peter Medawar

"He was a big man. That was the first thing that struck you as he strode into the room. A big man - tall and vibrant with life. His sheer presence communicated a sense of power: not political power, not domination, but physical power, above all intellectual power... It was difficult not to be awe-stricken in the company of Peter Medawar" (1)

Such descriptions of Sir Peter Medawar, the Nobel-Prize winning zoologist whose archive has just been digitised, make browsing through his personal papers somehow more tangible. Not all biologists get to appear in Vogue as Medawar did in 1971 (2).

It is a tragedy that Medawar was plagued by persistent strokes later on in life. First struck down dramatically mid-speech in Exeter cathedral in 1969, he persevered through ever disabling health issues to continue to write seven books until his death in 1987. (3)

Some of the most poignant material from Medawar’s papers is those letters that relate to his strokes: correspondence from 1970 includes a series of self-portrait drawings illustrating his recovery from his seizure: one image is marked 'PBM body image 9 July 1970, Pablo Medawar pixit' with spiky fingers and elongated ears.

Other drawings dated ‘May 16’ shows him with enlarged hands and feet and another dated ‘May 26’ with a third leg (possibly a crutch) and just one overgrown ear like protrusion from his head.

Such drawings were part of his traumatic recovery process as explained in his autobiographical work Memoir of a thinking radish (p.157, Oxford University Press, 1986) and revealed, to Medawar at least, an ‘eye defect’ brought on by the stroke. His confidence in his recovery never abated it seems – despite his evident disability, it is a relief to read a note from '9 May' stating repeatedly 'I am feeling better' (4)

The archive will be available to view from 2012. Further details of the digitisation programme can be obtained from the Wellcome Library digitisation project pages.

1. Dipak Nandy, p.1 of an article for p.1 The Runnymede Trust, 1988, file ref: PP/PBM/F.58

2. The article features a shot of him musing at a desk with a cat out of focus in the front, File ref: PP/PBM/D55

A full listing of all books authored by Medawar held in the Wellcome Library.

4. File ref:


- Photo of Medawar was apparently intended for use in article by Medawar in "Lying Truths" according to pencil inscription on verso ("Lying truths : a critical scrutiny of current beliefs and conventions, Ronald Duncan and Miranda Weston-Smith, Pergamon Press, 1979.

- Self-portrait drawings are dated 1970 from file ref:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Forthcoming attractions: Miracles and Charms talks

Last week saw the opening of Miracles and Charms, two exhibitions at Wellcome Collection - Infinitas Gracias: Mexican miracle paintings and Felicity Powell: Charmed Life - which explore faith, hope and chance.

As part of a season of events to coincide with Miracles and Charms, the following free talks will seek to elucidate the themes of the exhibition through the holdings of the Wellcome Library.

Science and Faith in the Middle Ages - Thurs 20th October, 6pm-7pm
Explore medieval approaches to science through the Wellcome Library's rich manuscript collection.

Edward Lovett's Folklore Collection - Thursday 10th October, 3pm-4pm; Thursday 19th January 6pm-7pm
Discover the world of Lovett - the inspiration for Charmed Life - through his correspondence held in the Wellcome Library.

More details on these and other related events, are available from the Wellcome Collection website.

Image: Sketch made by Edward Lovett, showing districts of London where Lovett had collected blue amulet necklaces, which were thought to protect the wearer from illness (WA/HMM/CO/Ear/532).

Armenian Manuscripts Week

The next in our series of study weeks, Armenian Manuscripts Week, will run from Monday 7 - Friday 11 November. It has been designed to provide an opportunity to study original Armenian manuscripts from the Wellcome Library’s Asian Collections. This course is the latest in a series of lectures and workshops designed to enable students of Orientalist/Asian studies to learn about the manuscript cultures of Eastern and African peoples, and to examine handwritten works dating back many centuries.

Based upon the rich manuscript holdings of the Wellcome Library, these lectures and workshops will also offer a taste of traditional Asian and African medical teachings. Each session will be led by an experienced tutor who is an authority in the field of manuscript research, or a specialist conservator. The course has been developed in association with the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

The sessions will be led by Dr Gohar Muradyan and Dr Aram Topchyan Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran) Yerevan, Armenia. Topics covered will include an introduction to Armenian manuscript tradition, practical sessions in reading Armenian manuscripts and visits to the exhibition galleries of the British Library.

Handouts and learning packs will be provided, and a certificate of attendance will be issued upon successful completion of the course. Participants should have completed at least two years of Armenian studies; final-year undergraduates, postgraduates and others with a good knowledge of Armenian (Grabar) are welcome.

The course is free, but pre-registration is essential and numbers are limited to 15. Please email Tracy Tillotson to book a place.

For further information about the course, please contact Dr Nikolaj Serikoff.

Image: Manuscript of the Mystery Book or Divine Liturgy, 1714. Copied by the scribe Eghiay Marzvantsi in Marzvan, a small village in historical Armenia Minor.
Frontispiece depicting 'Communion of the Apostles', The Last Supper, and title page with text in letters in the shape of birds 'Oh Jesus Christ our Lord who art clothed' 1714. (Armenian Manuscript 11)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wellcome Library Insight: Nourishing the Nation

Think Jamie Oliver's campaigns are new initiatives? This week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - 'Nourishing the Nation' - may make you think again.

Drawing on archives and illustrative materials from our collections, the event will explore the work of the medics and scientists who helped shape and publicise nutritional knowledge in the 20th century.

From the ‘Bran Gang’ and debates over the evils of highly refined foods, to the growth of the modern ‘nutrition media’ in all its complexity, trace the roots of our current anxieties over what is and isn’t good to eat.

The event takes place at 3-4pm this Thursday (13th October) and is part of our current Recipes and Remedies season. The session will also includes time for you to view documents and archives from the Wellcome Library’s special collections.

For more information on attending, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Image: Advertisement for Simpsons Fish Dinner at the Three Tuns, Billingsgate Market, London

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How much medical history do you pass every day?

Every day I walk to my local station to catch the train towork. Every day I pass a plaque on the station wall commemorating an eventwhich has historical significance. And every day I ignore it.
On 8 October 1952, 112 people lost their lives and 340people were injured in the worst peacetime rail accident in Great Britain.Three trains were involved in the collision, which accounts for the very highloss of life (1) (2).

So why should this terrible accident be of interest to themedical historian? Because this was the first time the triage system forassessing casualties was used in the UK:
“By modern standards the fire and ambulance services werehopelessly inadequately equipped, and were untrained to keep trapped peoplealive. All that could be done was a little bandaging and to take people tohospital as fast as possible. Edgware General Hospital learned of the crashwhen a commandeered furniture van arrived with walking wounded. Among thoseresponding to the disaster were US teams from nearby bases, who were trainedin  battlefield medicine. They weredisciplined, brought plasma and undertook triage - sorting casualties intothose needing urgent attention, those who could wait and those who were beyondhelp. It was a new experience for the rescue services;  they were amazed and full of admiration.” (3)
Contemporary issues of the British Medical Journal, and theLancet, available in the Wellcome Library, talk about the efficient use of thetriage system (4) (5), discuss how to deal with such a large-scale disaster (6),and touchingly allow thanks to be given to all who helped in the aftermath (7).
When I do stop and think about this event it is quitesobering. This is partly due to the large loss of life and number ofcasualties, but also because it happened just at the time of day when I’mgetting on my commuter train to Euston. And what other history am I missing asI go about my usual routine?
It also makes me wonder if there’s something harrowing aboutHarrow. Harrow-on-the-Hill is the site of the first fatal motoring accident inGreat Britain (8). But that’s another medical history story…


Monday, October 3, 2011

Looking good for Friday night...

Why do some faces set my pulse racing and not others? If this has ever crossed your mind, you are not alone. In the past, many have tried to use science to decode the elusive quality of beauty and many are still trying; see David Perrett's latest book In your Face: the new science of human attraction as an example. This relatively small but important part of our bodies certainly holds a deep fascination whether you are a scientist or simply looking for love. But is beauty just in the eye of the beholder?

This Friday evening 6-10pm 7th October a free event at the National Portrait Gallery, London, (see 'Glamour Factory' for full details) will feature images and curios from the Library. It will take place in Room 16 and is called 'What is Beauty?' as part of the Image is Everthing section. Here the concepts of beauty and physiognomy will be related to film stars of today, will your favourite be there? The night is inspired by classic Hollywood portait photography and features talks, music and activities.

Aided by the judicious use of a kohl pencil I will also be road-testing an eighteenth-century forehead reader to discover if it holds any surprises for a modern-day audience. It will be an informal session ending around 20.45hrs

Are there really rules of beauty all good-looking people conform to? Join the debate and take advantage of other talks by experts such as Semir Zeki (Professor of Neuroaesthetics, UCL) and Dr David Gems (Institute of Healthy Aging, UCL). You can even be photographed like a celebrity too. If you feel like putting on the style, black and white is the theme of this glamourous evening.

Plate engraving illustrating a personification of 'Beauty' by Isaac Fuller and Pierce Tempest, 1709 from Wellcome Images (image number L0035394)

Natural beauty, digital illustration by Marina Caruso from Wellcome Images (image number B0007013)

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