Art, Culture and Patronage in Renaissance Scotland

Last year we were very fortunate to host placements for four undergraduate history students from the University of Glasgow. The placements were undertaken as part of their class ‘Art, Culture and Patronage in Renaissance Scotland, 1406-1625’ and involved working with primary source materials from the collections of either the University’s Archives and Special Collections, the Hunterian Museum, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. Each student spent time studying a single item from one of these repositories, thinking about how to interpret the source, assessing its significance, and imagining the curatorial possibilities it offers.


A manuscript rental on a blank page in ‘The workes of the most High and Mightie Prince, James’ (1616)

The students’ work is now available to read on the class blog:

You can read more about the students’ work in other repositories on the class blog:

Foundations of the College Library

On 29th October 1732, a fire broke out in a house in Glasgow, next door to the home of one John Colquhoun, Clerk of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The fire spread quickly to Colquhoun’s house and many of Colquhoun’s possessions were burnt to a crisp. Also in Colquhoun’s possession at this time, and thus sadly lost to the fire, was the Faculty’s second minute book, covering the period 1688 to 1732. This leaves us today with a frustrating gap in the early records of the Faculty.

The lack of reliable records for the years between 1688 and 1733 makes it especially difficult to piece together the early history of the Faculty Library. The Library was founded in 1698, shortly after the first Faculty Hall was erected near the Trongate. We know, largely thanks to the efforts of the 19th century librarian Alexander Duncan, that the nucleus of the library was formed by donations from Faculty members and their well-to-do patients and friends. In Duncan’s book, Memorials of the Faculty (1896), he transcribes a manuscript listing “the names of such worthie persons as have gifted books to the Chierurgions Librarie in Glasgow”. Although Duncan notes that “many of [the books] are still on the shelves,” he does not provide a list of their titles, so it is difficult to know what the size and scope of the Library was like in its early years.

This is where our ongoing ESTC matching project comes in. As part of our work to match our current holdings to the records on the English Short Title Catalogue, library staff and volunteers have been closely scrutinising many of the pre-1800 titles in our collections. In the last month we have started looking at books from the Lister Room, and have rediscovered some important inscriptions indicating early donations to and purchases by the Faculty Library.


The title page of Robert Bayfield’s “Exercitationes anatomicæ in varias regiones humani corporis”, with the autograph of Dr Peter Patoun.

In one diminutive volume, containing the first and second editions of Robert Bayfield’s Exercitationes anatomicae in varias regiones humani corporis (ESTC R31574 and R23670, respectively), we find an “Ex Libris” inscription dated 1687, belonging to Dr Peter Patoun. Dr Patoun (sometimes spelled “Patoune” or “Paton”) was a Glaswegian physician who graduated with an M.D. from Leiden in 1691 and became, according to Duncan, “one of the leading physicians in Glasgow”. He was Praeses (i.e. President) of the Faculty between 1709 and 1710, and is known to have donated a number of books to both the Faculty Library and the Library of the University of Glasgow. Although this is the first of his books we have identified here, a list of his donations to the university appears in volume 3 of Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis (1854, p.440).

Not all the donations to the library were from Faculty members. Our copy of the 7th edition of Philip Barrough’s The method of physick (ESTC S101230) features this fairly detailed inscription: “This book is gifted by the Lady Barrowfield Elder to the Chyrs of Glasgow – the Library, by the influence of Mr Henry Marshall … Bibliothecarius, Nov. 26 1705”. Both Lady Barrowfield and Mr Henry Marshall appear in the list of “worthie persons” to have donated books to the library, the latter listed as “Mr. Henrie Marshall, Chyrurgeon Apothecar”. According to the list, Marshall also persuaded the Earl of Wigton to donate some books, although we have yet to identify these.

These donations formed the nucleus of the library, and eventually the Faculty began buying books to further expand the collection. On the front flyleaf of Plantarum historiae universalis Oxoniensis pars tertia (ESTC R8391), we find this inscription, “Ex Libris Facultatis Chirurgorum Glasguensium, Londin: Empt. 1707”, marking out the 3rd volume of Robert Morison’s herbal as one of the earliest purchases for the Faculty Library. We’ve only just started matching Lister Room items to ESTC, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that more evidence about the Library’s early life is waiting to be uncovered.

A Unique Impression?

We have recently started a project to match eligible books from the College Library to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). ESTC is a union catalogue of materials printed in English, or in English-speaking counties, up to the year 1800. With the help of a volunteer, we are matching records on our own catalogue to records on ESTC, and submitting reports of our holdings, along with details of copy-specific features such as provenance marks, bindings etc. The aim of this project is to make our collections accessible to a wider scholarly audience. ESTC is well known and widely used, and researchers are much more likely to begin a search there than come directly to our catalogue. Looking at our records one-by-one also helps us to spot mistakes that may have crept in to the catalogue, and allows us to identify rare or potentially unique items.

One such discovery has been made already. The College holds two copies of ‘The English Physitian Enlarged’ by the 17th century physician and botanist Nicholas Culpeper. Both were printed in 1656 and purport to be the same edition, but are in fact different in a few key ways.

The first and most obvious way in which they differ is in their bindings. Copy 1, bearing an older ‘Faculty’ bookplate, is in a rather poor state, barely covered by a binding of limp calfskin. It resides on the shelf in an acid-free phase box to protect it from further damage. Copy 2, with a slightly newer ‘Royal Faculty’ bookplate, is in a more robust, if slightly warped, vellum binding.


The College’s two different copies of Culpeper’s “The English Physitian Enlarged” (1656)

The remaining differences are a bit more difficult to spot. On the title page of copy 1, the author is described as a gentleman student of “Physick and Astrology“, whereas in copy 2 he is a student of “Physick and Astrologie : Living in Spittle Fields.” The information provided about the printer also varies slightly. Copy 1 is printed by Peter Cole “at the sign of the Printing pres in Cornhil, neer the Royal Exchange” while copy 2 is also printed at “Leaden-Hall”. These minor variations continue throughout rest of the book, particularly in the pages preliminary to the main body of the text. Some of the pages are mis-numbered, but in different ways in each book.


Title pages of the two different impressions of ‘The English Physitian Enlarged’

Although the same type fount has been used for both impressions, different tools have been used to insert woodcut borders and decorations. The main body of copy 1 opens with a woodcut initial ‘C’ surrounded by fleurs-de-lis. Copy 2 is almost identical, save for the use of thistles in the border instead.


Different woodcut initials in the two impressions of ‘The English Physitian Enlarged’.

These differences are, of course, relatively minor. They would not have made much difference to the experience of a contemporary 17th century reader. Comparing them today, however, can help us to draw some conclusions about the number of impressions produced of this book, and perhaps even speculate about the practices of the printer.

ESTC currently lists three different impressions or editions of ‘The English Physitian Enlarged’ from 1656, with small but important differences between each. Our copy 1 has been matched to the record with citation number R216330, but copy 2 appears to be a previously unrecorded impression. We have submitted a ‘new item’ report to ESTC and hope to see our possibly unique item appear on the catalogue soon.

**Update 9th May 2016**

The new record is now listed on ESTC with citation number R505380. You can find it here:

Glasgow Incunabula Project

Last year we were delighted to welcome Jack Baldwin, project research for the Glasgow Incunabula Project, to the College to view the five incunabula (i.e. books printed before 1501) held in our library. Jack spent a considerable amount of time meticulously poring over each of these books, recording various bibliographic details, including information on their decorations, annotations, bindings, and any imperfections in the copies. We are very pleased to report that records for each of the books, along with Jack’s findings, have now been added to the project website.

The oldest of the five, and thus the oldest in our collections overall, is a 1479 edition of the Liber Aggregatus of Serapion the Younger. This is a medieval medicinal-botany text which, like many early printed texts, enjoyed great popularity in manuscript form before the arrival of the printing press.

Printed in the same year and bound in the same volume as this book is the Breviarium medicinae of Serapion the Elder. Despite the similar names, the two authors are not known to have been related. They lived four centuries apart, but both wrote on medicine and their work was often confused by later readers. Both works were printed at Venice by Reynaldus de Novimagio.


A page from the younger Serapion’s Liber Aggregatus, with manuscript initials and marginal annotations

Moving forward chronologically we arrive next at the Carmen Medicinale of Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, a Roman physician who died in AD 212. The text in this edition, printed in 1488, gives a series of incantations against illness and does not add much practically to the art of medicine, but does at least provide some insight into ‘popular’ medicine in the ancient world and indeed in the middle ages. This work was actually printed as part of a much larger work, including a number of different authors. The text by Serenus was obviously rebound on its own at some point before its acquisition by the Faculty Library in the early 19th century.

Next, printed in Strasbourg in 1491, is De proprietatibus rerum by Bartholomaeus Anglicus.Early printers often left spaces for large initials at the beginning of a page or paragraph, so that the initials could be filled in by hand and in colour. The College’s copy of De proprietatibus rerum shows plenty of examples of this, albeit with some less than perfect manuscript work.



A page from Bartholomaeus ANglicus’s De Proprietatibus Rerum, featuring 12 red initials supplied by hand

Bartholomaeus, the original author of the work, was a 13th century Franciscan scholar, and his text here can be seen as a medieval precursor to the encyclopaedia. The text itself remains valuable today as it provides modern scholars with a picture of the state of knowledge during the life of the author.

Finally, there is Practica, seu Lilium medicinae by Bernard de Gordon. Bernard was a French doctor of the 13th/14th centuries, and this is a copy of what is arguably his most important work, giving lists and descriptions of diseases thought to be contagious. This particular edition was printed in Venice in 1496 or 1497. Glasgow University Library also holds a copy of this edition, a part of the Hunterian bequest of 1807. These two copies appear together on the project website, and one can see the differing ways in which supposedly identical books can appear to modern users. The books both feature their own annotations, are bound in different styles, and show evidence of the different paths they have taken from owner to owner until reaching their present location.


The woodcut title page of Bernard de Gordon’s Lillium Medicinae

The Glasgow Incunabula Project website now includes all 1,060 incunabula held by Glasgow University, the 5 held by the College, and 1 held by Strathclyde University, and records are now being added for items held at the Mitchell Library. You can find out more on the project website and follow progress on the project blog.


H.T. Hamblin: Ophthalmologist and Mystic

The latest addition to the library catalogue is a book we found during a recent spot of tidying up around the office. Hamblin’s Ophthalmological Diary and Year Book, 1935 (11th ed.) combines quick reference material for ophthalmologists practising in the UK with a week-to-view diary for 1935 and an illustrated catalogue of ophthalmological instruments.

It’s quite a high quality production, with a padded leather cover and some rather nice marbling on the endpapers. But it doesn’t seem to be a book that many other libraries have held on to. Searches on Worldcat and Copac return no other copies of this particular edition, and only 1 copy of any other edition can be found, in the library of the University of New South Wales (2nd ed., 1926, with a slightly unhelpful spelling mistake in the catalogue record).

Marbled endpapaers from Hamblin's ophthalmological diary and year book, 1935

Marbled endpapers

The preface states that few alterations have been made to the text in its 11th edition, claiming that “[t]he absence of criticism either constructive or destructive, or of suggestions for alteration in the choice of material evidences the continued approval of the Ophthalmic Profession generally.” One wonders if it could simply be that the ophthalmic profession took little notice of the publication.

The diary is published by Theodore Hamblin Ltd, which was a manufacturer and seller of spectacles and various types of optical and ophthalmological equipment, with a number of branches throughout the UK. The firm later became part of the opticians Dolland & Aitchison Ltd, which in turn was merged with Boots Opticians in 2009. It was founded by Henry Thomas Hamblin (1873-1958), a curious character who worked as a successful optician and businessman for much of his life, but eventually became better known as a mystic and proponent of the ‘New Thought’ movement. He authored several books on this subject as well as founding and contributing to a monthly magazine, The Science of Thought Review. His work in this area is kept in print today by the Hamblin Trust.

Our museum collection includes a large number of ophthalmological instruments, and instrument catalogues such as this are always helpful when attempting to identify and describe older medical instruments. This book certainly has an unusual story attached to it, but it should also be a worthwhile and practical addition to our collections.

Forgotten copy of a botanical encyclopaedia

As we continue cataloguing our collection of folios, the latest addition to the catalogue is an expansive botanical work, chiefly written by the German botanist and pharmacologist, Theodor Friedrich Ludwig Nees von Esenbeck (1787 – 1837). Plantae officinales, oder Sammlung officineller Pflanzen is an encyclopaedic work on medicinal plants, published in 18 parts between 1821 and 1828 (with a 5-part supplement following between 1829 and 1833). The work contains coloured lithographic illustrations of over 500 different plants, with accompanying notes on their various properties. These illustrated plates are printed on wove paper (bearing the watermark ‘J Whatman in London’), and many are also mounted on a linen backing, which helps to make them particularly thick and durable.

Colchium Autumnale, or autumn crocus

Colchium Autumnale, or autumn crocus

Finding other copies of this work can be a little tricky, as there is some confusion as to its proper title. Although it was issued in 18 individual parts, the work was apparently supposed to be bound as a single text volume with 2 volumes of plates and a further ‘Supplement’ volume. The letterpress title page for the text volume reads Plantae officinales, whereas the engraved title pages for the volumes of plates read Plantae medicinales, and both titles appear variously in library and booksellers’ catalogues. Most other copies on Copac and WorldCat appear to have been bound into larger volumes, but our copy remains in its individual parts. Unfortunately our copy is incomplete, as several parts are lacking a few plates each, and 4 parts are missing altogether.

Lilium Candidum, or the Madonna lily

Lilium Candidum, or the Madonna lily

It’s not known when this work became part of the College Library’s collections. There is no mention of it in either volume of Alexander Duncan’s 19th century printed catalogue, but it does make an appearance in the card catalogue, compiled in the mid-20th century. It seems likely, therefore, that the work was acquired second-hand, long after its original publication. Each part bears a small bookseller’s label on the front, but there is no sign of a College bookplate or former shelfmark. This work seems to have been languishing forgotten on the shelves for quite some time, so we are glad to be able to add it to the catalogue and bring it some deserved attention.

Botanical works and books of herbal medicine turn up quite often in our collection of folios, and we hope to feature more interesting items as we carry on adding this collection to the catalogue. Remember you can search our catalogue online at

Thomas Annan and the Documentary Photograph

In my job at the College Library I get to see, handle and browse through a lot of fascinating books, both old and new, but it’s rare to find time to sit down and read these books cover-to-cover. Over the Christmas holidays I took the opportunity to catch up on some reading and took home one of our latest acquisitions, Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph by Lionel Gossman.

Front cover of 'Thomas Annan of Glasgow'

Thomas Annan (1829-1877) was an early Scottish photographer, probably best known for his photograph album, The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow.  He had a reputation as one of Scotland’s leading photographers, and in 1866 he was commissioned by the City of Glasgow Improvement Trust to capture images of the closes and wynds of old Glasgow that were scheduled for demolition under the Glasgow City Improvements Act. The album presents many fine examples of 19th century photography and Annan’s use of the carbon print process (for which he had secured exclusive usage rights for Scotland), and the images of the condemned slums and their inhabitants have since become iconic in Glasgow’s history. The College holds a copy of this album, presented by Glasgow’s Lord Provost John Ure to Dr Robert Scott Orr, President of the Faculty of the Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Gossman’s book addresses the potentially problematic nature of Annan’s photographs of Glasgow’s slums. How accurate or unbiased are the photographs in their portrayal of the filth and squalor of these dwellings? Should the focus be on architecture or on social documentary? In other words, was Annan concerned with photographing the buildings themselves, or was he saying something about the lives of their inhabitants? Does it matter that these photographs were commissioned by the City Improvement Trust? Frustratingly, Annan himself does not provide any commentary on his work to help answer these question, save for a simple title or label.


A slum close, off High Street, Glasgow

In addition to the Old Closes album, we also have a copy of Annan’s The Old Country Houses of the Glasgow Gentry (which we have written about previously) and Memorials of the Old College of Glasgow, which features images of the University of Glasgow at its previous location on High Street, before it moved to Gilmorehill in the city’s west end.

The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow is understandably the main focus of Gossman’s book, but a fair amount of attention is also paid to Annan’s portrait and landscape work (such as his photographs of the Loch Katrine water works). There is also some discussion of Annan’s contemporaries and predecessors, including the partnership of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, two of Scotland’s earliest photographers. In a chapter on portraits, Annan’s 1864 portrait of the explorer and medical missionary David Livingstone is featured. The College holds a very interesting copy of this portrait, which Annan created by enlarging the photograph and painting over it in oils, almost like an early form of ‘painting by numbers’. The colouring process took place shortly after Livingstone’s death, a decade after the original portrait was made. The College purchased it from Annan for 30 guineas in 1875.


Annan’s portrait of David Livingstone

Lionel Gossman’s book provides a sound overview of the beginnings of photography in 19th century Scotland, and sets Thomas Annan’s work in context before going on to discuss his most famous work in finer detail. Anyone with an interest in the history of Glasgow, documentary photography, or photography as an art form in the 19th century should fine something useful here. Members of the College can borrow the book from the College Library. It’s published by Open Book Publishers, which means it is also available to read online for free (with physical copies available for purchase).