Medicine and Science at Exeter Cathedral Library: A Short‐Title Catalogue of Printed Books, 1483‐1900, with a List of 10th to 19th‐Century Manuscripts

W.A. Kelly (Scottish Centre for the Book, Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Kelly, W.A. (2004), "Medicine and Science at Exeter Cathedral Library: A Short‐Title Catalogue of Printed Books, 1483‐1900, with a List of 10th to 19th‐Century Manuscripts", Library Review, Vol. 53 No. 9, pp. 461-462.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Leaving aside the necessary explanation of methods of entry of titles and cross‐references, the main interest of the introduction is an account first of the major bequest to the cathedral, the medical and scientific books by a local physician, Thomas Glass (1709‐1786), and of their subsequent loan in 1814 to the library established by the Devon and Exeter Hospital; and secondly of the difficulties in ensuring that the volumes returned in May 1948 ahead of the inauguration of the National Health Service. The principal player in the return and subsequent attempts to identify these volumes was the indefatigable and formidable librarian, Miss M.P. Crighton, whose service to the cathedral began in 1930 and ended only with her death in 1982. The disparaging comments which one still hears from time to time inside and outside librarianship about the preponderant numbers of women in it, if in many individual cases only for a relatively short time before other calls are made on their time and aspirations, should not disguise the fact that our profession would be all the poorer without resourceful women of the calibre of Marjorie Crighton within its ranks. And to overlook the presence in the library of relevant materials from other collections, particularly from two nineteenth century members of the cathedral's clergy, F.C. Cook and E.C. Harington, would be a gross injustice.

However, I cannot help giving vent here to a deep distaste about an all too common practice among authors, which is not only ugly but more importantly interrupts the reader's flow, that of inserting references to footnotes within a sentence. Pages viii‐x contain several glaring examples of this. These references should, as I was taught, be kept to the end of the sentence, even if it means that a footnote contains several pieces of information.

The great value of this catalogue is that it presents, within one handy sized volume, an enormous amount of bibliographical detail about a specialised type of material, whose existence in Exeter (an out of the way place both geographically and intellectually before the twentieth century) was almost certainly totally unknown to most researchers in the field. The layout of the page is generally easy on the eye, although that could have been improved by the use of word divisions with the entries themselves, as in R76 for example. The structure of the entries follows the standard order of author's name, title, imprint, year of publication and pagination. Thomas' aspiration to a bibliographically sound record, which he mentions on page vii, can be seen in practice in L88. However some of the items, which Thomas puts under a title entry, e.g. D95, on the assumption that they are of multiple author, could have been entered more correctly under the name of the praises, in the case of D95 under G.W. Wedel, as it is standard practice to entry such works under this individual, as my own extensive experience of and researches on them, stretching over thirty years, have shown. I have no quibble with the vast majority of forms of authors' names used in the catalogue, but I do wonder why in some instances the Latin form of the forename has been used, when it is obvious what the vernacular form is, for example, Joannes Murphy, who defended an MD thesis at Edinburgh in 1783 (M226), when the next three entries, by the Swede of Scottish ancestry, Johan Anders Murray, have that form of forename and not Joannes Andreas (M227‐229).

In addition to the numerous continental imprints, which are of special interest to me, British imprints of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are present in large numbers, with eighteenth century imprints from Edinburgh, particularly by William Cullen and other medical luminaries such as James Lind and Francis Home, being noteworthy. I hope that the diversity of nineteenth century material will be noted by those helping to compile the short title catalogue covering the period, 1801‐1900, if they have not done so already. It is worthy of comment that the collection of manuscripts contains several volumes of notes taken from Cullen's Alexander Monro Primus' and Joseph Black's lectures.

The work has several indexes, of which the most useful is the subject; indeed the very value of a catalogue of such material would have been rendered worthless without it. A standard feature of such catalogues is a printer, publisher and bookseller index and one of place of publishing; their omission is as inexplicable as it is regrettable. The volume concludes with a glossary of Latin place‐names, whose usefulness could have been improved by the very heavy pruning of such obvious entries as “Dublini”, “Londini” or “Goettingae”.

The important cavils here mentioned apart, I welcome the publication of this volume, whose appearance must bring considerable joy in heaven to Miss Crighton.

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