Bringing teaching to life


MS Hunter D324 folio 1
From Mary Toft’s confession of 7 Sept.
MS Hunter D324 folio 1.

Making our collections more visible and encouraging researchers and tutors to use them is a big part of what we do in Special Collections. So when we were asked if we could make a selection of manuscript items on the case of Mary Toft available for a group of students, it offered us an opportunity to also make the documents more widely available.

Mary Toft was known as the woman who gave birth to rabbits, an 18th century medical hoax that was highly controversial at the time. In the Douglas Papers, which form part of the Hunterian Collection, there are several documents relating to the case. James Douglas was Physician Extraordinary to Queen Caroline and mentor of William Hunter and was responsible for taking down Toft’s various confessions, whereby she implicated her mother-in-law, a surgeon and even the wife of an organ-grinder in the hoax.

These confessions were requested for a course run by the University of Sheffield and by digitising the documents and mounting as a Flickr set, it was possible to make them available for the wider public.

You can view Mary Toft’s confessions on Flickr and our August 2009 book of the month feature has more background on the case.

A link to the images is also available on our teaching and learning material page, which features information on available teaching resources using Special Collections material and  further information on the service.

Categories: Special Collections

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