Glasgow Syphilis Collection Symposium 27/01/15

In this image nobles to the left enjoy protection from syphilis, while the fate of the peasants to the right is unclear

Title page of Tractatus de Pestilentiali Scorra (shelfmark: Hunterian Bx.3.38) published in Augsburg, 1496.

On the afternoon of the 27th January we will be holding a half-day symposium to explore current research, and research opportunities, relating to a collection of early printed works on syphilis and venereal disease newly described as part of a Wellcome Trust funded project.

The University of Glasgow Library collection ranges from the earliest works on syphilis from the late 15th century through to debates on whether gonorrhoea and syphilis were the same disease in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Selected items from the collection will be on display and there will be refreshments available. This event is free to attend and you can book a place at the following address:-

Speakers will include:

Prof. Sam Cohn
Naming and blaming? from mal francese to lues venera: the extraordinary collection of syphilis tracts at Glasgow

From the rich collections of contemporary medical pamphlets, poetry, and chronicles, the talk will challenge notions about the socio-psychological consequences of the sudden eruption of the ‘Great Pox’ in early modern Europe from Naples to Scotland. It will also expose a new methodology in medical writing—the uses of global history.


Dr. David Shuttleton
“…something of a venereal disorder”: the etiquette of syphilis in Dr William Cullen’s Epistolary “Consultations” (1755-1789)

This paper draws upon Dr William Cullen’s exchanges with his private patients over Syphilis (and related venereal disorders), to consider how such matters were discussed within the intimate “private” space provided by epistolary dialogues between patients and their physicians. In the present context Cullen’s practice is of particular interest since he was not only one of Europe’s leading academic physicians, but also William Hunter’s early professional mentor and close personal friend.


Woodcut from the title page of Grossen Wundartzney (shelfmark: Ferguson Ap-d.51) published in Frankfurt, 1562.

Woodcut from the title page of Grossen Wundartzney (shelfmark: Ferguson Ap-d.51) published in Frankfurt, 1562.

Dr. Noelle Dückmann Gallagher
Venereal Disease before John Hunter: At Least it isn’t Serious

In 1725, Bernard Mandeville complained that venereal disease was becoming so common “that a hale, robust Constitution is esteem’d a Mark of Ungentility; and a healthy young Fellow is look’d upon with the same View, as if he had spent his Life in a Cottage.”  While Mandeville’s claim about the “popularity” of syphilis seems bizarre today, his concerns about the lack of seriousness with which venereal disease was regarded by aristocratic and gentry men was shared by a number of other Restoration and early-eighteenth-century writers.

This paper asks how and why venereal disease was understood as fundamentally “unserious”—not just as an untroubling medical condition, but as a worthy subject for comedy—in the period between 1660 and 1740.  Reading medical texts catalogued in the Glasgow Syphilis Project alongside literary works from the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth century, it explores how the association of venereal disease with upper-class masculinity worked to reinforce a radical split between the popular reputation of the disease and the horrifying realities of patient experience.


Detail from the title page of Guaiacum (shelfmark: Hunterian Aw.3.5) published in Lyon, 1530.

Detail from the title page of Guaiacum (shelfmark: Hunterian Aw.3.5) published in Lyon, 1530.

This is an excellent opportunity to hear some fascinating talks on a disease which has afflicted and inspired for over 500 years. We will also be launching a new web-based teaching resource for the collection. Spaces are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.


You can find previous blogs about the collection at these links:

Syphilis in the Library

Syphilis – what’s in a name?

“Sweet bit of binding” – Cataloguing Puzzles

Unexpected Notes on Syphilis

Categories: Library, Special Collections

Tags: , , ,

1 reply


  1. Le mal français « ivresdelivres

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