New acquisitions: some early vet books

Earlier this year we were contacted by one of our Library Friends to ask if we may be interested in a donation of some ‘old’ vet books. Dr Bernard Rushton had acquired a small number of antiquarian books back in 1968 when he was a final year vet student here at the University, using Fitzwygram exam prize money (a competition open to all vet students in the UK – the first three places that year were all won by U of G students!). After enjoying these books for nearly fifty years, he wished to give them back to his University.

La Fosse: bottom of a horse's foot

La Fosse: bottom of a horse’s foot

La Fosse: Anatomy of a horse's head

La Fosse: Anatomy of a horse’s head

Dr Rushton’s books nearly all focus on equine medicine or farriery. Since the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine was founded in 1862, we have rich holdings in this area. We were therefore delighted to accept nine works to supplement library stock and enhance future research in the history of veterinary medicine. Of these, four are now housed in Special Collections.

The earliest is a treatise from 1755 entitled Observations and discoveries made upon horses: with a new method of shoeing by Étienne-Guillaume La Fosse (d. 1765) (RB 5059). Translated from the French original, this edition is illustrated by four leaves of beautifully detailed copperplates – including the dissected parts of a horse’s hoof and an anatomy of the head. A bookplate on the inner front cover shows that this copy once belonged to the library of Hopetoun House. There is no indication of when this item was discarded from Hopetoun, but since its plain 18th century card binding  has never been replaced by a more showy leather covering, it is tempting to assume that the book was kept as a practical reference work until no longer required as horses were phased out. Certainly, it could be imagined that chapters that deal with such topics as the method of shoeing coach and saddle horses would have been of great use on a large country estate.

Also donated is the eighth edition of Bracken’s Farriery (or, to give it only the beginning of it’s gloriously verbose full title: Farriery improv’d: or, a compleat treatise upon the art of farriery. Wherein is fully explain’d the nature, structure, and mechanism of that noble and useful creature, a horse, the diseases and accidents he is liable to, and methods of cure …) (RB 5060-5061).

Title-page of Bracken

Title-page of Bracken

Published in two parts, the first volume appeared in 1756, but our second part ‘with large additions’ not until 1772. Henry Bracken (1697-1764) worked as a physician, surgeon and man-midwife. He wrote on both human and equine medicine, but this work on horses was his best-seller. Originally published in 1738, it was reissued in twelve editions. According to the ODNB’s entry on Bracken, its popularity sprang from “Bracken’s robust language and common-sense solutions, which were grounded as much in his first hand knowledge of the general care and feeding of horses, as in his application of Newtonian medicine to their treatment”.

Following on the same theme is a copy of William Taplin’s A compendium of practical and experimental farriery (1796) (RQ 3138). This book, too, has an interesting provenance. The name “Charles Westropp” is written on the title-page, and repeated on the front paste-down with the addition of the place name “Long Melford”.  A quick search of the local history website for Long Melford in Suffolk reveals that the Westropp family have farmed one of the big estates (Melford Place) in the vicinity since 1820 (and in fact do so until this day). Furthermore, there was a certain Charles Henry Westropp (1869-1942) who according to his website entry:

farmed at Melford Place from 1895 till the 1930s and was a very successful horse and cattle breeder. His pony-drawn trap could cover a mile in 3 minutes and he regularly travelled from Melford Place to the Market Hill in Sudbury in only six minutes. (That is slightly faster than the bus would take you today!) What is more, the horse was not allowed to gallop, which would have been against the law, but went at a rapid trot.

Signature of Charles Westropp

Signature of Charles Westropp

Perhaps Farmer Westropp kept his horse at a rapid trot by following the advice in this book (assuming that he is the former owner of the book, as we would very much like him to be).

White: the bottom of the sensible foot

White: the bottom of the sensible foot

The final addition to Special Collections is a rather complicated mixed set of White’s Farriery: the first volume (RB 5062) is the 13th edition from 1822; the second (RB 5063) from the ‘new edition’ of 1820; and the third (RB 5064) from the sixth edition of 1823. Although something of a bibliographical muddle, all three volume are beautifully illustrated with instructive plates, some of which are coloured.

Several of the books donated are very rare and were not previously available here at the University (or indeed in Scotland at all). We are therefore extremely grateful to Dr Rushton for his generosity in donating these books  or the benefit of future scholarship.

The other books from Dr Rushton that are now housed in the Library Research Annexe are:

  • Clater’s Every man his own farrier, revised by D. McTaggart ; together with Rarey’s Treatment and management of the horse
  •  William Miles: A plain treatise on Horse-shoeing, with illustrations
  • A manual of pharmacy, for the student of veterinary medicine (6th ed., corrected.  London:1860)
  •  Notes on shoeing horses (2nd ed. London: 1863)
  • William J. Miles: General remarks on stables (London: 1860)
White: part of a stable

White: part of a stable

Categories: Special Collections

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