William Hunter’s Library: the Bs

B is for…

The ‘B’ section of Hunter’s library catalogue provides a good example of the mix of medical and non-medical books Hunter collected. Among medical authors we find members of the Danish medical dynasty, the Bartholins [Caspar the Elder (1585-1629), Thomas (1616-1680), and Caspar the Younger (1655-1738)] and the famous friend to travelling Scottish medical (and other) students, Professor Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738) of the University of Leiden. There is not the space here to discuss the contributions of these authors to the theory and practice of medicine. It is, however, safe to say, even at this early stage of the transcription of Hunter’s library, that Hunter’s collection of medical texts was varied and comprehensive. Exactly as we might expect for a practitioner and teacher of Hunter’s reputation.

The the non-medical writer with the most works in the ‘B’ section is, by far, Giovanni Boccacio (1313-1375) with eighteen titles listed including ‘De la Ruine des Nobles Hommes‘ published in Bruges in 1476. Hunter bought this at the sale of Louis Jean Gaignat’s library in 1769 via his agent, Jean-Baptiste Dessain. Selected pages and an image of the binding are available at the Glasgow Incunabula Project.


One of the key aims of the William Hunter Library Project is to make the information found in the catalogue created by Hunter’s Trustees in the 1780s searchable by modern standards. The image below shows octavo entries under the name ‘Bartholinus (Thos. Casp.)’. Some of the titles listed are by Thomas Bartholin and some are by his father, Caspar Bartholin the Elder, and others are by his son Caspar Bartholin the Younger and other authors. The other authors are clearly indicated. A Bartholin text is the first of a set of titles bound together in the same volume. The large brackets to the left of the text show which titles are bound together. The non-Bartholin authors and titles do not appear in their ‘correct’ sections of the catalogue. If a searcher does not know that the books were bound together when they were in Hunter’s library, there is no obvious way to find them. This project will solve this problem by cross-referencing the entries in the manuscript with details about where the books can now be found in the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections.


‘Bartholinus’ octavos in MR3

Searchability will also be increased by offering standardised name forms and by filling in gaps where authors or titles are not given in the manuscript.

What is MR 3 and why was it chosen for this project?

When they came to examine the catalogues of Hunter’s books, Hunter’s Trustees thought that they were likely to be incomplete. The artist Frederick Birnie, a draughtsman who had worked with Hunter to produce anatomical drawings, was recruited to work on a new catalogue of the books in Hunter’s library. Birnie seems to have taken charge of the books at some point between Hunter’s death on 30 March 1783 and December of that year when he received a payment for ‘airing and cleaning’ the books. Further invoices in March and August 1784 were paid for Birnie’s work on the new catalogue we now know as Museum Records 3 (MR 3).

Birnie seems to have used the previous two catalogues (now MR1 and MR2) as a guide for his new list. These earlier lists have entries crossed out and it is unclear if this is because the titles were removed from the collection or if they are re-listed in the other catalogue. They also feature entries written in multiple hands, including Hunter’s. The hand (Birnie’s) is consistent throughout MR3. Other annotations seem to have been added later and details about these are being captured as part of the current transcription project. MR3 is a good starting point. Once we have it transcribed, we can ‘match’ the entries to those found in the other two early catalogues.

Join the Transcription Team!

University of Glasgow staff and students are welcome to apply to help on the project. We are looking for up to six team members to join the project for six months (April-September 2017). The main roles of the Project Assistants will be to transcribe information from the early catalogues of Hunter’s library and to match them to records on the University of Glasgow’s library catalogue. Team members will work in 3.5 hour shifts and there will be 20 shifts available each week.

You can find all the details and instructions on how to apply at Project Assistant (Wellcome Project).
The reference number is 016446.
Closing date: 26 February 2017


Categories: Archives and Special Collections

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. Excellent work,extremely helpful for the scholar community.
    Well done! Thanks!!

    Lola Sanchez-Jauregui


  1. William Hunter’s Library: second project update – Karen Baston

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