William Hunter’s Library: the Cs

Regular readers of the Special Collections blog will have noticed that there is a plan to these William Hunter’s Library project updates by now. Each time a letter from Museum Records 3 (MR 3) is completely transcribed and matched to the modern University of Glasgow library catalogue, a new blog post appears. With this post, it is time to step back and have a look at books entered under ‘C’.

Eighteenth-century British medical writers

Many of the most well-known writers of eighteenth-century medical texts happen to have surnames that start with ‘C’. Hunter’s library contained books by physicians and surgeons of his own generation as well as the generation before including:

  • Thomas Chamberlayne
  • Walter Charleton (1620-1707)
  • William Cowper (1666-1709)
  • William Cockburn (1669-1739)
  • William Cheselden (1688-1753)
  • George Cheyne (1671/2-1743)
  • William Cadogan (1711-1797)
  • Peter Clare (1738-1786)

Sir John Colbatch (1670-1729) surely wins the prize for ‘best title’ in this section for A relation of a very sudden and extraordinary cure of a person bitten by a viper by means of acids… (London, 1699) [Sp Coll Hunterian Cb.3.24].

Information about when Hunter acquired some contemporary medical texts can be found in some of them. Hunter’s copy of his mentor, William Cullen’s Synopsis nosologiae methodicae (Edinburgh, 1772) bears the inscription, ‘To Doctor Hunter from The Author’ [Sp Coll Hunterian Av.2.12] while his copy of the physician Thomas Cogan’s Leiden MD dissertation, ‘Specimen medicum inaugurale de animi pathematum vi et modo agendi in inducendis vel curandis morbis’ is inscribed ‘For Dr Hunter from the Author’. [Sp Coll Hunterian Em.1.8].


As in the earlier sections of MR3, literature is well-represented. Both ancients (Cicero, Caesar) and moderns (Chaucer, Cervantes) appear in a variety of editions, including first editions.


Cicero octavos in Museum Records 3

Current events: pamphlets

Elizabeth Canning

MR3 lists 25 pamphlets relating to the case of Elizabeth Canning, a young woman who claimed she was kidnapped her and stolen her stays with the intent of making her a prostitute in January 1752. Canning maintained that this crime was perpetrated by Mary Squires and Susannah Wells. She escaped with her virtue intact a month later and her alleged tormentors were sentenced to death (Squires) and branding (Wells). All was not as it seemed an Canning was convicted of perjury after Sir Crispin Gascoygne took an interest in Squire’s evidence which determined that she had been in Dorset at the time of the theft and abduction. Squires escaped the death penalty but Wells was branded before she could be cleared. Canning was transported to America. (See the original court proceedings at Old Bailey Online.)

Hunter’s correspondence shows that he was ill and bedridden during the time of the trials. Had someone collected the pamphlets to keep him up-to-date on events while he recovered? The Canning case captured public imagination and was the talk of London for months. Even today, the real story is not known: Canning never revealed what really happened to her during the month she was way. [Two volumes of pamphlets: Sp Coll Hunterian Ek.2.3; Sp Coll Hunterian Ek.2.4]

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Two pamphlets describe the adventures of the ‘Chevaleir‘ [sic], that is, Charles Stuart, following his defeat at Culloden. Both were published in 1749. [Sp Coll Hunterian Ek.3.1]

Fire at Montreal

A devastating fire destroyed much of Montréal in 1765 and Hunter had a pamphlet relating to an appeal on behalf of its victims, ‘The Case of the Canadians at Montreal‘ [Sp Coll Hunterian Ei.3.7].


The medicinal virtues of chocolate interested early modern physicians, most notably Sir Hans Sloane who developed his own prescription recipe for milk chocolate.  Hunter had at least three works on chocolate which are listed in MR 3 as ‘Colmenis (Ant.) de Ledesma, de Chocolate Noremb 1644‘ [Sp Coll Hunterian Ch.4.19]; ‘Coffee, Tea and Chocolate, the manner of making Lond. 1685‘ [Sp Coll Hunterian Cl.4.31]; and ‘Chocolate Natural History therof. Lond. 1724‘ [Sp Coll Hunterian Ei.2.9]. It remains to be seen if more chocolate-based works will emerge under their authors’ names throughout MR 3 but for now we can be sure that J. K. Rowling’s magical matron, Poppy Pomfrey, would surely approve.

Project statistics

103 of the 420 pages of MR 3 have now been transcribed. They amount to 763 entries under ‘A’, 696 entries under ‘B’, and 750 entries under ‘C’. Although only three letters have been completed, the total represents nearly 25% of the manuscript.

It is hoped that this rapid progress will be enhanced by the appointment of the transcription team next month and that it will also for work to be accomplished on the library catalogues (MR 1 and MR 2) created in Hunter’s lifetime.


You can see the previous project updates here

Follow the Project on Twitter #WHL1783

Categories: Archives and Special Collections, Library

Tags: , , , ,

2 replies


  1. William Hunter’s Library: third project update – Karen Baston
  2. William Hunter’s Library: Cases of Conspiracy – University of Glasgow Library

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