William Hunter’s Library: the Ds

D is for…

Books listed in the ‘D’ section of William Hunter’s library once again demonstrate the variety of his interests.  It is impossible to offer more than a few highlights here. Classical authors in this section include Demosthenis, Diodorus Siculus, and Dionysis of Halicarnassus. Medical authors and topics include Anton Deusing (1612-1666) on foetal development, Pierre Dionis (d. 1718) and Henry-François Le Dran (1685-1770) on surgery, Charles Drelincourt (1633-1697) on anatomy, Thomas Denman (1733-1815) on vapour baths, John Douglas (d. 1743) on lithotomy and midwifery, and the medical lectures of Andrew Duncan (1744-1828). This section is also notable because it includes the works of Hunter’s mentor, Dr James Douglas.

 James Douglas (bap. 1675, d. 1742)

Among William Hunter’s early patrons when he moved to London was James Douglas, a fellow Scot who had moved to London by 1700. Douglas, an anatomist, man-midwife, and book collector became Hunter’s mentor when the younger physician moved into his house in 1741 to become his assistant and tutor to his son. On Douglas’s death, Hunter inherited his medical books and his papers. Unsurprisingly, given their close relationship, many titles by Douglas are listed in MR 3.

One of these is Douglas’s Bibliographiae anatomicae specimen, sive, Catalogus omnium pene auctorum, qui ab Hippocrate ad Harveum rem anatomicum … scriptus illustravat, the second edition of which was printed in Leiden in 1734.  Sp Coll Hunterian Q.7.22 contains copious notes in William Hunter’s hand which appear to be additional information about the books and authors listed in Douglas’s book.


Hunter’s initials on the front pastedown of Sp Coll Hunterian Q.7.22

Hunter’s note on the physician Thomas Raynalde is both informative and amusing. He describes the publication history  and contents of Raynalde’s The Byrth of Mankynde, a midwifery text, before stating that ‘His manner of writing is ridiculous, and for that reason entertaining’. Hunter is kinder about the surgeon John Hall who is described as ‘very zealous for the honour of Surgery against the Quacks of his time’.


Note on Thomas Raynalde pasted in on second front free leaf (Sp Coll Hunterian Q.7.22)


The zealous Mr Hall, p. 126 of Sp Coll Hunterian Q.7.22

Sp Coll Hunterian Q.7.22 is full of Hunter’s manuscript notes on the pages and as inserted slips and pasted-in pages. Without further study it is unclear if Hunter may have been helping Douglas with a new edition of the Bibliographiae anatomicae specimen or if he used Douglas’s work to develop his own collection. Either way, the book is one of the highlights of the transcription project so far and one that demands further attention. It provides important evidence of Hunter’s knowledge of medical authors and publishing.

… The Douglas Cause

It seems Hunter was as gripped by a famous case of inheritance as the rest of eighteenth-century polite society. His library contained many publications on ‘Douglas & Hamilton’. These relate to what became known as the ‘Douglas Cause’. The Douglas Cause split society with everyone from James Boswell to Voltaire taking sides, writing about, and discussing the long and involved legal case.

Hunter had a range of materials relating to the case including Session Papers from the Scottish Court of Session and pamphlets debating the veracity of the French man-midwife de la Marr’s account of delivering twins to Lady Jane Douglas in Paris in 1748. His own interest may have been professional. Lady Jane’s gynaecological history was a key concern of the Cause.

When Archibald, Duke of Douglas died without issue in 1761, his heir seemed to be his nephew, Archibald Steuart or Douglas and the younger Archibald duly became the new Duke of Douglas. Challengers to his title soon emerged. The tutors of two young rival claimants, the Duke of Hamilton and the Earl of Selkirk, raised actions in the Court of Session which declared their right to certain parts of the Douglas estate. The Court decided against them but the Duke of Hamilton’s representatives raised a new claim based on the claim that the new duke was not actually Lady Jane’s child. The events of July 1748 came into question. Had Lady Jane, a recently-married woman in her early 50s really had twins? Or were the children imposters brought in so that Lady Jane and her husband Sir John Steuart could make a claim on one of Scotland’s biggest fortunes?

Lady Jane had died, as had Archibald’s twin Sholto, in 1753 but her ailing husband was able to declare before five witnesses that Archibald Douglas was his only surviving son. He promptly died a week later in 1764. Douglas’s supporters and rivals visited France to gather evidence to prove or disprove his legitimacy. Huge amounts of legal papers were drafted with both sides composing more than 1,000 pages of material for the Court of Session to consider.

Douglas eventually lost his case in 1767 but appealed and the decision was reversed by the House of Lords in 1769. After eight years of legal wrangling, Archibald Douglas inherited.

Project update

You may wonder why it has taken so long for this update to appear since the last one in March 2017.  There is a very good reason: we have been busy behind the scenes recruiting, hiring, and training our new Hunter Project transcription team. Our eight new part-time team members have each been given a letter to work on from Museum Records 3. Their work will speed our progress henceforth.

There is also a new webpage for the Project which you can see here.


Follow the Project on Twitter #WHL1783

Read previous blog posts for William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues

Alicia Hughes’s Dissecting James Douglas Project

Categories: Archives and Special Collections

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2 replies


  1. William Hunter’s Library: fourth project update – Karen Baston
  2. William Hunter’s Library: the Gs – University of Glasgow Library

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