William Hunter’s Library: the Fs

Happy Birthday, William Hunter!

Today is William Hunter’s 299th birthday. The future physician, anatomist, and founder of the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow was born at Long Calderwood, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire. His birthplace is now Hunter House, a community centre and coffee shop.

Hunter’s tercentenary year is next year (#hunter300) but even birthdays that are not ‘big birthdays’ should be celebrated. Here is an update on the ‘William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues’ project to mark the day.

The 268 entries that are listed in Museum Records 3 again demonstrate the variety of books that William Hunter collected. As in other sections of his catalogue, we find that Hunter’s interests in anatomy and medicine are well represented. Another theme that emerges in this section is travel and exploration.

Two Eponymic 16th Century Medical Authors

Leonart Fuchs (1501-1566)


Portrait of Leonhart Fuchs in De Historia Stirpium (Basel, 1542) Sp Coll Hunterian L.1.13

The German physician and teacher Leonart Fuchs combined his medical practice with an interest in the medicinal uses of plants. Hunter owned two of his anatomical works and two of his herbals including his masterpiece, De Historia Stirpium (Basel, 1542) (Sp Coll Hunterian L.1.13).

Fuchs’s descriptions of plants in De Historia Stirpium note their medical uses and the delicate illustrations he commissioned allows for their identification. Hunter’s copy has its woodcuts painted in accurate watercolours.

The fuchsia plant was named in honour of Fuchs in recognition of his botanical work.

Gabriele Falloppio (1523-1562)

It comes as no surprise to find the works of Gabriele Falloppio in Hunter’s library: the sixteenth and eighteenth century physicians shared interests in venereal diseases and human reproductive anatomy. Fallopio was one of the leading anatomists of his day and now is best known for his description of the Fallopian tube, the channels which pass eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Less well known is that his name also lives on in two parts of the face: the aquaeductus Fallopii (the canal the facial nerve passes through after leaving the auditory nerve) and the Fallopian hiatus (an opening in the petrosal bone).

Hunter had two copies of his complete works as well as individual works on venereal disease, purging, surgery, and bones. Hunter owned two of his works of anatomy: De humani corporis anatome, compendium (Venice, 1571) (Sp Coll Hunterian Cf.4.31) and Observationes anatomicae (Cologne, 1562) (Sp Coll Hunterian Bz.4.16).

Antoine Ferrein: Anatomy Teacher

When he visited Paris in 1743-44, Hunter attended the anatomy lectures of Antoine Ferrein. Hunter had a copy of Ferrein’s pamphlet Quaestiones medicae duodecim (1732) (now Sp Coll Hunterian Em.2.8) in his library. Unfortunately, it contains no annotations.

Travel and exploration

Hunter’s interest in voyages of discovery is evident throughout the catalogue. This section includes John Frampton’s English translation of Nicolás Monardes’s Joyfull newes out of the new-found worlde (London, 1596) (now Sp Coll Hunterian M.7.30)  and, from Hunter’s time, Philippe Fermin’s Description générale, historique, géographique et physique de la colonie de Surinam (Amsterdam, 1769) (now Sp Coll Hunterian K.6.29-30).

There will be more on this theme in future updates.

George Fordyce: Author and Hunter Trustee

The physician George Fordyce (1736-1802) had a particular interest in chemistry and worked with Hunter’s collection of minerals. He also studied and worked with Hunter’s brother John. He later became one of Hunter’s Trustees. Hunter had two copies of his Elements of Agriculture (1770) (now Sp Coll Hunterian Ei.1.6 and Sp Coll Hunterian R.7.19), his Elements of the Practice of Physic (1768) (now Sp Coll Hunterian Av.2.13) , and his A New Method of Assaying Copper Ores (1780) (now Sp Coll Hunterian Ek.1.11).


George Fordyce’s signature in MR 3, p. 414. Hunter’s Trustees verified the accuracy of the list of printed books.

Project progress

The Transcription Team has nearly completed an initial transcription of MR 3. All of the remaining sections have been assigned to team members. We will next start checking each others’ work and will chase any remaining queries in the coming weeks.

Museum Records 1 and Museum Records 2 have both now been digitised. We will use these to cross-reference with MR 3 to further enhance our knowledge about Hunter’s books and how he used them.

Find out more

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Project homepage

Categories: Archives and Special Collections, Library

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2 replies


  1. William Hunter’s Library: the Fs – Karen Baston

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