Posted by: whipplelib | April 26, 2016

B is for Barbaro … and an unusual binding

One of the joys of welcoming visitors to the Library is the chance to explore the collections ourselves to find items that will appeal to the new audience. Daniel Barbaro’s La pratica della perspettiva (Venice, 1568) often makes an appearance on such occasions, as it illustrates several key points about Robert Whipple’s book collecting habits. It’s also a regular feature in the survey section of our Science in Print seminar series. On the one hand it serves very well as a model for collation, being a folio in 4s with regular gatherings but for signature P, which includes an extra leaf to accommodate a woodcut diagram across the centrefold.

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Collation: Folio: A–O4 P6 Q–Z4 Aa4 Bb6, 104 leaves, 195, [13] p.

But by far the most remarkable feature of the book is its exuberant painted vellum cover. Although now kept in a custom-made acid-free cover to protect the delicate painted vellum strips, the coloured decoration on the front and back covers and the joyful green and red dots on the textblock edges make it stand out in the context of a collection of otherwise modestly bound historical scientific books.


Whipple Library: Store 58:13

The origins of the binding are obscure and no one has yet recognised its equal. Conservation work was carried out in 2013 by colleagues at the Cambridge Colleges Conservation Consortium to secure the corner of one of the vellum strips in the bottom left-hand corner of the front cover, which was in danger of becoming detatched, but this yielded no obvious further clue.

Although crude the decoration seems too regular to be the work of a small child, and Barbaro’s text, a serious architectural treatise, was unlikely material for the nursery, though it’s possible an older family member may have enjoyed personalizing volumes from the family library. The manuscript inscription on the title page, “Di Nestore Monteselino 1614”, is the only indication we have of an owner before the early twentieth century, so it’s impossible to speculate further about this.


Robert Whipple purchased the volume for 5l 15s 6d from Sotheran & Co. via his agent Thomas Court in 1929, at the end of a busy decade of book collecting, as attested by his notebook. Whipple was part of a wave of collectors who mined a rich seam in the market for scientific and other special rare printed books in the 1920s and 1930s, but unlike many who sought to improve on the appearance of their treasures by commissioning new bindings, he seems generally to have been more interested in their contents than their aesthetics. For this we have good reason to be grateful, since, although several volumes are now in a fragile condition, much original evidence of early bindings is preserved which otherwise might have been lost. Barbaro’s quirky covers are thus a fortunate survival, and a delight to all who encounter them.

Sylvia De Renzi, Instruments in Print: Books from the Whipple Collection (Cambridge, Whipple Museum for the History of Science, 2000)

& Roger Gaskell, in conversation.

Anna Jones, Librarian
April 2016


Today we launch the first of a series of 26 mini blog posts featuring items from the Whipple Library’s special collections which will be published weekly through the spring and summer and into the early autumn 2016. The series will showcase some of the variety and breadth of our collections by selecting notable authors, topics and associations in a roll call of examples spanning the alphabet. Members of the Library staff team have selected from a range of favourite, representative and more unusual items to write about and will be sharing their thoughts each week via the Whipple Library Books Blog. Follow our progress over at or via Twitter (@hpslib) by searching for the hashtag #whippleAZ.

A is for…Airy and Astronomical Observations

As Plumian Professor of Astronomy and director of the Cambridge Observatory, George Biddell Airy set the example for recording observations and reducing them for publication with his Astronomical Observations made at the Observatory of Cambridge, also known as the Cambridge Observations. Airy’s system became the standard for Cambridge and later for Greenwich when he became Astronomer Royal, and influenced the practice of other observatories in Britain and abroad.

1-Cambridge Observations

The Whipple’s collection of 20 volumes, published between 1829 and 1864, not only documents the beginnings of Airy’s project and its continuation under his successor James Challis, but also indicates the circulation of these publications. 17 of the Whipple’s volumes are addressed to Captain W.H. Smyth, naval officer, surveyor and well regarded amateur astronomer who built and equipped an observatory at Bedford. The volumes are variously addressed to him as from the University of Cambridge, from the Syndicate of the Cambridge Observatory, or even directly from the author (6 from Airy). William Henry Smyth was in fact a friend of Airy’s and was mentioned in his autobiography.

The other 3 volumes in the collection, dated between 1846 and 1864, were presented by the Syndicate to Smyth’s son, Professor C.P. Smyth. In 1846 Charles Piazzi Smyth became Astronomer Royal for Scotland where he set to work reducing the observations of his predecessor Thomas Henderson for publication of the Edinburgh Astronomical Observations, a series that followed in the footsteps of Airy’s model.

6-From the Syndicate to C.P. (vol.20)Volume20


Clare Matthews, Library Assistant

Posted by: whipplelib | April 13, 2016

Artistic Anatomy

Wedgwood signatureWhile researching the recent anatomy book display I came across an item which we library staff got a bit excited about, Anatomical studies of the bones and muscles : for the use of artists / from drawings by the late John Flaxman … engraved by Henry Landseer; with two additional plates; and explanatory notes, by William Robertson (STORE 195:41). Written on the flyleaf at the front on the book is the name Wedgwood. Now, anyone who has any Charles Darwin knowledge (and working at the Whipple means that I have absorbed a little bit) knows about the Wedgwood family. So, are these members of that family? A quick email to the Darwin Correspondence Project got a speedy response: the Wedgwood’s in question were indeed of “The Wedgwood’s”, Hensleigh Wedgwood, Emma Darwin’s brother, and his daughter Frances Julia Wedgwood.

Hensleigh Wedgwood (1803–91) was the grandson of Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), the master potter. He became police magistrate at Union Hall, Southwark in 1831, but resigned 6 years later as he “was convinced that the administration of oaths was inconsistent with the commands of the New Testament[1]. He then became registrar of metropolitan carriages where he licensed hackney carriage drivers and conductors. Hensleigh became a scholar after leaving this job in 1850, turning his attention to the study of language and philology. He also became interested in a subject that I seem to keep going back to, spiritualism. He held séances and “served as a founding member of the Society for Psychical research in the 1880’s[2]. Browne states that Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley “gave in to Hensleigh’s urgings[3] and in 1874 attended a séance in Erasmus Darwin’s house alongside Hensleigh, his eldest daughter Julia, Francis Galton, George Eliot, and others.  Julia, who is the recipient of the Flaxman book, is noted by Harris to have had a strong spiritual and mystical streak.

(Frances) Julia Wedgwood (1833–1913) was a novelist, biographer and literary critic. The family gave her the pet name of Snow as she was born during a violent snowstorm.  The page about her on the Darwin Correspondence Project website says she was “considered one of the great female intellects, beneath only George Eliot, as far as her ability to handle ‘masculine subjects’ and modern topics.”[4]  She taught herself Latin, Greek, French and German despite suffering from deafness for much of her life.  As well as her intellectual achievements Julia still took on the more traditional roles of a Victorian woman. She cared for her various nieces and nephews, and her sick and old relatives. Julia seems to have had a somewhat difficult relationship with her father, according to Harris “In 1889 she gave up her own house to care for her widowed father, who had spent the previous fifty-six years ignoring or disparaging her talents[5].



Anatomical studies of the bones and muscles does have more to connect it to the Wedgwoods than just a gift from one family member to another. John Flaxman (1755-1826) was an illustrator and sculptor who worked at one time for the Wedgwood factory, as did his father. While at the factory he designed medallions of contemporary luminaries and  reliefs for vases and plaques. He also enjoyed illustrating classical texts and was commisioned to provide outline illustrations for Homer and Dante. Flaxman is more famously known for his sculpture which included funerary monuments. He made the momument for Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) in St Peter ad Vincula, Stoke-on-Trent’s parish church and the momument for Lord Nelson in St Paul’s Cathedral. In 1810 Flaxman was made the first Professor of Sculpture by the Royal Academy.

Although there is a nice connection between the Wedgwoods and Flaxman, there seems to be nothing that links them to the other people repsonsible for the book. Henry Landseer bears the surname of a famous artist family but doesn’t seem to be related.  A few catalogue records for copies of Anatomical studies held by other libraries have him living around 1810. Little is also known about William Robertson. Again records held by other libraries say he lived around 1833 and was an editor, draughtsman, lithographer, and anatomical writer.

The book is a wonderful example of artistic anatomy. The Royal Academy of Arts have a very detailed catalogue record for their copy which is worth a look at for a more detailed description of the book’s content. Many art teachers at the time thought that students needed to study anatomy to fully understand the human body, therefore creating better works of art.

Thanks to Rosy Clarkson at the Darwin Correspondence Project for the information about the inscription.


[1]C. H. Herford, ‘Wedgwood, Hensleigh (1803–1891)’, rev. John D. Haigh, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 13 April 2016]

[2] Browne, J. Charles Darwin: Power of place (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) p. 404

[3] Browne, J. Charles Darwin: Power of place (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) p. 404

[4] Perez, M. & Ericksen Baca, K. Julia Wedgwood, Darwin Correspondence Project, [, accessed 13 April 2016]

[5] Jose Harris, ‘Wedgwood, (Frances) Julia (1833–1913)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2011 [, accessed 13 April 2016]

Dawn Moutrey, Library Assistant

Posted by: whipplelib | April 1, 2016

G.H. Darwin and T&T’

The Whipple’s current book display features a selection of annotated books from the library of Sir George Howard Darwin, known for his work on the physics of the earth and tidal theory. Among these recent acquisitions is a copy of the first edition of the Treatise on natural philosophy by Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) and Peter Guthrie Tait, published in two parts in 1867, and affectionately referred to by the authors and others as T&T’.[1]

1- T&T

Division I is signed ‘G.H. Darwin June 25. 1868’ and both parts contain numerous annotations and notes. The provenance of this copy throws light on the history of the T&T’ as a publication. A new edition was published in two parts in 1879 and 1883. The second part was edited, corrected and supplemented by the work of George Darwin, and the Whipple already has a 1912 impression of this edition in its collections.
2- Darwin signature

The “great Book”

Peter Guthrie Tait was considered one of the finest university lecturers of his time and was a prolific writer of treatises and textbooks. As chair of natural philosophy at Edinburgh University from 1860, he recognised the serious need for a textbook to accompany his teaching. Famed mathematical physicist William Thomson, professor of natural philosophy at Glasgow University, offered to collaborate on the project and they set out to produce a work that traced the recent concepts and methods emerging from 19th century physics, and particularly the concept of energy and its properties, back to Newton’s Principia.[2] By January 1862, letters were passing between Thomson and Tait every 2 or 3 days as they sent drafts back and forth in the post. In February, the publishers prepared the title page. However, progress soon slowed. Both authors had numerous other commitments and Thomson in particular found the writing demanding.[3] The scope of the book was constantly changing as the authors developed their thoughts and ideas, and it had clearly grown beyond any elementary textbook. Letters indicate Tait’s growing frustration at the delays in production. In June 1864 he wrote to Thomson “I am getting quite sick of the great Book…” as the difficulties of their irregular and disorganised communication took their toll.[4]

Despite ambitions to produce the first volume in just 6 weeks, it in fact appeared almost 6 years after Tait’s initial outline for the work. Published by Clarendon Press, in association with Macmillan, Volume I of the Treatise on natural philosophy finally appeared in October 1867. Priced at 25s., the two divisions numbered some 750 pages in total.[5] Although hugely influential, and an aid to teaching, the T&T’ that had emerged was not an introductory textbook, but rather a creative and challenging treatise reworking mathematical physics in the context of the 19th century. The sections had been organised as a mixture of ‘large print’ for the non-mathematical reader and ‘small print’ for the more advanced, however the small had gradually overwhelmed the large.[6]

3- Title page part i

The new edition

The first volume of T&T’ was favourably received and sold well, but the delays had caused unusually high expenses, and the authors were told they would be paid nothing for the first edition. In 1875 they sought release from an agreement for a second edition and Tait claimed that they had instead been offered “extraordinarily liberal terms” by Cambridge University Press.[7] The first part of the new and heavily revised edition of the first volume, published by CUP, appeared in 1879, and the second in 1883. Only one of the four volumes promised in the Preface to the first edition was ever written.

The Preface to this new edition notes that “the most important part of the labour of editing Part II, has been borne by Mr G.H. Darwin.” Part II also includes a “schedule of alterations and additions” made for this new edition. A number of these are marked as the work of G.H.D.

4- Schedule of alterations

G.H. Darwin

George Darwin’s involvement was perhaps related to his close friendship with Lord Kelvin. Kelvin had reviewed Darwin’s 1876 paper ‘On the influence of geological changes on the earth’s axis of rotation’ for the Royal Society, and soon after had invited him to Glasgow to discuss its content. A great friendship and working relationship developed between them. In the Preface to his own collection of scientific papers, Darwin attributes a great deal to Kelvin’s friendship and inspiration.[8] In 1883 Darwin took over the role of head of the BAAS tides committee from Kelvin, and became Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge. His position as a leading authority on the nature of tides was by then established, and his key contributions to the new edition of T&T’ included an appendix on tidal friction.

Tidal friction appendix2

The copy now in the Whipple is signed June 1868, the year Darwin graduated from Cambridge, and a few months before he was made a fellow of Trinity College.[9] The authorship of the annotations is not certain but they may be Darwin’s. Certain passages seem to have been revised several times. What does appear is an engagement with the text and its reception. The T&T’ was translated into German between 1871 and 1874 by Hermann von Helmholtz and G. Wertheim. Sometime after this, a ‘Preface by Helmholtz to the German Edition’ has been pasted in to the front of Part I of the Whipple’s newly acquired first edition. The first page is handwritten on notepaper, while the remaining text came from Nature (December 24th 1874 & January 14th 1875), where the translated Preface was published.


Annotations can be found throughout the two divisions of the first edition. At sections 829-830 for example, marginalia are accompanied by a leaf of notepaper pasted in. The workings appear to relate to section 829 on the work of Laplace and the compressibility of matter and there are signs of several revisions. Section 830 on tidal friction was “entirely rewritten and extended” by Darwin, and in the new edition it reached some 4½ pages in length. Although the notes are undated, this copy provides an important link between the first and new editions. If in Darwin’s possession from 1868, it also gives an insight into the life of this particular copy: from a landmark university text owned by a student or recent graduate, to a work undergoing revision by a renowned professor and mathematical physicist, finally emerging as a document to notes made before a new edition.

7- 830 insert

[1] Silvanus Phillips Thompson, The life of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs. Volume I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, first published 1910), p.451.

[2] Harold Issadore Sharlin, Lord Kelvin: the dynamic Victorian (University Park; London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1979), p.150, pp.163-4; Raymond Flood, ‘Thomson and Tait: The Treatise on Natural Philosophy’ in Raymond Flood, Mark McCartney, and Andrew Whitaker (eds.), Kelvin: life, labours and legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp.178-81.

[3] Sharlin, p.157, p.161.

[4] P.G. Tait to William Thomson, 20th June. 1864, T6X, ULC, see Crosbie Smith and M. Norton Wise, Energy and empire: a biographical study of Lord Kelvin (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1989), p.348; Flood, pp.182-3; Thompson, p.467.

[5] Simon Eliot (ed.), The history of Oxford University Press. Volume II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p.537.

[6] Thompson, p.469; Smith and Wise, p.352; Flood, pp.179-80.

[7] Eliot, p. 537.

[8] George Howard Darwin, The scientific papers of Sir George Darwin. Volume I (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2009, first published 1907), p.v.

[9] David Kushner, ‘Darwin, Sir George Howard,’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,, accessed 31/03/2016.

Clare Matthews, Library Assistant
















Posted by: whipplelib | March 17, 2016

Science in Print 2015-16 – a presenter’s view

The Library’s ‘Science in Print’ series was expanded this year to include a separate sub-series on ‘Book production in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’. In this second blog post from the class of 2015-16, co-presenter Dr Sarah Bull reflects on what she learnt.

“This past term, Dr. James Poskett and I helped organise Part II of the Whipple Library’s seminar series ‘Science in Print: Book production in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries’. As a relative newcomer to Cambridge, I didn’t know much about the Whipple’s collections outside those relevant my own research on nineteenth-century medicine. Becoming involved in Science in Print gave me a wonderful opportunity to familiarize myself with them.

The first thing that struck me about the Whipple’s rare book collections is their diversity. They not only cover a wide range of scientific subjects, but also run the gamut of print materials produced for different kinds of audiences. This gave us wonderful opportunities to think about how the different forms that scientific publications take on depends a lot on who their audience is—and what their authors and publishers are willing to spend.

Hardwicke vol1 title page2_small

Looking at a variety of scientific journals, including Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip: An Illustrated Medium of Interchange and Gossip for Students and Lovers of Nature (1865-1893) and The Lens: A Quarterly Journal of Microscopy and the Allied Natural Sciences (1872-1873), enabled us to think about how and why some scientific journals (especially microscopy and astronomy journals) experimented with pricy new photoreprographic illustration techniques at a time when photography was still a relatively novel technology, in the 1860s and 1870s—why many (often, less specialized) journals stuck to older illustration techniques.

The lens_small

The Reverend John George Wood (1827-1889) Collection, which showcases this author’s extensive output of popular works on natural history, also helped is think about the relationships between publications’ material forms and their audiences.

Wood back cover_small

My favourite book from this collection is a 1900 edition of Wood’s Common Objects of the Microscope (1861), which still has its price stickers and advertising in it. As we discussed during the seminar, this book’s “yellowback” paper binding was characteristic of works sold at railway bookstalls in the last half of the nineteenth century. The binding communicated its status as accessible and entertaining science writing, as well as making it cheap enough that even skilled working-class people could buy it.

Tom Telescopes4_small

One of the interests that guides my own research is in how the same works often take on different material forms over time, becoming different kinds of objects that communicate different things about the text to their readers. I was, therefore, excited to find that the Whipple holds multiple editions of many important scientific works. James and I were able to use three different editions of The Newtonian System of Philosophy (published in 1798, 1827, and 1828) to show how book production changed in the early nineteenth century, with the emergence of new paper-making and book-binding techniques.

We also used two different versions of the sixth edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, published in 1901, to show how Victorian publishers often packaged the same works in different ways for different audiences: one of these books is a library edition of the Origin, aimed at readers interested in using and displaying the book on their library shelves for many years. The other is a paperback edition, targeted to an audience more interested in purchasing an inexpensive copy than they were in showing off their taste. The Whipple also holds a first edition of Origin of Species (1859), so we can see the form in which its first readers encountered it 42 years earlier.

1901 Origin of species2_small

We were also lucky to work with Dr Josh Nall, Curator of Modern Sciences at the Whipple Museum, for our session on nineteenth and early twentieth century illustration techniques. Complementing the Whipple Library’s collections, the Whipple Museum owns a large number of printing blocks that were used in the making of trade catalogues for several scientific instrument companies, including the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company. Examining these catalogues’ illustrations alongside the very tools that made them brought some of the illustration processes that we’d been discussing to life in a new way for me.


Being involved in Science in Print this year not only taught me a lot about the Library’s and Museum’s collections. It also taught me a lot about scientific print culture in the nineteenth century, and made things that I previously knew only in a theoretical sense (such as the fact that scientific journals produced for different audiences would probably look and feel very different) more concrete. The seminars were especially valuable in this regard. Questions emerged in my discussions of works from these collections with the great group of people who came out to Science in Print II that I never would have thought of asking, and I found myself looking for the answers after the sessions had ended. I’m looking forward to digging even deeper into the collections and having more discussions like this at HPS in the future.”

Dr Sarah Bull, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge.
March 2016

Posted by: whipplelib | March 17, 2016

Science in Print 2015-16 – a participant’s view

The Library’s popular ‘Science in Print’ seminar series ran over two terms in 2015-16, with discrete sections on book production in the hand press period and in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the first of two posts reflecting on the impact of the series, HPS MPhil student Edwin Rose offers a participant’s view:

“I took part in the ‘Science in Print’ seminar series during the Michaelmas and Lent terms, 2015-16 when I was writing my first and third MPhil essays. Prior to coming to Cambridge, I already had a lot of experience with eighteenth-century natural historical printed books through my previous research and my personal book collection. However, my knowledge was mainly focussed on the content of these works as opposed to the physical makeup and the processes which went into producing the books.

‘Science in Print’ is made up of a series of seven seminars, the first four, with Roger Gaskell and Anna Jones, look at book production in the early modern period, c.1500-1800. During this period, books were produced using the hand press and, whilst using examples from the Whipple Collection, which include copies of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665/1667), Galileo’s Dialogo (1632), Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687) and Daniele Barbaro’s La practica della perspettiva (1568), the seminar covered the production and analysis of images, bibliographical details and the technology of book production.

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For each of these sessions, the group had the opportunity to examine pivotal works in the history of science. These examples, and the opportunity to handle and examine these important books, allowed me to really connect with the history of the book and book production. This was further enhanced in the second seminar on image production, when the group had the opportunity to look at some of Roger Gaskell’s woodcuts and copper plates which really helped with the understanding of the differences between relief and intaglio illustrations during the early modern period.

The third seminar, on the technology of book production, was held in the University Library. For the first part of this session, the group had the opportunity to examine some of the books from the UL’s collections such as: Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica (1543), Jean-Baptiste Duhalde’s The General History of China (1736) and Sir Hans Sloane’s A Voyage to… Jamaica (1707-25), the subject of my current research. The second part of this seminar was in the historical printing room of the UL, in which students had the opportunity to hear about the use of a hand press and actually experience pulling on the lever of a reconstructed press—allowing us to understand early modern printing processes and the difficulties and time associated with book production. The opportunity to examine the books and the equipment used for book production, coupled with vital information on bibliographical details, gave me a valuable new insight into early modern books.

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The second set of seminars in the Lent Term, led by James Poskett and Sarah Bull, covered developments in nineteenth and twentieth century book production, from the hand press to the steam press and mass production, methods of illustration and different print technologies. I was particularly interested in the differences between laid paper and wove paper, which started to emerge towards the end of the eighteenth century, something I could relate to a number of books I examined for my first MPhil essay, which were occasionally made up of a mixture of different types of paper. The new methods of producing printed images were also fascinating—from relief and intaglio printing, to the development of lithography and photography in the mid nineteenth-century, although producing photographs in books remained extremely expensive until the later nineteenth-century.

We also looked at the rise of mass production and how the development of rail networks and steam shipping resulted in the expansion of internal and international markets, and the development of a colonial press itself. These topics gave us the excellent opportunity to look at a number of the nineteenth-century rarities in the Whipple collection, examples include: a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), Samuel Morton’s Crania Americana (1839) and a copy of Charles Lyell’s Elements of Geology (1841).

‘Science in Print’ was highly relevant for the research I was undertaking for my first MPhil essay and my current dissertation, both of which have a heavy emphasis on the use of books in the eighteenth-century. In my first essay I examined Richard Brookes’s General Gazetteer; or, Compendious Geographical Dictionary, a little known work of eighteenth-century geography which remained in print from its initial publication in 1762 to the final edition which appeared in 1876. ‘Science in Print’ helped me understand why this work remained in print for so long and the reasons for the changes in the physical makeup and price of different editions across this period.

The short and extremely helpful lectures on image production and the ability to see the features described first hand, alongside woodcuts and copper plates, have proved to be extremely important for my current dissertation work on Hans Sloane’s A Voyage to… Jamaica (1707-25). Sloane set far more emphasis on the images in this book than printed text— over fifty percent of the total book is double page plates, all of which were produced with copper plates which had extremely high quality engravings; these proved to be so expensive that Sloane had to pay for the printing of the book himself. This has really helped me to understand the relationship between specimens, library collections and print, something I hope to continue for my future research.


In conclusion, ‘Science in Print’ was extremely useful for giving an overview of the book trade and book production from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, giving great insight into the changes in book production over this time, allowing me to really connect with the collections I am currently studying and those I plan to study in the future. This seminar series has enabled me to look beyond the content of the printed information, and recognise the additional importance of book production and how this might impact upon the content of a book. Additionally, ‘Science in Print’ has alerted me to the unique resources the Whipple has on offer, something which became particularly useful when I was researching my final MPhil essay on late seventeenth-century anatomical microscopy. The opportunity to personally examine these books to understand the main points made in the seminar and has allowed me to connect all the more with the history of print and the construction of the book in my independent research, something I hope to expand on in the future.”

Edwin Rose, MPhil student, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
March 2016

Posted by: whipplelib | March 8, 2016

Making accessible anatomy

What can we learn from 175 year old medical lectures?

Cambridge Science Festival runs from the 7th to the 20th of March and the Whipple Library and Museum will be running events throughout. On the 11th March, Visualising Medicine: an evening of art, anatomy, and science will see the Museum and Library open from 5.30pm – 8.00pm, and will offer a unique opportunity to look at some of the historical anatomical models and books that are not always on display. For more information, have a look at the events listings page on the Science Festival website:

Dr. Louis Jerome Auzoux’s snappily-titled Leçons élémentaires d’anatomie et de physiologie, ou Description succincte des phénomènes physiques de la vie dans l’homme et les différentes classes d’animaux, à l’aide de l’anatomie clastique (‘Elementary anatomy and physiology lessons, or A succinct description of the physical phenomena of life in man and different classes of animal, using the clastic anatomy’) was one of many accessible tools he made for studying anatomy during the 1800s in France. The book could be used in combination with one of Auzoux’s ‘clastic’ human anatomical models, facilitating independent learning.


The Whipple Library’s copy of Leçons, published in 1839.

Auzoux was a prolific creator of anatomical models, driven by his own experience of human anatomy whilst studying medicine in the 1810s. Cadavers were not readily available as dissection was perceived to be dishonourable due to the association with the use of criminals’ bodies and the prevention of conventional funerals. Additionally, when cadavers were available, they deteriorated quickly and expensive alternative wax models would distort when handled frequently.[1] By the 1820s, Auzoux had developed cheaper, more durable anatomical models made with a secret papier-mâché mixture, comprising hundreds of removable pieces and an accompanying key to inform users of the names of various body parts: Auzoux named this method of dissecting models ‘clastic anatomy’, derived from the Greek klastos, meaning ‘broken into pieces’.


Some of Louis Auzoux’s models are housed in The Whipple Museum, including this model that could have been used in combination with Leçons.

The models, endorsed by the Academy of Medicine, were extremely popular as students and those who would not usually have had access to anatomical teaching were able to self-educate.[2] Auzoux consistently strove to make the models user-friendly and accessible, making them smaller and cheaper and with more removable parts as well as creating methods of paying in instalments.[3] In 1839 Auzoux first published his Leçons, which included 5 of his lectures about human anatomy and could be used in conjunction with a model. Three editions of this book were published during the year, each with more lessons included. The library has the second edition, with seven of eight lessons and an affixed note informing the reader that the eighth will be published shortly. Thus, readers would have repeatedly purchased the lessons, aware of the ensuing publications; Auzoux had increased the accessibility of the text whilst cleverly generating demand.

The book contains lessons on the main functions of the human body, including digestion, respiration, circulation, the nervous system, the five senses and organs that function independently of the brain, as well as how humans can get diseases unconsciously. Contained within fragile paper wrappers, surviving due to unusual disuse (indicated also by the uncut pages), the book demonstrates Auzoux’s marketing by maximising accessibility to information as well as his generating credibility by referring throughout to specific models’ parts – which also created demand for the accompanying model.

Back cover

The back cover of the book advertises the prices of the various models.

Although some of Auzoux’s success can certainly be attributed to his addressing a gap in the market, he also increased the number of potential consumers by promoting his tools to a broader audience. The book wrappers promote his ‘clastic anatomy’ and give a price list for anatomical models, simultaneously validating the scientific authenticity of the works whilst making the information for ordering a model immediately available not just to owners, but to anyone who saw the book. Auzoux emphasises the ease of ordering: the client need ‘simply’ send an order, giving 3 options for payment. Additionally, the introduction labours the integrity and usefulness of the lectures, demonstrating the broad value of anatomical knowledge. He professes the benefits of other professions attaining anatomical knowledge, including philosophers, magistrates, jurors, law professionals, policemen and soldiers as well as for university teaching. These messages, in combination with the persistent endeavour to create better value and more affordable services, ensured the economic success of his clastic anatomy.


The advertisement promotes the clastic anatomy, defining the term and its origins, and provides information about placing orders.

Auzoux’s Leçons inform contemporary readers about nineteenth century understandings of human bodily functions. They also provide insight into the manufacturer’s integration of medicine, teaching and marketing into his successful business whilst reflecting the intricacies of French medical society.

[1] Sanib Kumar Ghosh, ‘Human cadaveric dissection: a historical account from ancient Greece to the modern era’, Anatomy & Cell Biology, 48 (3), 2015,

[2] Margaret Olszewski, Designer Nature: Papier Mache Botanical Teaching Models of Dr. Auzoux in Nineteenth- Century France, Great Britain and America, (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Cambridge, 2009), p. 28.

[3] Margaret Olszewski, p. 30.

Rosanna Evans, Lunchtime Invigilator

Posted by: whipplelib | February 1, 2016

Robert Whipple, scientific book and instrument collector.

‘This collection of historic scientific instruments and old books are not only of significant interest, but they possess a great deal of artistic work of beauty and such a collection gives us the feeling of living in sympathetic contact with the great men of science who lived before us.’

Sir Henry Dale, President of the Royal Society, upon the presentation of Robert Whipple’s collection to the University of Cambridge, November 1944.

When Robert Whipple donated his extensive collection of more than 1000 books and a similar number of objects to the University of Cambridge in 1944, he stipulated that his donation be used to form a museum, demonstrating his desire to make accessible the studying of the History of Science.[1] In addition to a museum, a department and a library were created for the University: and thus, the Department of History and Philosophy of Science was born.[2]


Robert Whipple’s original catalogue, started in 1910

Whilst it is relatively easy to postulate why Whipple donated and to understand how his donation has affected the Department, Library and Museum, Whipple’s motivations for collecting are intriguing and more difficult to fathom. To a modern eye, devoid of the necessary funds to indulge in such a sport and accommodating a discerning attitude towards limiting access to knowledge, private collecting is an enigmatic hobby. Indeed, upon his donation, Whipple remarked how he ‘little thought’ that upon purchasing an antique telescope in France in 1913 he was ‘embarking on the slippery slope of collecting’; we can assume that Whipple’s intention to donate did not initially motivate his collecting. [3] To some extent, book collecting was a very ordinary hobby for a gentleman of some wealth as death duties and the decline of country houses resulted in the dispersal of libraries. Additionally, books were a robust investment. However, scientific book collecting was uncommon in the early twentieth-century, rendering Whipple something of a rarity.[4] Whipple’s motives for collecting were surely multiplicitous, not solely driven by the desire to own.

Whipple was exposed to the collecting of scientific objects throughout a large portion of his life. As a teenager, Whipple followed in his father’s footsteps by working at Kew Observatory, built to house King George III and Queen Charlottes’ collection of scientific and mathematical instruments. Although the majority of the instruments were moved in 1841, some remained at Kew, and during a 1926 lecture at the Optical Convention Whipple expressed his commentary on the King’s catalogues and concern at how the dispersal of the collection might lead to its being ‘lost… or destroyed’.[5] Indeed, in 1944 Whipple bought a microscope from George III’s collection that had passed into another private collection.[6] He subsequently went on to work at instrument makers L.P.Casella, as an assistant to Horace Darwin and later as manager and secretary of Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, where he remained until his retirement as chairman in 1949. Whipple was deeply enthusiastic about scientific instruments, participating in the Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, the Optical Society, the Royal Institution and the Institution of Electrical Engineers in various forms over his career – societies that fostered interaction between scientists and instrument makers, and whereby speeches could be given to the public.[7] Evidently, collecting was a part of Whipple’s identity, closely interwoven with his skills as an instrument maker and interests in science.


Robert Whipple’s original catalogue, started in 1910

Whipple started his catalogue of books in 1910, when he purchased 20 books in 6 months from 9 different vendors including Huygens’ Traité de la lumiere and George Adams’ Essays on the Microscope. That he began a catalogue upon these purchases demonstrates Whipple’s intent to collect. As Whipple collected, his interests, habits and relationships are reflected by his catalogue; for instance, Whipple bought around 140 publications by Robert Boyle and 40 from Benjamin Martin, far more than by any other authors. Whipple purchased 643 books and 354 objects from T.H. Court, himself a prolific collector and ‘lover of scientific instruments and books’, to whom he claimed he owed a ‘great debt’ for not only his aid in sourcing such artefacts but for helping him to source information and access other collections, including George III’s.[8] By comprehending why and how Whipple collected and catalogued, we can consider what unites these artefacts and refresh our perspective on their content and significance. Whilst it may not illuminate our comprehension of the book’s content, considering a rare book’s lifespan from publication, to collection, to library, is impressive as the extent of the care taken over hundreds of years to protect the loss of such volumes, as Whipple feared, becomes apparent.


The Whipple Collection bookplate, in one of the first books Whipple collected

[1] Silvia de Renzi, Instruments in Print: Books from the Whipple Collection, (Cambridge: Whipple Museum of the History of Science, 2000), p. 87.

[2] Science Committee, in The Whipple Museum of the History of Science: Instruments and interpretations, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of R.S. Whipple’s gift to the University of Cambridge, ed. by Liba Taub and Frances Willmoth, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 12-16.

[3] Robert S. Whipple, in The Whipple Museum of the History of Science: Instruments and interpretations, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of R.S. Whipple’s gift to the University of Cambridge, p. 23.

[4] Silvia de Renzi, p. 89.

[5] Robert S. Whipple, An Old Catalogue and what it tells us of the Scientific Instruments and Curios Collected by Queen Charlotte and King George III, (Aberdeen: University Press, 1926), p. 15-16.

[6] Whipple object no. 0195.

[7] ‘Whipple, Robert Stewart’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,, accessed 18/01/2016.

[8] Robert S. Whipple, p. 17.

Rosanna Evans, Lunchtime Invigilator

Posted by: whipplelib | February 26, 2015

More reflections on ‘Science in Print’

Jose Beltran, a PhD student from the European University Institute in Florence, was a Visiting Student at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science during the Michaelmas Term 2014, and joined us for the ‘Science in Print’ series. Here he offers some reflections on how the seminars have helped his thesis work and beyond:

The “Science in Print” graduate seminar, led by Roger Gaskell, Anna Jones and Jim Secord, was one of the graduate training series I attended at the University of Cambridge during my stay in the Michaelmas term 2014 as visiting PhD student at HPS. The seminar covered in five sessions the most significant aspects of bibliographical analysis and the history of early-modern and nineteenth-century book production. Three elements of originality deserve to be highlighted. First, the seminar did not only cover the hand-press period (roughly the 16th to the 18th centuries), but also the mechanical-press period (the 19th century). Although an early-modern historian, the session on mechanical-press book production gave me a very useful perspective on the bibliographical production of my own period.

Second, the seminar succeeded in the delicate exercise of combining theory and practice. The stunning collections of the Whipple Library—and the convenient location of this at the heart of the department—make this kind of seminar very difficult to reproduce in other institutions. Original copies of pivotal works of the history of science were under our eyes for close inspection during virtually all the sessions. The restricted number of participants permitted a fantastically close interaction not only with the materials, but also with the faculty. The varied expertise of the three conveners (a curator, a bibliographer, and a book historian) helped to sustain the high-quality level and far-reaching ambitions of the seminar. It is also important to say that even if these kind of practicalities seem to stir more enthusiasm than theory, the seminar gave an introduction to material and descriptive bibliography that has very much transformed my way of working with printed sources. In any case, the important aspect of the almost constant handling of books is that it effectively transmitted what I think was one of the most crucial messages of the seminar: that there is an immense gap between the non-existent ideal version of a book and the multiple copies of it, and that it is with the materiality of these variegated copies, issues and editions that the historian has to work.

Third, particular attention was given during the whole seminar to images, and this was a particularly compelling element for me. My doctoral dissertation revolves around the work of the French Minim friar Charles Plumier (1646-1704), Royal Botanist to the King Louis XIV, well-travelled natural historian, and accomplished draftsman. It interrogates, through this specific case study, the role of visual representation in the daily work of naturalists travelling overseas in late-seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century France. In this sense, the Science in Print seminar was crucial to help me think anew the visual printed sources I am using in my thesis, and how their material specificities are the symptoms of not only the technical, but also the socio-cultural circumstances in which they were produced.

Among the points raised during the seminar while consulting and discussing concrete woodcut and intaglio book illustrations, there was one that has been especially influential in the writing of my thesis, namely the problem of fixity. Fixity has been one of the key notions in the history of book in recent decades, and particularly in the controversy between Elisabeth Eisenstein and Adrian Johns. Yet the existence or lack of fixity as a result of the culture of print has mainly been explored in the case of texts: images were assumed to be naturally less mutable than texts when a work was reedited, simply because the same plates tended to be re-used while a text has always to be entirely recast. After the ‘Science in Print’ seminar, however, I went back to my printed sources and I was urged to rethink fixity in the case of printed images, since the same copperplates were sometimes modified so as to adapt them to a book with a new target audience, or simply to adapt to new social, cultural, and economic circumstances. In other words, the seminar compelled me to go far beyond the traditional and simplistic polarity in the history of printmaking between intaglio and woodcut printing.

I would like to conclude with one specific illustration of the process of intaglio printing that struck me in particular, namely an etching from Abraham Bosse’s 1645 Traicté de la manière de graver en taille douce sur l’airin, a reproduction of which was circulated in the seminar. The image presents the scene of a printmaker’s shop: on the right, an engraver carves lines with a burin on a copperplate; on the left, an etcher incises through the dark acid-resistant patina covering his plate. At the back of the shop, two friars observe printed images made with the traditional and painstaking technique of engraving, while a nobleman admires a landscape done with a relatively new technique of etching, more convenient (etchings were slightly easier to make than engravings), and somehow mundane in comparison to the perceived austerity of engraving. Furthermore the etcher, whose technique was similar to drawing enough so as to be practiced by amateurs, wears the robbe de ville of the honnête homme; the burin engraver, whose complex art was rarely practiced by non-professional craftsmen, wears the bonnet of the artisan. Bosse’s etching is a fantastic example of one of the most significant contributions of bibliography to the historian: the idea that the correct understanding of the techniques involved in the production of books, both in the hand- and the machine-press periods, are consequential for the interpretation of the social and cultural worlds in which those books lived. The “Science in Print” seminar succeeded in conveying a master message: there cannot be a solidly grounded history having books for objects of inquiry without basic notions of bibliography. The five sessions taught its attendants, both in practice and theory, these essential notions. In this sense, the seminar has been consequential not only in the writing of my doctoral thesis, but also in my education as a historian.

Posted by: whipplelib | December 22, 2014

Reflections on ‘Science in Print’

‘Science in Print: Understanding book production from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries’ is a seminar series hosted by the Whipple Library in the Michaelmas Term. Over 5 sessions led by Roger Gaskell, Anna Jones and Jim Secord we look at various aspects of the production and illustration of scientific books during the handpress and mechanized periods (using examples from the Whipple’s collections), and how this matters when studying contemporary texts in the History and Philosophy of Science and beyond.

The series is open to all, from students to researchers. Read how Claire Sabel (HPS MPhil, 2014-15), one of this year’s participants, found the experience:

I took part in the ‘Science in Print’ seminar series while researching and writing my first MPhil essay. Although I had done a fair amount of work with early modern books and manuscripts before coming to Cambridge, the most I could have told you about my experiences was that the pages smell nice, and that it is proper etiquette to use a book weight.

P1000104Each week of ‘Science in Print’ brought new, concrete insights into the significance of book production that I was able to connect to the Renaissance natural history texts I was studying in the Rare Book Room of the University Library. The combination of independent work at the UL, and hands on learning with Science in Print created an enriching dialogue that considerably developed my appreciation of my sources, and provided ample resources for future studies of early modern material.

Although my reflections on the series are bound up in my personal project, I think explaining them in terms of my research shows how the course really made a positive and lasting impact on my appreciation of early modern books in particular, and the material and intellectual history of the book more generally.

Without digressing too much into the details of seventeenth century entomology, I’ll just briefly explain: For my essay I was looking at images of insects, particularly those drawn by the Dutch microscopist Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680), and thinking about how new and extraordinary knowledge about the details of the natural world might be communicated visually. Each week, ‘Science in Print’ introduced a new way of approaching the medium of the book, from evaluating format and paper size, to going through the intricate steps involved in setting type and producing engravings. Every seminar shed new light on Swammerdam: I was able to make more and more sensitive evaluations about the way his books and images had been made, and about the significance of decisions made by the author, engraver, and publisher, and by the subsequent scholars who translated Swammerdam’s work into English, French and Latin.

IMAG0107For instance, although the original Dutch text was over 400 pages, and the English translation only 40, the difference in both paper size and the fact that the Dutch was an octavo accounted for a considerable amount of the discrepancy. Moreover, the contrast between these more humble editions made during Swammerdam’s lifetime, and the considerably larger folio volumes made in the 18th century alerted me to the altered status of Swammerdam’s work 50 years after his death. The large, lavishly illustrated bi-lingual Latin-Dutch edition would have been received and read by audiences very differently than the diminutive original, which was more akin to an every-day devotional book than an authoritative taxonomical treatise.

I was able to bring my discoveries back into the classroom with renewed attention to the importance of image reproduction, which we covered very thoroughly, from early wood-blocks to the wood-engravings of nineteenth century periodicals. The diverse expertise of the presenters, as well as many of the participants, allowed me to understand both specific details about one book’s eccentric binding, and long-term changes in print, such as the evolving role of the publisher.

IMAG0118The course balanced concise but very informative lectures from each of these experts with plenty of time to handle material. The best part of this was being able to discuss queries with the seminar leaders as they wandered around the room. We also discussed and handled a variety of material, covering both classics like Galileo and Darwin, and lesser-known works. The emphasis on the production-side of the book trade yielded important insights into the reception of scientific books. For instance, understanding the difference between new editions (a new reproduction of a book, requiring a complete re-setting of the type) and new issues (already printed pages rebound with a new title page) can reveal the difference in demand for something like Hooke’s Micrographia (two issues of a single edition) and Newton’s Principia (three editions in Newton’s lifetime).

It was also a pleasure to get to work with the very rich holdings of Whipple’s collections, supplemented by some of Roger Gaskell’s teaching aids (original woodcuts and engravings were a highlight), and Jim Secord’s Victorian rarities. The series really impressed upon me the strength of the Whipple Library for both primary sources and secondary literature, and also provided a thorough overview of the relevant secondary literature on bibliography and the book trade, which can illuminate more of the world that Whipple’s rare books came from. Seeing the books come alive in the hands of students and staff helped animate the history of print in my independent project, and I’m certain will continue to do so in future studies.

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