This week celebrates a key resource in the Whipple: the Foster Pamphlet Collection. These 5,221 pamphlets fill some 200 volumes and cover all aspects of 19th century physiology in the form of articles, sections from books, dissertations and other original works. They are gathered under a variety of subjects, including ‘Blood’, the ‘Central Nervous System’, ‘Digestion’, ‘Nutrition’, ‘Respiration’, ‘Psychology’ and many many others. Bound in blue or grey cloth with red and gold titles, the volumes are stamped ‘Physiological Laboratory.’ Most of the items were collected by Sir Michael Foster and after his death in 1907 this practice of gathering together and binding important material was continued by his successor John Newport Langley.

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L0001869 Portrait of Sir Michael Foster

Portrait of Sir Michael Foster. Photograph. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0


Michael Foster came to Cambridge in 1870 as the first Trinity Praelector of Physiology. He went on to become the first Professor of Physiology at the University and under his direction the Cambridge School of Physiology became a leading and hugely successful centre for research. Many of Cambridge’s famous physiologists were trained under Foster’s leadership and influence.

The early days of Foster’s teaching at Cambridge took place in two rooms granted by the University for his lectures and research, equipped by Trinity. Foster called these rooms ‘the Physiological Laboratory in the University of Cambridge.’ From here, as Trinity Praelector, he edited the Studies from the Physiological Laboratory in the University of Cambridge, papers published in 3 parts in 1873, 1876 and 1877 (STORE REF FILE 18:24-26). These were in effect a forerunner to the Journal of Physiology (edited by Foster from its beginnings in 1878 to 1894). The Whipple’s copy of part one of the Studies is signed by the celebrated physiologist W.H. Gaskell, who was greatly influenced by Foster and became a member of his research team. A number of Gaskell’s works feature in the pamphlet collection.

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As the Cambridge school grew new space was needed.  In 1878 a purpose-built laboratory was constructed on the east side of Downing Street, then in 1914 the department moved to buildings provided by the Drapers’ Company. The pamphlet collection of the Physiological Laboratory went too; it remained in the Department of Physiology until it was donated to the Whipple in 1997.

The Foster Pamphlet Collection is a valuable resource for a number of reasons. It contains a wide range of often unusual or unique material and gives an insight into the collecting of works for reference and record (pre-Internet, email and online subscriptions) in the 19th century. Some items were sent to Foster or Langley directly from their authors, others were collected for interest or curiosity. All were carefully bound and preserved, gathered into themed volumes. The items span 1823-1919, with the majority dated 1860-1907. They were written in numerous languages and printed across the world. The collection is significant for both its provenance and for the breadth of coverage in the field of physiology and related disciplines contained in its volumes. The items even include two articles by Robert Whipple.

Happily the collection, once only accessible through a card catalogue, was catalogued as part of a collaborative 19th century pamphlets project funded by the Research Support Libraries Programme (RSLP). The Foster pamphlets can all be found on LibrarySearch.

J.N. Langley, ‘Sir Michael Foster. In Memoriam’ The Journal of Physiology 35.3 (March 25, 1907) pp.233-246
For more information, have a look on the Library’s website.
The Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience website also has more on Foster and the history of the Physiological Laboratory.


Posted by: whipplelib | May 17, 2016

E is for Euclid, the father of geometry

Euclid is well known as the author of The Elements of Geometry, a text that has been at the centre of mathematical teaching for 2000 years, during which time it has been repeatedly edited and translated into many languages.

Searching the Whipple Library collection for Euclid, I came across several edition of the  Elements with various corrections and supplements.  But what absorbed my attention most were the volvelles, inserts and pyramids in some of these books. As I’ve read more about Euclid’s geometry it has become more obvious that the visualisation of three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional figures on the page might be difficult for some readers, especially novices (such as me).  So one of the solutions was to past cut-out figures on additional slips of paper in order to make ‘pop-up’ figures such as pyramids and cubes.  These different cut-outs and projections which appeared on the pages in woodcuts in two dimensions, could be folded upwards to demonstrate the three-dimensional figures described in the text. Here there are some examples:

‘Euclid’s elements of geometry, from the latin translation of Commandine : to which is added a treatise of the nature of arithmetic of logarithms : likewise another of the elements of plain and spherical trigonometry : with a preface, shewing the usefulness and excellency of this work’  (London:  Printed by Tho. Woodward … and sold by J. Osborn …, 1733), by John Keil … The whole revised … Also many faults … are shewn … An ample account of which may be seen in the preface by Samuel Cunn. (STORE CR 1:51)

This book contains Book 1-6 and 11-12 of Euclid’s Elements in the Latin translation by Federico Commandino. It includes 16 folded leaves of plates of drawings and three small volvelles (paper wheel charts) which are fastened on an end-paper with some up-folded parts.

‘An appendix to the Elements of Euclid, in seven books:  Containing forty-two moveable schemes for forming the various kinds of solids, and their sections, by which the doctrine of solids in the eleventh, twelfth, and fifteenth books of Euclid is illustrated, and rendered more easy to learners than heretofore’… (London: Sold by T. Cadell, [1765?]), by John Lodge Cowley… (STORE 86:25)

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The idea of the ‘pop-up’ shapes is that once the readers have learnt how to visualize these types of three-dimensional objects with the aid of the figures, they will be able to imagine all other types of shapes themselves.

Being amused by the imaginative power of pictures and the manual use of the movable parts, I came up with the idea to make up the ‘pop-ups’ by myself. And I couldn’t pick a better time for doing this, as my 11-years-old son Jan was preparing for his SATS! So we both decided to travel back in time to the maths of Ancient Greece and revise geometry through these reproductions:


Posted by: whipplelib | May 11, 2016

D is for… Darwin, but not the great man himself.


Horace Darwin was the 9th child of Charles and Emma Darwin born in May 1851. He established the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company with A.G. Dew Smith in 1878 and went on to have exclusive control of it from 1891. The company became affectionately known as ‘Horace Darwin’s shop’ and Horace employed a certain Robert Whipple as his personal assistant. Whipple later became the company’s managing director and then chairman.

Cover page

Front cover for the reprint of “Scientific Instruments”(STORE CR 13:3)

We have two items connected to Horace: a reprint of a lecture he delivered in 1913 and a two volume set which belonged to him. “Scientific instruments, their design and use in aeronautics” was given as the first Wilber Wright Memorial Lecture on the 21st May 1913 and printed in the Aeronautical Journal of July 1913. In it Horace discusses scientific instruments used on aeroplanes and the difficultly in designing them due to vibrations of the planes while in the air. He then looks at the basics of instrument design, including geometrical design and how by changing the placement of parts of an instrument it could be improved. Horace does make use of his family connections twice, in the first part he quotes from Erasmus Darwin’s Botanic Garden [1795] and then later he links to his father’s work by stating:


“It is advantageous that ‘the survival of the fittest’ should take place early in the life of the machine, and by this means, in fact, it takes place before the design is complete”

The second item we have relating to Horace is John Morley’s two volume set entitled Diderot and the encyclopædists [London: Chapman and Hall, 1878; STORE 133:23-24]. These books contain Horace Darwin’s book plate and someone has written his name on the fly leaf (see photoe above).

book plate

Horace Darwins bookplate

Author index cropped

The entry on the contents page of CR 13:3

Dawn Moutrey, Library Assistant

Posted by: whipplelib | May 9, 2016

C is for Channing’s copy of Combe’s Constitution

The volume of material in our special collections has grown since Whipple’s original benefaction in 1944 through a combination of further donations, deposits from other libraries and occasional purchases. Donations and deposits often come by association and their provenance is a key part of what makes them relevant to us. Purchases tend to be focused on items that fill gaps and are generally targeted for their content rather than their origins, but very occasionally the two come together, as in the case of this week’s featured item, a copy of the first American edition of Robert Combe’s Constitution of Man (Boston, 1829), signed by its sometime owner, William Ellery Channing.

Title page with signature

Combe’s Constitution of Man, Considered in relation to external objects, first published in Edinburgh in 1828, but later issued in numerous popular editions, was a seminal text in defining the philosophical basis of the science of phrenology. Primarily concerned with the relationship of the human mind to natural laws, Constitution occupies a special place in the author’s work for its theoretical focus. Elsewhere Combe promoted the practice of phrenology – the study of the shape of the skull to determine the relative size of different areas or ‘organs’ of the brain as a determinant of character – as a means to understanding the self, and thence, by encouraging a realigning of motivations in tune with natural laws, as a vehicle to improving one’s circumstances, where desirable. The science of phrenology originated in Europe c.1800 in ideas first presented by Franz Joseph Gall and was later developed by Johann Spurzheim.

Robert Combe (1788-1858), an Edinburgh lawyer, had been a disciple of Spurzheim since attending a brain dissection he carried out in the city in 1816, when he became convinced of the German’s approach to a philosophy of mind which he believed would supply the basis of a universal moral science. The Constitution of Man was one of a series of publications promoted during his extensive lecture tours that helped to popularise phrenology in the English-speaking world in the first half of the nineteenth century.


The Library has a significant collection of printed material relating to the now defunct science of phrenology, much of it acquired by donation in the 1970s following the disbanding of the British Phrenological Society in 1967.[1] This included a first and a few subsequent editions of the Constitution published in Combe’s home town of Edinburgh. But Combe also had considerable influence across the Atlantic, fostered in part during an 18-month lecturing tour from 1838-40, though we lacked a copy of an American edition to illustrate this part of the story. So at Prof. Jim Secord’s suggestion we set about finding one, and gladly secured a copy of the 1829 Boston edition from an online bookseller in December 2015.


The bonus moment came when the book arrived. Although not noted in the online description the title page bears the signature of W.E. Channing. William Ellery Channing was a celebrated Unitarian theologian in early-nineteenth-century America who engaged with phrenological ideas and who invited Robert and Cecilia Combe to tea during their stay in Boston during their US tour in the late 1830s.[2]



The Boston copy of Combe was already a find for its original binding (sadly now fragile) and general good condition as an example of early nineteenth-century machine-press book. But the presence of Channing’s signature affords it an even more special place in our collection.


[1] Read more about the Whipple’s Phrenology Collection here:

[2] Digitised copy of letter from William Ellery Channing to George Combe available from Claremont Colleges Digital Library:

Anna Jones, Librarian

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

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