Tag Archives: medicine

Buzzing in the Stacks

Yes I am, but on this occasion there was a definite fuzzy-humming-buzzing sound which caught my ear, and then my eye as I noticed this book on the shelf:

Thomas Hill, A Profitable Instruction of the Perfect Ordering of Bees, (London, 1608)

Thomas Hill, A Profitable Instruction of the Perfect Ordering of Bees (London, 1608).

And this got me thinking about the significance of bees and how these tiny yet vital creatures deserve far more prestige.

Ok, here are some quick facts. There are over 250 different types of bee in the UK. Of these, 25 are bumblebees and only 1 is a honeybee. Not sure of your honey from your bumble? Me neither, so I’ll buzz it down for you:

Bumblebees are generally the fat, sorry, fuller and furry type and live in nests with roughly 50-400 other bees. They live in the wild so may well be a familiar sight in your garden or the countryside, and they only make small amounts of a honey-like substance (i.e. nectar) for their own food.

Bumblebee by Richard Holgersson

Bumblebee, by Richard Holgersson.

The honeybee on the other hand, is one of a kind and smaller and slightly slimmer in appearance, more like a wasp. Honeybees live in hives of up to 60,000 bees and are looked after by beekeepers, though wild colonies do exist. Honeybees store a lot more nectar because of their larger colonies and longer life cycles. It is essentially their food supply for the colder months. This nectar is mixed with a bee enzyme and is later fanned by the bees, making it more concentrated.  Both bees are crucial to pollination and both are, sadly, in serious decline.

Honeybee large by Joshua Tree National Park

Honeybee, by Joshua Tree National Park.

In ancient and early modern times, their abundance and importance were widely recognised, particularly with regards to the honeybee. Beekeeping, or Apiculture, if you want to get all technical on me, is the maintenance of honeybee colonies, usually in man-made hives. The production of honey for domestic use is well documented in ancient Egypt, while in Greece, beekeeping was seen as a highly valued and sophisticated industry. The lives of bees and beekeeping are covered in great detail by Aristotle, while the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro and Columella wrote about the art of beekeeping.

Thomas Hill, Ordering of Bees, (1608) Table of contents

Hill, Ordering of Bees, (1608), table of contents.

Some of their writings formed the basis of Thomas Hill’s A Profitable Instruction of the Perfect Ordering of Bees, the first English manual for beekeepers published in 1568 as an appendage to Hill’s larger work on gardening. His aim was to highlight the benefits of ‘their hony and waxe and how profitable they are for the commonwealth, and how necessary for man’s use’, while his contemporary, Alan Fleming, looked to ‘A Swarme of Bees’ and their behaviour as the perfect example of proper spiritual conduct.

Beekeeping was a common occupation throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Amongst the abundance of popular information contained in contemporary almanacs, advice on aspects of beekeeping is regularly offered. Housekeeping manuals such as such as S. M. Mathew’s Y Tŷ a’r Teulu (The House and Family) (Denbigh, 1891) provided practical instructions on ‘the Care of Bees’ and the best ways to retrieve honey. The most comprehensive treatment of the subject however, is Y Gwenynydd – (The Beekeeper) (or the Apiarist if you still want to be technical about it). Published in 1888, this compact little Welsh book was largely the work of an accomplished beekeeper from Dinas Mawddwy, who was encouraged by his co-author to publish a book on bees for the ‘benefit of our fellow countrymen’, since ‘we did not have one in Welsh’.

Y Gwenynydd, Title page (1888) Salis

Huw Puw Jones & Michael D. Jones, Y Gwenynydd (The Beekeeper), (Bala, 1888).

Could this be the first Welsh-language beekeeping manual that we have in our Salisbury Collection? What a buzz! A unique piece of work it definitely is. In Wales, we are told, there is a saying that ‘the bee is such a skilful creature that it can draw honey from a stone’. While the latter is demystified throughout the book which explains the life-cycle of honeybees and the different species, the types of hives used, how to build them and the best methods to extract honey – the bees’ skill is never underestimated.

Honey Extracor, Y Gwenynydd

Image detail of ‘The Rapid Honey Extractor’ from Y Gwenynydd, (1888).

 

 

This may explain why bees were as much an object of ‘superstition’ as admiration.  It was considered lucky if bees made their home in your roof, or if a strange swarm arrived in your garden or tree, but unlucky if a swarm left.  Bees were believed to take an interest in human affairs, hence it was customary to notify bees of a death in the family. The news would be whispered to the hive, and if they were not notified, another death would soon follow. Turning the hive, or tying a black ribbon to it, thus placing it in mourning also had the same effect, and similar customs were observed for happier occasions such as weddings. Writing about these beliefs, the Welsh cleric and antiquarian, Elias Owen, noted that the ‘culture of bees was once more common than it is, and therefore they were much observed’.

Although they may seem strange to us today, such beliefs point to a past awareness of how fundamental bees were to our daily lives and how we should be more attentive to them, more so now that they are under threat. This is why the efforts of organisations such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Pollen8 Cymru, and Professor Baillie and his team at Cardiff University (one of the UK’s first bee-friendly campuses), who are encouraging people to plant more wildflowers to help the bee population and conducting research into the antibacterial properties of honey in the treatment of wounds and the fight against antimicrobial resistance, are so important. Again, this is something that was not lost on our early bee backers. Hill notes the extensive medicinal benefits of honey as a preservative and cleanser, which is good ‘to avail against surfeits’, ‘put away drunkeness’ and to ‘expel humours’, not to mention its ‘profitable’ application to ‘filthy ulcers’; open wounds; ringworm; corns; swellings; ‘dropsie bodies’ (oedema); impostumes (abcesses); earache; dimness of sight and all diseases of the lungs to name just a few. With history and science combined, we can do our bit for the bees and get a very sweet return indeed. And so the moral of this blog post?  Well honey, it’s simple. Read a book, plant a flower, and become a lifeline for British bees.

Hidden Histories and Secret Voices by Catherine Paula Han

Join us at Special Collections and Archives on March the 8th for our free event to celebrate International Women’s Day

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Celebrate International Women’s Day by discovering women’s hidden histories and secret voices in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives. The event will be an opportunity to explore the collections, listen to a series of exciting talks and examine some of the items before participating in a creative writing workshop.

The first speaker is Susan Morgan who will discuss the anatomical textbooks that have inspired her PhD in creative writing. Her talk will provide insight into the history and evolution of anatomical textbooks. It will also give an overview into changes in the medical understanding of women’s bodies while revealing what these textbooks tellingly omit or obscure in their representation of women.

histmed_dissectdesparties

Charles Estienne, La dissection des parties du corps humain (Paris, 1546)

After that, Stephanie Clayton, a PhD student in English Literature, will draw on her expertise in women’s manuscript cultures in order to present the diaries of Priscilla Scott-Ellis (1937-1941). Scott-Ellis’s account offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of a front-line nurse during the Spanish Civil War. Her diaries also show evidence of significant editing, a process that reveals how some women’s voices have been lost but can also be recovered.

french-fashion-ladies-treasury

Fashion detail from The Ladies Treasury

Becky Munford, a Reader in English Literature, will give the last talk about the fashion-related items from the library’s collection and present her research project ‘Women in Trousers’. She will also be launching an online archive related to her project. In so doing, she will challenge the perception of fashion as a frivolous subject and will demonstrate the significance of women’s garments to their physical, social and political freedom.

In the final part of the day, local poet Emily Blewitt will lead a creative writing workshop. She will enable you to respond to the event’s theme of women’s hidden histories and secret voices as well as the items in Special Collections and Archives.

 

Programme

2.00: Welcome

2.15: Talk by Susan Morgan

2.30: Talk by Stephanie Clayton

2.45: Talk by Becky Munford

3.00: Time to browse collections and archives

3.30: Break

3.45: Creative writing workshop

5.00: End

Date and Time

Wed 8 March 2017

14:00 – 17:00 GMT

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Location

Special Collections and Archives

Arts and Social Studies Library, Cardiff University

Colum Drive

Cardiff

CF10 3EU

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You can register for free here.

For more information please email specialcollections@cardiff.ac.uk

 

 

 

Robert Recorde and his linguistic Witte

As someone who loves nothing more than rummaging through antiquarian books, mathematics is not usually my first go to subject. And so, in my new role as the Assistant Librarian here at Special Collections and Archives, I was tasked, amongst other things, with identifying some ‘treasures’ in the famous Salisbury collection. Brilliant. Over the past few weeks I have been indulging myself in this magnificent collection of almanacs, medical works, bibles, and musical scores to name but a few, with not a  single thought to Pythagoras, permutation, or anything perpendicular! The only algebra running through my mind is the three bs  – old books + more old books = bliss! And it was in this state of bliss I came across the following:

Whettstone of Witte title page

Title page of the Whetstone of Witte (London, 1557)

The whetstone of witte : whiche is the seconde parte of arithmetike ; containyng thextraction of rootes ; the cossike practise, with the rule of equation ; and the woorkes of surde nombers, published in 1557. Oh, my, God!

Why all the excitement? Well, while I freely admit I know nothing of ‘cossike practise’, I do know that this is no ordinary maths book. Its author, Robert Recorde, is best known as the Welsh Tudor mathematician who invented the equals sign, first introduced in English, in this very book. Fantastic, yes, but, there is much more to the man than just maths.

Quote on equals sign

Recorde’s introduction of the equals sign, from the Whetstone of Witte (London, 1557)

Born c. 1510 to a merchant family in Tenby, we know very little of Recorde’s formative years in Wales but should not discount, perhaps, the influences that this thriving mercantile port had on his young mathematical mind. We do know that he obtained his degree from Oxford in 1531, was elected a Fellow of All Souls college and granted a license to study medicine. After gaining his MD from Cambridge in 1545, it appears he moved to London where he reportedly served as Royal Physician to King Edward VI and Queen Mary.

It was not unusual for sixteenth-century physicians to have multifaceted careers as mathematicians, civil servants, diplomats, even spies (the renowned John Dee may well spring to mind here, and it is no coincidence that Dee edited some of Recorde’s works!) Recorde’s scientific and mathematical skills enabled him to work as an iron-founder, accountant and metallurgist for the Crown service. He also wrote on astronomy. The Castle of Knowledge published in 1556, was one of the first to make public reference to the heliocentric model which placed the sun at the centre of the solar system. As if he didn’t have enough to do, he also dabbled in antiquarianism and linguistics!

The Castle of Knowledge title page 1556

Title page of The Castle of Knowledge (London, 1556)

Such a comprehensive skill-set was not un-common amongst our learned contemporaries, but what makes Recorde unique is the linguistic insight displayed in his writings. The Ground of Artes  published in 1543, possibly the first original arithmetic book in English, was written in the form of a dialogue as ‘the easiest way of instruction, when the scholar may ask every doubt orderly, and the master may answer.’

Dialogue detail from the Ground of Artes, 1663

Opening page from The Ground of Artes (London, 1632)

Similarly, The Whetstone of Witte follows the conversation between a master and scholar comparing the rudiments of geometry and arithmetic. If this didn’t grab you, Recorde also created imaginative titles and often used poetry as a way of introducing his subject and injecting a little humour into his works. The Whetstone of Witte, for instance, so called after a whetstone to sharpen the mind:

Here if you lift your wittes to whette,
Much sharpness thereby shall you get’.

Poem detail from The Castle of Knowledge

Poem at the end of the contents page of The Castle of Knowledge (London, 1556)

His use of English as opposed to Latin, and his attempts to modify the language to explain the maths, highlights his aim to communicate his ideas as widely and effectively as possible. At a time when printing in the vernacular was relatively new and literacy was limited, Recorde’s approach was ground breaking.

His only medical work, The Urinal of Physick, is notable for its use of the vernacular as well as the choice of topic. At a time when fortune-telling and prophesying were highly suspect, uroscopy, or the study of urine for symptoms of disease could be seen as divinatory if it was the only medical method used. So to publish a treatise solely on urine, in English, was an original move especially as this type of literature was not typically produced by orthodox physicians.

Detail of urine flask in The Urinal of Physick

Urine flask detail from The Urinal of Physick (London, 1651)

Nor was this style of writing. It is a testament to Recorde’s innovative attitude to learning that he wrote his works the way he did. By introducing us to a general vocabulary of learning he enabled us to engage with ideas in a language that he helped mould as our own. And so, the lesson of this story is to never underestimate the allure of special collections, for old books, even those on maths = bliss, and as Recorde himself states: ‘no two things can be more equal’.

First World War resource guide launched

Special Collections and Archives has launched its new Resource Guide for the First World War era.

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While the library’s circulating book collections relating to the First World War cover about 10 shelves, in Special Collections and Archives we have another 10 shelf metres of contemporaneous reference sources: printed, ephemeral, and archival material produced in the period 1914-1920.

ww1

So far this is an untapped resource by students, and most academic staff, and we’re keen to promote this material for both undergraduate and postgraduate work. We estimate we have over 3,000 items in the Library’s collections from the period 1914-1920; we have selected around 700 for the guide which are focused on the War itself.

The 1914-1920 material outlined by the Resource Guide includes –

  • Eye witness accounts from the front line,
  • War poets and literary writings, especially the huge Edward Thomas archive,
  • Wide ranging political debates raging during the war,
  • Much League of Nations material, from early in the war to well after 1920,
  • Pro-war and Conscientious objectors’ perspectives,
  • Extensive press cuttings collections throughout the war years, giving a week by week, blow by blow account from the war’s start to its end
  • Pictorial and illustration sources from a wide range of printed material,
  • Many sources showing what life was like on the ‘home front’ during the war period.

ww1

Hopefully, from these original and contemporaneous sources, students will get an enhanced perspective on the War, getting a flavour from contemporary sources of how people thought, felt, and reacted in that difficult time.

Special Collections and Archives staff received extensive help from a volunteer, an American librarian in Cardiff, to produce the eventual guide, and we are grateful to Katherine Wilkins for her assistance.

The Resource Guide features on the Imperial War Museum’s guide to events, exhibitions, projects and activities. Find out more at www.1914.org.

South, West and Wales AHRC Doctoral Training Partnerships open day

Special Collections and Archives recently attended a recruitment event for students intending to apply for a South, West and Wales AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) studentship. These grants fund PhD theses which are  supervised by two Higher Education institutions within the partnership. This consortium approach allows students to draw on the academic expertise and unique and distinctive research collections of two Universities, widening possibilities for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration and discovery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcademics and research support staff from all partner institutions (Aberystwyth, Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Reading and Southampton) gathered at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff to meet with prospective students and discuss their requirements.

Our Special Collections and Archives stand was very busy, as applicants sought information on research collections covering a broad range of subjects. We received enquiries on Anglo-Welsh writers; folklore; the history of sport; Jane Austen; Restoration drama, archaeology; literary archives; Indian history; the history of genetics; male witches; interwar women’s history; medical history; Catholicism and martyrdom; philosophy; King Arthur; superstition and the occult; Gothic serialised literature; William Caxton; and 20th century charities.

Best of luck to all applicants – we look forward to working with you!

Hidden killers of the Victorian home

corsetTonight’s BBC4 documentary, Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home (10pm) reveals just how many ‘innovative’ domestic products and gadgets harboured deadly poisons and diseases.

Researchers from Modern TV spent several days  in Special Collections and Archives consulting illustrated Victorian periodicals, gathering stills for the documentary. Many useful images, often adverts, were found in Punch, the Illustrated London News, The Graphic, and magazines aimed at the Victorian housewife, such as The Sketch, The Queen, and Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. Over 1000 images were gathered in the research process.

The documentary explores the presence of arsenic in Victorian wallpaper, lead in toys’ paint, the unsafe use of gas and electricity, and unsterilised babies’ feeding bottles. It also explores the detrimental effect that the introduction of metal eyelets had on corsetry. The eyelets allowed women’s corsets to be pulled even tighter in the indulgence of fashion, causing considerable damage to the back and internal organs, and increased the risk of miscarriage, as many women continued to wear restrictive corsets throughout pregnancy.

Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home is available on iPlayer until 11th April 2013.

Resource guide for women’s history launched for International Women’s Day

brazilSpecial Collections and Archives is marking International Women’s Day 2013 with the launch of its latest resource guide on women’s history and gender studies. The guide covers sources from the 16th-21st centuries, including:

  • Bibliographies and reference works on British women’s history and writing;
  • Biographies of the lives of women;
  • Gendered children’s literature and comics;
  • Conduct, etiquette and advice manuals;
  • Broadsides and ballads relating to women as both victims and perpetrators of crime;
  • Memoirs, diaries and autobiographies of women;
  • Sources relating to women teachers, and girl’s eduction;
  • Journals, magazines and ballads on fashion and dress;
  • histmedHistorical works on women’s health and medical treatment, including the history of midwifery, gynaecology and obstetrics; the history of nursing as a profession; and reports of the Medical Officer for Cardiff, including data on maternity and child welfare;
  • A range of material relating to women’s lives around the world, including newspapers from Indian women’s organisations, Spanish Civil War sources related to women, sources relating to women in Australia, European Union and United Nations reports on women, and papers of female slavery abolitionists;
  • A wide range of women’s journals and magazines, from society pages to radical suffragette publications;
  • Literary works by women, including the papers of Ann Griffiths (poet), Joan Reeder (journalist), Maria Edgeworth (novelist), Felicia Hemans (poet), Mary Tighe (poet), and Lady Sidney Morgan (novelist). Information on female applicants to the Royal Literary Fund, and women writers published by Longmans;
  • Musical scores and archives from Morfydd Llwyn Owen (1891-1918), Grace Williams (1906-1977), and Nancy Storace (1765-1817);
  • Press cuttings from late 20th century Welsh newspapers on women’s issues;
  • girlgraduatePolitical papers from the British Labour Party and Newport Labour Party on women’s issues; papers of the Labour MPs Ellen Wilkinson and Marion Phillips; the diary of social reformer Beatrice Webb; archives of the Women’s Labour League, journals by Sylvia Pankhurst, and a range of suffragette magazines;
  • Books by and archives belonging to female travellers;
  • Papers relating to the history of female students at Cardiff University and its predecessors;
  • Sources on witchcraft and those accused of its practice (commonly women), in Europe and America;
  • Sources on women’s societies

Lunchtime workshops: women’s history and gender studies

Special Collections and Archives’ series of lunchtime workshops continues in December with sessions on women’s history and gender studies sources. The workshops are intended to raise awareness of the breadth of material available to support research in this area, and as a general introduction to using Special Collections and Archives.

The second workshop on women’s history sources will be led by Assistant Archivist, Alison Harvey. Topics will include: biography; children’s literature; conduct/advice manuals; crime; diaries and autobiographies; education; fashion; health and medicine; international affairs; journals and magazines; literature and journalism; music; newspapers; politics, suffrage and the labour movement; travel; University history; witchcraft; and women’s societies.

Workshops will be held in Special Collections and Archives, on the lower ground floor of the Arts and Social Studies Library, Corbett Road, Cardiff. The women’s history workshop is scheduled for 12-1pm on Thursday 6 December, and will be repeated at 1-2pm on Friday 7 December.

Workshops are open to all, but places are limited, so if you would like to attend either session, please email HarveyAE@cf.ac.uk, stating your preferred time.

A well-used book: marginalia and manuscript notes in an early 16th century herbal

This early herbal forms part of our Continental collection and was published in Paris around  1520. Our copy of Herbarum varias qui vis cognoscere vires (‘Various types of herbs that you want to know the powers of’) has been extremely useful to its previous owners and virtually every page is covered with detailed manuscript notes, observations, lists of ingredients, recipes and other marginalia.

Herbals, from the medieval Latin liber herbalis (‘book of herbs’), contain the names and descriptions of plants with details of their medicinal or culinary properties, often with illustrations to assist with proper identification. These books were among the first literature to be produced in both the East and the West and continued to flourish long after the invention of moveable type in the mid 15th century. We have several other early printed herbals in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection but none have been quite as well used as this one!

The right way to a long life: a 17th century physician on health, obesity and smoking

While cataloguing part of our Early English collection, I discovered this interesting work by the 17th century Somerset physician, Tobias Venner (1577–1660). Venner was a  pioneering writer on health and nutrition – he produced an important early treatise on the effects of tobacco and was also the first writer to use the term ‘obesity’.

On graduation from St Alban’s College, Oxford in 1599, Venner returned home to Somerset to establish his practice. By the time he obtained his medical degrees in 1613, he was already spending summers in Bath, where the city’s thermal spa enjoyed a reputation for the treatment of illness, and the annual influx of visitors ‘taking the waters’ provided a lucrative market for physicians.

In 1620 Venner published Via recta ad vitam longam (The right way to a long life), in which he described how hygiene, diet and environment can influence health. He cautioned against drinking water conveyed through lead piping and advocated cleaning of the teeth to prevent decay. Our 1622 edition of Via recta… is also bound with the second part, published the following year, in which he describes the benefits of sleep and regular exercise. Venner claimed that bathing in Bath’s thermal springs would “make slender such bodies as are too grosse.” “Let those that fear obesity …  come often to our Bathes. For by the often use of them … they may not onely preserve their health but also keepe their bodies from being unseemingly corpulent.”

Via recta… includes plenty of advice on sensible eating and drinking. For example, while Venner considered wine to be healthy in moderation, he believed it unsuitable for younger men because it “stimulates them like madmen unto enormous and outrageous actions.” Obviously not much has changed over the last 400 years!

Tobias Venner is also famed for his Briefe and accurate treatise concerning the taking of the fume of tobacco, first published in 1621. Although he recommended tobacco to improve digestion, Venner personally disliked its “detestable savour” and his observations on the adverse effects of smoking are remarkably close to those of modern medicine: “It dries the brain, dims the sight, vitiates  the smell, hurts the stomach, destroys the concoction, disturbs the humours and spirits, corrupts the breath, induces trembling of the limbs. It desiccates the windpipe, lungs and liver, annoys the milt, scorches the heart, and causes the blood to be adjusted.”

Venner could certainly claim to have discovered the right way to a long life: he died at Bath on 27 March 1660 at the grand old age of 83 and was buried in Bath Abbey.