University of Glasgow Library

23 May 2018 marks the 300th anniversary of William Hunter’s birth. Dr William Hunter (1718-1783) was an anatomist, physician, teacher of medicine and man-midwife. Today we view him as major figure in the Enlightenment and in the development of museums and university teaching collections.

Born in East Kilbride, Glasgow, Hunter studied at the University from 1731 to 1736 when he became a medical apprentice to William Cullen. In 1741 he moved to London permanently and became a leading anatomist and medical teacher. He was Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy of Arts in London from 1769 until 1772 and was appointed Physician Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte from 1764-1783.

The Hunterian was named for William Hunter who bequeathed his vast collection of coins, books, manuscripts, art works and anatomical and natural history specimens for use in teaching and research at his alma mater, arriving here in 1807.

Hunter’s library…

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William Hunter’s Tercentenary


Our seventeenth research blog of the 2017-18 class is by Rachael Buchan, and continuing the Mary Queen of Scots theme from this year’s course, she is examining GUA26613 (Clerk’s Press 1, p. 11), and BL487, relating to gifts made by Mary to the University. 

The Clerk’s Press is the oldest surviving piece of university furniture, acquired in 1634 with the purpose of holding a collection of ‘vital records’ of property, finance, staff, students, and university decision-making. In this collection is the Annales Universitatis Glasguensis, a leather-bound parchment volume, measuring roughly 21x31x6cm. It is a general register of the university, copied in 1490 from an earlier manuscript now lost, and maintained as a current record thereafter. It contains transcripts of grants, privileges, writs, names of persons incorporated, and statutes of the university dated between the foundation of the university in 1451 to 1558. There have been many contributing authors to the…

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Tax Exemptions by Mary Queen of Scots


De titulo et iure Mariae Scotorum Reginae – John Lesley (Rheims, 1580)

Good to get an insight into the academic work of students who double up as volunteer guides at The Hunterian. Anne’s passion for facts and a good story serve her well in both scenarios.

Our eleventh blog of the 2017-18 class comes from Anne Traill, and is one of several works by the Bishop of Ross, John Lesley, defending the life and reputation of Mary Queen of Scots.

The life of Mary, Queen of Scots has long been a subject of great interest and debate for historians, but relatively little work has been carried out on her trusted advisor John Lesley. His defence of her is the subject of this study. John Lesley’s De titulo et iure is a Latin translation of the second two books his 1569 text entitled A defence of the honour of the Princesse Marie, Quene of Scotlande and Dowager of France defending the right of Mary Queen of Scots to ascend to the English throne and the right of women to rule. Given Jenny Wormald’s scathing criticism of Mary for too great an interest in the English throne,[1]

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University of Glasgow Library

A guest blog post by Shauna Haynes, Renaissance Art MLitt work placement student

John Balbi of Genoa: Catholicon
Italy: 1399-1499
MS Hunter 2 (S.1.2)

My work placement in Special Collections this term focused on a study of decorated initials in illuminated manuscripts and incunabula in the Hunterian Library.

This study culminates in a display, on view from April-June in the showcase in the Special Collections level 12 foyer,  featuring some excellent examples of author portraits, a particular type of decorated initial showing the writer of the text.

There were many examples to choose from, but not all of the manuscripts made it into the exhibition. In part one of this blog, I will focus on one such illuminated manuscript: the Catholicon, and in part two, I will highlight some hidden elements from the works chosen for the exhibition.

I began my placement by examining MS Hunter 2

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Illuminated Faces: Author Portraits in the Hunterian Library


William Hunter’s Library: Auctions and Americana

University of Glasgow Library

Blog post by Ellie King, MSc Museum Studies Placement Student, William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues. Ellie worked on the Hunter Library Project from May to July 2017 to help with background research and book history enquiries, and also assisted in work with sale catalogues to determine where Hunter acquired his books. She has curated in advance a small display based on her work which will be exhibited from January – April 2018 to mark the start of Hunter’s Tercentenary year.

William Hunter is famous for his medical work, but the catalogues of his book collection show the wide range of his interests. Today the spotlight is on Americana — descriptions of the New World.

Travelogues and descriptions of exotic, faraway places comprise a significant part of Hunter’s library, and cover both the Old World and the New. His Americana books are rich accounts of voyages to…

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William Hunter’s Library: who were the Trustees?

University of Glasgow Library

Hunter’s relationship with his brother and fellow anatomist John was famously strained so it is not surprising that John was not a trustee for Hunter’s estate. Hunter’s nephew, Matthew Baillie, along with Hunter’s business partner William Cruikshank, were the main beneficiaries in Hunter’s will with Hunter leaving them the use of his collections and library at Great Windmill Street for thirty years . At the end of that time, Hunter’s vast collections and books were to come to Glasgow. Three London-based physicians acted as Trustees for Hunter’s legacy.

MR3_p414Museum Records 3, f. 414: Matthew Baillie and Hunter’s Trustees’ signatures confirming it as an accurate record of Hunter’s printed books

The final leaves of Museum Records 3 – the Trustees Catalogue of Hunter’s Library – give details about Baillie’s potential use of the books as part of his uncle’s plan that he should take over his anatomy lecturing business. The…

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Curiosity, Empire and Science in Eighteenth-Century France Class Trip

Great to see the Hunterian study centre at Kelvin Hall in full use.

St Andrews School of History

hunterian1.jpg Maggie Reilly (Zoology Curator) explains some of the taxonomic challenges faced by the Hunterian’s curators. Photo attrib. Sarah Easterby-Smith, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Blog written by Jamie Hinrichs, PhD student

On 8 March, Dr Sarah Easterby-Smith’s undergraduate module ‘Curiosity, Empire and Science in Eighteenth-Century France’ travelled to the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. Additional members of this expedition included a visiting lecturer from the School of Art History and a few postgraduate students – of which I was one. Although the holdings of the museum were unlikely to relate to my PhD thesis topic, and although I was lacking contextual knowledge of the eighteenth century and notions of “empire”, what historian-in-training could resist an invitation to a museum? Furthermore, what human being could resist an invitation to spend a day in a museum with Dr Easterby-Smith? I certainly could not.

The Hunterian is Scotland’s oldest public museum, founded in 1807. It was built…

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