William Hunter’s Library: a new project

‘William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues’ is a one-year Wellcome Trust funded project that aims to determine which books now in the Hunterian Collection in the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections actually belonged to Hunter. The main goal is to enable analysis of Hunter’s original library by creating a fully searchable and modernised catalogue of the library as it existed at the time of Hunter’s death in 1783.

I started working on this project late last year.* You can find out more about it here.

A secondary goal is to have the resource up and running before William Hunter’s tercentenary celebrations at the Hunterian Museum and the University of Glasgow in 2018. This project will be able to confirm which books can be confidently displayed as Hunter’s own in any related exhibitions.

The quest is more complicated than it may seem. Hunter died in 1783. Under the terms of his will his teaching materials and books were left to his nephew Matthew Baillie for his use at his uncle’s famous Windmill Street anatomy school until he could establish himself in practice. Baillie was finished with Hunter’s materials by the early nineteenth century and well on his way to creating his own collections. In 1807, Hunter’s anatomical preparations, coins, paintings, books, and other assorted collections, also under the conditions of Hunter’s will, came to the University of Glasgow. A newly constructed building in the centre of Glasgow was designed by William Stark to house the resulting Hunterian Museum.

But which books were Hunter’s by this time? Had Baillie added new books? Or kept certain useful ones for himself?

This project takes a manuscript library list created in 1783-1785 as its starting point. Hunter’s Trustees created this list and it is probably the best way of finding out exactly what on Hunter’s library shelves at the end of his life.

More updates on the project will appear at the Glasgow University Library Archives and Special collections blog.

You can also follow #WHL1783 for more frequent updates on Twitter.

*This is my excuse for the lack of posts on these pages!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *