MHAW – The 18th/19th Century Approach


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To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, the latest blog from the Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection looks at some of the attitudes of medical professionals from the 18th & 19th centuries and the forms of treatment they employed.

Two Manchester based physicians, teaching in the city in the first half of the 19th century, make similar comments as to the physical causes of mental illnesses as well as alluding to the overarching lack of knowledge in the area. Richard Baron Howard (1807-1848) comments that insanity is owing to “an abnormal lesion of the brain but we cannot always find any structural lesion but it is admitted by all that the brain is the organ affected in all cases … we can seldom find anything sufficient to explain the symptoms” (MMM/10/2) which Samuel Bardsley (1764-1850) corroborates with the comments “All diseases of the mind are difficult to understand in as much as the physiology of the mind is so little understood. The definition of insanity is very hard to give & hardly any two authors agree to giving the same definition.” (MMM/23/1/10)

Medical descriptions of psychiatric problems at this time tend to focus largely on the physical and can be all too brief. The belief stated by many that all mental illnesses were caused by some hard to identify organic lesion of the brain meant that background information relating to the patient’s social welfare and family and personal circumstances was often completely neglected. One writer on the subject does note the contrast between the accounts of medical professionals and those of close family members, who in contrast often went into great detail about the individual’s life (Akihito Suzuki, Madness at Home, 2006, University of California Press, p.39).  Much emphasis is also placed on the hereditary factor of mental health with many physicians in this period citing it as one of the most common causes and mid-nineteenth century institutional providers of care making a point of investigating family history in their initial assessment of patients.

The theories that the medical profession formulated at this time to explain the causes of mental illness often also informed their treatments. These could be quite varied, based on a doctor’s personal experience with specific patients, and also, like the theories on the causes, be a point of contention between physicians too.  A manuscript whose author is unknown from the late 18th century offers the following view:

“The great object of cure is putting them under restraint as it very much distresses the patient, and this now used is a short waistcoat and this kept on for 2 or 3 days in this manner we will often effect a cure. The restraint by fetters and chords and their struggling with them is very hurtful, an erect posture too is favourable.  They ought not to be kept in their own houses or suffered to be seen by strangers. Fear has been often employed, and it sometimes may have done good, but oftener it has done great harm & great severity too does great harm. I think the strait waistcoat with the awe of a stranger to look over him will generally be sufficient.” (MMM/23/1/10)

Nearly 50 years later in the late 1830s Samuel Bardsley suggests firmness but not severity is beneficial and also warns against the lack of suitable care for those that need it:

“Dr B. states the unpleasantness of having to give evidence in cases of mania. This he stated to be much increased by the knowledge of the fact that there were so few keepers who were really fit for the office of attending upon the patient should you condemn them to confinement. …

“Firmness on the part of the attendants is particularly to be recommended but with this firmness a system of conciliation in manners to be combined. Severe bodily restraint is to be avoided as much as possible as it creates a degree of irritation of mind which tends to retard the recovery of the patient.” (MMM/23/1/20)

The many other common treatments included cold baths, exercise, simple diet, opiates, and bleeding (both general and topical). Purgatives were common throughout the period also, with Bardsley remarking on them as “most important remedies in the treatment of mania. It has been long known that an obstructed state of the bowels is a very common concomitant of this disease.”

Medical men at this time were also known to comment on the higher occurrence of insanity in women than in men referring to the ‘greater irritability of the female sex depending probably in part upon the addition of the uterine system’, with a diagnosis of hysteria in women being very commonplace, and to be the subject of a later posting…

Undiscovered collections: Guardian Archive Printed Collection


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A team from Collection Management has recently completed restoring and cataloguing The Guardian Archive Printed Collection. The majority of the collection, which accompanies the Guardian Archive, was gifted to the Library in 1971, with further books added.  Many items originated from the Manchester Guardian Library in the offices of the Guardian newspaper (formerly the Manchester Guardian until 24 August 1959) which was based in Deansgate, Manchester.

The collection comprises of mainly 20th-century books with a handful of 19th-century items.  It includes yearly publications, such as The Bedside Guardian; Guardian yearbook; Style book, and other publications by and/or about the Guardian, alongside fiction and non-fiction monographs by writers associated with the Guardian, such as Neville Cardus, Allan Monkhouse, C.E. Montague, Harold Brighouse, H. W. Nevison and Arthur Ransome. These items reflect the interests of the journalists and compliment our Railway Collections and the Brockbank Cricket Collection.

Many of the items contain interesting provenance information, such as book labels, bookplates, perforated stamps, ink stamps, inscriptions, and location labels on the front covers. Whereas some provenance information relates to the Manchester Guardian Library, others relate to former individual and institutional owners: several of the books have been withdrawn from public libraries around the country.

Bursary for MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Manchester


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jrl1001826dc cropped

Dante, Divina Commedia, with commentary by Cristoforo Landino (Florence, 1481), f. 13r.

The MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies is based at the John Rylands Research Institute at The University of Manchester. The John Rylands Research Institute was launched in 2013 in response to the changing landscape of research in the arts, notably the increase in opportunities for collaboration between the traditionally distinct fields of arts and sciences. The Institute is based at the John Rylands Library, which has world-leading collections of manuscript, printed and visual material. Teaching on the interdisciplinary MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies is delivered in partnership with the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, with input from curators from the John Rylands Library.

This programme offers students an opportunity to pursue interests in the literatures, histories, and cultures of Europe in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Staff teaching on this MA represent the disciplines of History, Art History and Visual Studies, English, Religions and Theology, Classics, and European Languages. Find out more about the MA programme here:

The John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester, is delighted to offer a bursary (to the sum of Home/EU fees = £7,700) to a candidate who has been accepted as a full-time student on the MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies, commencing in September 2016. The successful applicant will be interested in medieval or early modern studies in an interdisciplinary context. The closing date for this competition is 27 May 2016. For full details of eligibility and how to apply for this award please see: or contact Dr Irene O’Daly, Associate Programme Director, MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies:


A Mystery Methodist: Is this John Wesley, Charles Wesley or someone completely different?


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Dr Gareth Lloyd writes:

One of the fascinating aspects of working with special collections is the opportunity to uncover treasures that have previously lain undetected and unidentified.

One recent find from our world-leading Methodist collection is what appears to be an early 18th century oil painting of a young man wearing preaching bands – the forerunner of the modern clerical dog-collar (image 1). Written on the back of the portrait is the identification “John Wesley 1726” (image 2). This handwriting is probably late 19th or early 20th century in date – more recent than the painting itself. There is no provenance (record of ownership or custodianship) with the portrait and no indication of how or when the item entered the collection.

If authentic, this portrait would be of great interest as a previously unknown likeness of the founder of Methodism. It would have particular value as a depiction of Wesley as a young obscure Oxford academic before his meteoric rise to fame as one of the greatest leaders of the post-Reformation Church.

Accurate identification of portrait subjects is often fraught with difficulty even for experts and this particular example is no different.

Many likenesses exist of John Wesley. Over the last 250 years, his face has appeared in formal portraits, street sketches, caricatures, on commemorative tea pots and Christmas calendars. However, comparatively few of these were taken from life and what Wesley really looked like remains an open question, particularly as his appearance changed over the course of an 87 year life span.

The confirmed likeness of the adult Wesley that is the closest in date to the 1726 portrait is an engraving by John Faber of an original painting by John Williams dated circa 1741 when Wesley was aged 38 (image 3). There appears to be a superficial facial resemblance between the subjects depicted in the two works, but there are also significant differences, which cannot all be accounted for by the interval of approximately 15 years between the sittings. Most noticeably, there is a dimple in Wesley’s chin in the Faber engraving, which is not there in the 1726 portrait. The 1726 sitter also has a high forehead and thinning hair compared with the later likeness.

Facial comparison is a very uncertain way of identifying a portrait and is inevitably subjective. This is rendered even more complex when one is reliant on engravings produced by printers of varying quality. This problem is illustrated by image 4, which is another 18th copy of Faber, but one that is noticeably different in appearance from the likeness in image 3 even though it is taken from the same source portrait and engraving. To further complicate matters, image 4 is misidentified as Charles Wesley.  All of this testifies to the difficulties in making accurate identifications even from contemporary or near-contemporary evidence.

If one assumes that the 1726 painting is not a portrait of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, then could it be a different John Wesley? The fact that the sitter wears clerical bands indicates that he was in Anglican orders and was probably therefore educated at either Oxford or Cambridge. No-one by the name of John Wesley matriculated at Cambridge during the first half of the 18th century, but four John Wesleys or Westleys entered Oxford during this time-frame.  However, with the exception of the founder of Methodism, none of them are recorded as having subsequently entered Holy Orders.


Portrait of Charles Wesley, unknown artist, c.1735.

Another less likely, but nonetheless intriguing possibility, is that the 1726 subject was not John Wesley, but his younger brother Charles (1707-88). Charles entered Christ Church Oxford in 1726 at the age of 19 with a prestigious King’s Scholarship from Westminster School and a portrait might have been considered appropriate to mark the occasion. Charles was not an ordained minister in 1726, but his formal dress as a King’s Scholar comprised a robe and bands. Again, there are some intriguing facial similarities between the 1726 sitter and the earliest generally accepted adult portrait of Charles Wesley by an unknown artist, dated circa 1735 (image 5).

Ultimately, identification of this early portrait with Wesley rests principally on the name and date written on the back. It is possible that whoever recorded that information was wrong and that there is no connection. However, it is also possible that the subject of the portrait is correctly recorded as “John Wesley 1726”.

The question should be asked why would the anonymous owner/custodian have made such a positive and precisely dated identification without specific reason? In support of this possibility is the fact that the painting is a crude piece of work. It has been described by Dr Peter Forsaith, an expert on Wesley portraiture, as “extremely primitive, in composition and technique – an itinerant rural artist at best.” This is perhaps the kind of portrait that John Wesley, as a poor scholar, would have been able to afford to mark his election in 1726 as a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. Perhaps the artist was not talented enough to add Wesley’s dimple or paid enough to do full justice to Wesley’s flowing locks – always a source of great personal pride to the Methodist patriarch. Such niceties of depiction lay in the future when Wesley was painted by eminent society artists and knew his own “best side”.

In conclusion, the best that can be said is that this portrait is supposedly of John Wesley in 1726. It certainly belongs in the category of many ‘unauthenticated likenesses’ of the Methodist leader, but it raises enough doubt and possibility to allow for a lively and fascinating debate.

(Dr Peter Forsaith of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History at Oxford Brookes and Professor Richard Heitzenrater of Duke University kindly provided comments that informed the writing of this blog entry)

Gandhi and Charlie


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What the Papers Say: the Editorial Correspondence of C.P. Scott in the Guardian Archive.

C.P. Scott by Walter Doughty

C.P. Scott by Walter Doughty

At the beginning of April, I began cataloguing the editorial correspondence of C.P. Scott, a towering figure in the history of the Manchester Guardian. It is already clear that he held many of his correspondents in high regard, soliciting their opinion and requesting that they contribute articles for publication. Throughout the project, I will highlight interesting correspondence and correspondents, and it’s particularly exciting to find both at the same time.


Charles Freer Andrews Commemorative Stamp

Charles Freer Andrews Commemorative Stamp

 My first highlight of the collection is Charles Freer Andrews. Andrews was a minister, and a campaigner for Indian Independence. He travelled to India as a missionary in 1904, and later made his home at Santiniketan, the ashram of Rabindranath Tagore. He acted as emissary, intermediary and advocate for Indian rights throughout the British Empire.

He was also a friend of Mahatma Gandhi, so close a friend that he features in the 1982 biopic of Gandhi, (played by Ian Charleson). Andrews was involved, with Gandhi, in the civil rights campaigns in South Africa and in India.

Andrews’ correspondence and the articles he wrote for the Manchester Guardian frequently relate, both politically and personally, to Gandhi and his work. He describes Gandhi’s release from prison in 1924 and subsequent illness, the influence of Gandhi in ensuring that protest marches remained non-violent, and his support of Gandhi’s campaign against untouchability and the non-cooperation movement.

There are 44 letters from and about Charles Freer Andrews in the C.P. Scott editor’s correspondence series, dated between 1922 and 1930.

Guardian Archive Collection GDN/A/A30/22. Reproduced courtesy of the Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Guardian Archive Collection GDN/A/A30/22. Reproduced courtesy of the Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Through their correspondence, we can see the cordial and active working relationship between Scott and Andrews, and articles by Andrews, written at Scott’s request, are regularly published in the Manchester Guardian. However, it is also clear that they do not always agree. In this letter to the Rev. L.B. Cholmondeley, who had written to the Manchester Guardian about his concern on the publication of Andrews’ articles, Scott comments that Andrews may be too influenced by native opinion regarding India.

The Laur-Chand: an Indian Sufi romance


Hindustani MS 1 has been digitised and is now available to view online in the Rylands Collection.

This sixteenth-century copy of the Laur-Chand by Maulana Daud is one of the Library’s most beautiful and important manuscripts.

Dr Jacqueline Suthren Hirst has kindly provided an introduction to the story and to our manuscript.

The story

Maulana Daud, a Sufi poet from Dalmau (modern Uttar Pradesh, India), composed his narrative of the hero, Laurak, and his beloved, Chanda, around 1377-78 A.D.  Drawing on a popular north Indian regional folktale, which still circulates in vibrant performative traditions today, Daud used the language of Avadhi (or Hindavi) to compose the first surviving Indian Sufi romance, a model for later poets.  Avadhi was both a courtly literary language and a vernacular; Daud used Persian masnavi conventions, such as opening verses in praise of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad and his four Companions, his patron and his own pir (Sufi teacher), alongside Indian images and settings, to create an Indo-Islamic story with wide appeal.The story tells of the mutual love of Laur (Lorik/Laurak), already married to Maina, and the beautiful Chand (or Chanda), separated from an unsuccessful childhood marriage.  Brought together through the mediation of Chanda’s nanny, they run away together and face many trials, including Chanda’s near-fatal snakebites, the result of a curse. Eventually, they return to Maina, but the end of the story is unknown, none of the five surviving manuscripts being complete.  Chanda’s beauty draws Laurak, the Sufi seeker, to God’s beauty; his ‘death’ to nafs, the ego-self, as she ‘dies’ at the second bite, hints at fana’, the annihilation of the seeker in God’s being alone.

Laurak has just scaled the wall to Chanda’s bedchamber, before they have actually met. He gazes on her beauty as she sleeps, her female companions failing to wake and guard her as they should. The verses opposite describe the gorgeous wall-hangings: the ten-headed demon Ravana, the capture of Sita, Rama preparing for battle, from the epic of Rama and Sita; the story of the Pandavas, from the Mahabharata, the other great Indian epic; lions and deer – all delicately etched on the walls ‘the colour of aloewood’, gold-leafed in the painting.  In a moment, Laurak will wake Chanda, and the passion of their romance will begin…


The manuscript

The Manchester Chandayan is the most extensive extant manuscript, despite lacking beginning, end and some middle pages. A clever use of picture series draws readers into the story, immersing them in an experience which hints at emotions and unfolding action, creates suspense and engages them at the pace of the narrated tale.  While previously the Manchester manuscript was seen as an inferior version of a common lost original better reproduced by the Mumbai Chandayan (Losty), Adamjee has now convincingly argued for its subtle independent narrative strategies intertwining paint and word. The 286 minatures are characteristed by a pastel palette, minimal underdrawing, infilling patterns drawn from fabric design, and extensive gold leaf. The text pages show a Persian section-caption in red ink, above five verses in chaupai rhyming couplets in two columns, with the final verse of each section, in longer doha metre, at the bottom of the page, all written in naskh script.

Origin: India (North Deccan workshop, or possibly court of Malwa), 16th century (possibly c.1570 A.D).

Physical description: 239 x 148mm, 636 paper pages, nineteenth-century leather flap binding.

Manuscript history: Formerly part of the collection of the Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865). Bland’s oriental manuscripts were sold through Bernard Quaritch in 1866 to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford. The Crawford manuscript collection was purchased in 1901 by Enriqueta Rylands, founder of the John Rylands Library.

Further Reading

Adamjee, Qamar,  ‘Strategies For Visual Narration in the Illustrated Chandayan Manuscripts’, unpublished doctoral thesis, (New York University: Institute of Fine Arts, 2011).

Hines, Naseem, Maulana Daud’s Cāndāyan: A Critical Study (New Delhi: Manohar, 2009).

Losty, Jeremiah, The Art of the Book in India (London: British Library Reference Division Publications, 1982).

Pandey, Shyam Manohar, The Hindi Oral Epic Loriki (Allahabad: Sahitya Bhawan, 1979).

___  The Hindi Oral Epic Canaini (Allahabad: Sahitya Bhawan, 1982).

___ ‘Love Symbolism in Candayan’, in Monika Thiel-Horstmann (ed.), Bhakti in Current Research 1979-1982 (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1983), pp. 269-93.

Suthren Hirst, Jacqueline, ‘An Indian Sufi romance’, in John Hodgson (ed.), Riches of the Rylands (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), p.211.


Cholera Comes to Manchester


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“The characteristic symptoms that define this disease are a constant vomiting and purging, the matter thrown up bilious attended with constant nausea and gripes and sometimes spasms of the legs. … most met with in the warm climates and brought on by an over flow of the bile, or eating a large quantity of ripe fruit, and also the sudden change from a warm to a moist air. The progress of the disease is very rapid and patients have died in 12 hours from the attack.” Comments on cholera from a manuscript of 1792 [MMM/23/1/10]

In 1831 cholera was spreading across continental Europe and worrying health authorities in Britain who met late in the year to discuss the potential problem and possible measures to keep it out of the country. However, the first cases were reported in Sunderland in October 1831 and it soon spread across the country taking hold in Manchester in 1832. Doctors at the time were in general disagreement as to the nature of the spread of the disease with some believing it was contagious and others attributing it to general uncleanliness. We now know the most common cause to be contaminated food and water.

In response, the authorities in Manchester established a hospital for the treatment of cholera victims at Knott Mill, Jordan Street, just behind Deansgate Train Station. Dr Edward Stephens was appointed one of the Cholera Medical Officers for the city and treated patients at Knott Mill and accounts of his life report how he was deeply affected by the effects the disease had and the rapidity with which some of his patients died.

John Windsor, another prominent Manchester surgeon at the time, recorded the details surrounding some of the patients he treated in a case book dedicated specifically to cholera victims. Although only a relatively small number of cases are recorded in this manuscript the addresses he supplies show all of his patients to be based either in the area surrounding Sackville Street or in Ancoats. We can also see that some died within 24 hours of Windsor’s first visit and few survived more than a couple of days. The first case reads as follows:

“James White’s wife, age 31, under 60 Silver St, 5 months advanced in pregnancy was seized with cramps, vomiting, and purging with the other symptoms of the prevailing epidemic at 9 o’clock AM 8th July. She only returned from Liverpool the preceding day but had not while there visited any one labouring under cholera. No remedies were used until I was called in at 4PM. She then was in excessive pain and screaming violently from the severity of the cramps in her legs and thighs, pulse indistinct and not to be counted, countenance shrunk and bluish, tongue cold, sickness severe, alvine evacuations frequent and exhibiting the usual white flocculent appearance … Ordered hot bricks to the feet, a mustard poultice to the epigastrium and hydragyri submuriatis [mercury (I) chloride] and opium with two tablespoonfuls of the following mixture between each dose of the pills, [aromatic confection, tincture of cinnamon, aromatic ammonia spirit, tincture of opium, & mint water], drinking occasionally one teaspoonful of brandy to a tablespoonful of mint tea …She continued in the same state asking repeatedly for drink until 2 o’clock AM when throwing out her arms and without uttering any complaints she expired. No inspection of the body was made.” Cholera Case Book [MMM/4/2/1/2]

L0003051 A cholera patient experimenting with remedies. Coloured Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images 'A cholera patient', caricature of a cholera patient experimenting with remedies (Robert Cruikshank's random shots No. 2) Coloured etching 1832 By: Robert CruikshankPublished: [1832?] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

L0003051 A cholera patient experimenting with remedies. 1832 By: Robert Cruikshank
Credit: Wellcome Library
Copyrighted-CC BY 4.0

There was little the medical community could do in the face of such an epidemic, yet certain treatments were very popular and held to be effective in fighting cholera. The use of opium had been highly recommended for several years at this point in addition to emetics, mercury, and wine. Windsor also treated one of his patients with prussic acid, or hydrogen cyanide. With such a concoction of hazardous substances on offer it is no wonder patients had little hope of survival and medical men were satirised for their efforts.

New inventory of our European Proclamations and Broadsides now available


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Printed Revolutions

inventory front page

I have now completed the inventory of the John Rylands Library European Proclamations and Broadsides (EPAB), a unique resource containing well over 10,000 items printed all over Europe between c.1530 and c.1890. The inventory complements the digitisation project ‘Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, 1789-1815’ announced previously on this blog, but it provides information on the entirety of EPAB. Although centred on France, this collection also includes material from elsewhere in Europe, including Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. It is the very first inventory to be made of the collection.

Please click on the link below to download a PDF copy of this inventory, or go to the ‘Inventory’ page of this blog for further information (see toolbar at top of page).

JRL EPAB Inventory

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