Phantoms, Brains and Bodies: Geoffrey Jefferson and Rethinking the Mind, 1917-1939


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Dr Rebecca Wynter (University of Birmingham) is currently a Visiting Research Fellow in the John Rylands Research Institute. She is studying the neurologist and neurosurgeon, Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961), whose extensive papers are held at the Library. She writes:

I have been lucky enough to be awarded a three-month Visiting Fellowship at the John Rylands Research Institute to consult the papers of Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961). Jefferson, a founder of British neurosurgery, was a familiar figure at the University and hospitals of Manchester. If he is remembered today, it is for an eponymously-named spinal fracture, or for a 1952 BBC debate about artificial intelligence, counterbalancing the position of another Manchester professor, the mathematician, computing pioneer and Second World War code-breaker, Alan Turing.

One aim of my research is to draw Jefferson out of the shadows in much the same way as has been done for Turing, thanks in part to the archives at The University of Manchester Library.  Jefferson’s life does not hold the same haunted quality as Turing’s, but he too was a man of science working in the murk of world war. It is Jefferson’s Great War-era medical work with head injuries and in the aftercare of amputation which provides the focus of my research at the JRRI.

Geoffrey Jefferson's passport, showing him in civilian dress and military uniform, ref. JEF/1/4/2/1.

Geoffrey Jefferson’s passport, showing him in civilian dress and military uniform, ref. JEF/1/4/2/1.

In 1915, Jefferson was among the first staff of the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd (now St Petersburg). He set about repairing soldiers with gunshot wounds to the head, using the ghostly shapes cast by bullets in x-rays, and later publishing on the subject. Jefferson returned to Manchester, working from June 1917 to April 1918 at the military 2nd Western General Hospital. Whilst the Library has a rich personal archive from the renowned orthopaedic surgeon Harry Platt – Jefferson’s colleague in Manchester and lifelong friend – only traces of the Hospital and its patients at this time remain in the records.

In Jefferson’s papers, in a small notebook, the spirits of some of these patients can be glimpsed. The pages are peopled by men who, through war or accident, had lost arms or legs, fingers or feet, and were experiencing phantom limbs. The notebook therefore occupies an odd space. It survives when the men and their life stories have vanished. It describes limbs that have now been lost twice – once physically from the men, and then from their lived reality. Yet these apparitions continue to linger due to the fragile and often throw-away material of paper. Through the experiences of a phenomenon which has been at the heart of modern attempts to understand the divisions between mind and body, Jefferson sought to record personal descriptions of the frequently painful sensations the men’s limbs had left behind.

Page from Jefferson's Amputation Notebook relating to Harold, ref. JEF/1/1/2/1.

Page from Jefferson’s Amputation Notebook relating to ‘Harold’, ref. JEF/1/1/2/1.

‘Harold’ (aged 22), for example, had needed to have his left leg amputated from the lower thigh after a gunshot wound had resulted in gangrene in July 1917. Harold endured re-amputation in October of that year and had been troubled ever since. There was pain from an ankle no longer there. His left sole tingled. Muscles tensed. His lost toes were straight, but his foot felt clawed and ‘as if it had been put in boiling water’. Like others in the volume, Harold’s description is accompanied by Jefferson’s ink sketches of his stump as it physically appeared, and a rendering of his missing foot and portion of his leg. The drawing of his foot is arched, and its tingling area shaded. The depiction of his leg is reminiscent of a cuts-of-meat chart, with Harold’s toes, foot, ankle, stump, and mid-leg resembling five joints; this time, the shading is used to evoke the absence of any feelings from the thigh-knee-and-shin joint. In describing the presence of something no longer there, Jefferson sought to understand what the sensations of Harold and the other patients meant, and how temperature and touch affected the brain’s mapping of the body.

Beyond his haunting, we know little more of Harold. He barely grazed Jefferson’s long and eventful life in Russia, Manchester and neurosurgery. But each encounter we have leaves a trace. And with the benefit of research at the John Rylands Research Institute, Harold’s experiences can appear alongside Jefferson’s notions of mind and brain and give form to fleeting phantoms past.

Marking Walter Crane’s Centenary


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Today marks the centenary of the death of Walter Crane (1845-1915), one of the most important artists, designers and book illustrators of the Victorian era.

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Crane trained as a wood-engraver and became a freelance illustrator in the 1860s, while also exhibiting at the Royal Academy. During the 1860s and ’70s, his artistic output was prodigious. He designed the immensely popular children’s Toy Books for George Routledge, printed by Edmund Evans, as well as Evans’s own cheap ‘yellow-backs’, forerunners of the modern paperback. He also designed ceramics, nursery tiles and wallpaper. His clarity of line and use of flat areas of colour indicate a strong Japanese influence.


‘The bundle of sticks’, from The Baby’s Own Aesop (London: George Routledge, 1887). R144222.

Walter Crane became a Socialist under the influence of his friend William Morris, whom he met in 1871. The two men were leading figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which espoused honesty of design and materials, and sought to give proper recognition to the work of craftsmen. Like Morris, Crane wrestled with the paradox of his own position: he championed Socialism, while his commer­cial work catered for the tastes of a wealthy elite and he himself enjoyed a comfortable middle-class life.

Design for the Ancoats Brotherhood, Manchester. The figure of Hope appears to a workman, his wife and infant. R199330.

Design for the Ancoats Brotherhood, Manchester. The figure of Hope appears to a workman, his wife and infant. R199330

After the death of William Morris, Crane was the best-known decorative artist in Britain. He remained President of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society until 1912. However, Crane was unable to provide energetic leadership or direction. As the twen­tieth century advanced and new artistic trends came out of Europe, the Arts and Crafts Movement was perceived in some quarters as a relic of a bygone age.

On 18 December 1914 his wife Mary was killed by a train. The inquest recorded a verdict of suicide. Walter Crane died three months later in Horsham Cottage Hospital, on 14 March 1915.

In 2002 the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Library jointly purchased the Walter Crane Archive, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funders. The archive contains over four thousand items from Crane’s studio, and covers all aspects of Crane’s art and design work, including his book illustration, decorative designs, sketches and paintings. The artistic material is now located at the Whitworth, while the Library holds the textual elements of the archive: correspondence, commonplace books and journals, manuscripts, and photographs. A catalogue of the entire archive is available on Elgar.

The Library has recently digitised one of Crane’s hugely popular children’s books, King Luckieboy’s Picture Book, published by George Routledge in 1870. Clicking on the image below will open a browsable ‘bookreader object’ in Luna.

King Luckieboy's Picture Book (London: George Routledge, 1870). R221875

King Luckieboy’s Picture Book (London: George Routledge, 1870). R221875

Mr and Mrs Rylands get Red Noses for Comic Relief


Making their faces funny for Comic Relief: Mr and Mrs Rylands modelling this years red noses. Mrs Rylands does not look amused!

Nose Reconstruction!



Our fourth nose of the week is a wax portrait of John Dalton, which has been returned to The John Rylands after some facial reconstruction at The Manchester Museum.

John Dalton, 1766 – 1844, was an English chemist, physicist and meteorologist. He is best known for his pioneering work in the development of atomic theory and his research into colour blindness.

Medieval Style Nose Job.



Not the most comfie of post-op wear, this is a Medieval style suit for nose reattachment purposes from Tagliacozzi, 1597.

Tagliacozzi, De Curtrorum chirurgia, 1597. [Parkinson Collection 2390]

Tagliacozzi, De Curtrorum chirurgia, 1597. [Parkinson Collection 2390]

The Long Nose!


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Our Tuesday Nose.

The Elephants' Child - Rudyard Kipling.

The Elephant’s Child – Rudyard Kipling. SC6080A

After a tussle with a crocodile The Elephant’s Child models a much longer nose.
From Rudyard Kipling, Just so Stories: The Elephant’s Child, 1911.

Aldus Manutius and the Making of the Myth: conference report

Originally posted on Manutius in Manchester:

The Manutius in Manchester team were delighted to join the gathering of Aldo-philes in Venice to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Aldo’s death and share the latest research on Aldus and his critical fortuna through the ages. The conference was part of a whole series of events being organised this year by the Biblioteca Marciana and the University of Ca’ Foscari.Conference programme Appropriately, two of the three days were held in the Aula Magna of Ca’ Dolfin and the middle day at the lovely Sala Sansovino at the Marciana.Ca' Dolfin Scholars, collectors, curators, and conservators drawn from Italy, Cyprus, Crete, Greece, France, Germany, UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada and America heard some two dozen papers on all aspects of the Aldine workshop, from the origins of the press and the relation between Aldus and the Torresani family, to the examination of Aldus’ three wills. Sessions focused upon Aldus and his relation with the…

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Red Nose Week 2015 – Picking our Noses!


Here at The John Rylands library we’re having a week-long celebration of the nose in honour of Red Nose Day 2015 on Friday 13th March. The Team will be using social media to post a different nose image from our collections each day – some arty, some historic and some irreverent, all in support of Comic Relief. It was a difficult task choosing which noses to use as our collections covered so many different types. Please keep a nose out for them and support us at #jrlimages.

The Four Noses of Brasenose College-Herbert Hurst. R77284

The Four Noses of Brasenose College – Herbert Hurst. R77284

Not to be sniffed at we’re starting with The Four Noses of Brasenose College. The brazen probably refers to the door knocker in the shape of a nose and dates back to 1509.



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