Thursday 31 October 2013

A head in the dandelions

This account of the Manchester medic Daniel John Leech was found by one of our volunteers Paul Carpenter in a box from the Leech collection. It was taken from Ernest Leech's Yellow Books, a series of manuscript notebooks on members of the Leech family.

The account was dictated to Ernest shortly before Daniel's death in 1900 and relates to Daniel's days as a medical student in Manchester in the late 1850s. Ernest Leech published this as part of an account of Daniel, 'Some Memoirs of an Infirmary Physician', in the Manchester Medical School Gazette, in 1922.

Being now paid assistant to Mr Richmond his principal, he could not be much away from home, hence he at times brought parts for dissection from the dissecting room, which at this time was very little looked after. This, of course, was quite illegal, and twice he was nearly found out. On one occasion he amputated the upper extremity of a subject, wrapped it up in brown paper and preceded to carry it home. Rain came on; after waiting some time he got in an omnibus, but the rain had softened the paper and he was horrified on looking at his parcel to see the hand sticking out. What the people thought he never knew, for he 'made tracks' at once. 

On another occasion in the spring months when those who had 'parts' were willing to sell them, he bought the head, neck and chest of a subject of which he was dissecting the upper extremity and succeeded in carrying it home. But it was a big thing to hide and he found eventually the best place for it was in the field just behind the back door where there were a large number of dandelions, many of which had sprung to the height of above two feet. 

When Mr Richmond had gone to bed he used to begin; he would bring the subject in and dissect it on the surgery counter until one and two o'clock in the morning and then take it among the dandelions again. But unfortunately a youth climbed up the wall and seeing the fine dandelions got over to gather them for his rabbit. Suddenly he saw the outstretched hand and the head of a man partly dissected, and he jumped back again, fainted, and was taken to an adjacent public house, where he told what he had seen. The result was a visit from the police, and Leech had no little difficulty in satisfying the authorities and bribing them to let the matter pass. 

The photograph above shows Daniel Leech with one of the first x-rays of his own hand. Read more about Daniel and the Leech family on the website.

Thursday 17 October 2013

The Edward Watkin Collection

You may remember our recent post on forgotten Mancunian Sir Edward Watkin, and the sterling work undertaken on the collection by our volunteer Catriona.

These images are from Watkin's own 1820 copy of London Cries, which forms part of the collection.

We are now pleased to say that there is a new page on the website devoted to Sir Edward and his mighty contribution to the Victorian railway age. The collection is now available for study, so please do get in touch if you would like to make an appointment to see it.

Watkin's copies of volumes 1-6 of the very rare journal The Anti-Monopolist have now been digitised and can be viewed here.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Welcome to Michael Wood!

A warm welcome to Michael Wood, our newest Honorary Patron. He joins Dame Joan Bakewell and artist Jeremy Deller, and don't forget that you can join in too! Anyone can be a patron of Chetham's Library and help to support our beautiful building and ancient library. Find out more on the 'Support Us' page of the website.

Thursday 3 October 2013

A bias for binding


Gorgeous medieval bindings from the John Byrom collection featured on the 101 Treasures page today including this beautiful example of work by the 'Virgin and Child binder'. Read more on the website.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Public history at a public library...

It's been a pleasure to welcome historian Michael Wood to the Library this week, along with several groups of first-year History students from the University of Manchester. Michael has recently been appointed Professor of Public History at Manchester, and was keen to introduce his new students to the resources available here at Chetham's. We look forward to many more collaborations in the future and wish the new students all the best for the year ahead.

Over to Olivia...

We have a guest post for you this morning from Olivia Hill, who is currently doing work experience here at the Library. We are all enjoying having her here, and have asked her to write a little about her experiences:

My name is Olivia Hill, I am a third year Art Restoration and Conservation student at the University of Lincoln. This is a three year practical degree which includes work on all things from tea cups to taxidermy as well as a lot of scientific work and the study of art history.

I am currently at Chetham's Library for a six-week practical placement in paper and book conservation and restoration, as well as spending some of my time with the conservation bookbinder Cyril Formby. To have the opportunity to work in a place so rich in history and knowledge is at times overwhelming, but mostly extremely exciting!

I have had the good fortune to undertake several different projects during my time here, including dry-cleaning a set of prints, learning how to stain faded leather and apply leather dressing to books, as well as picking up invaluable skills in archival conservation-restoration, bookbinding, and in-situ conservation-restoration.

My time spent with Cyril Formby has been a fantastic experience, and I have been learning all kinds of new skills. Recently we washed and de-acidified prints from an old scrap book. This was a terrifying experience as it involved laying around fifteen prints in a large sink with hot water, then pushing them down and agitating the prints to help clean them. I was more than a little surprised when all the prints came out unharmed! However, the delicate work didn't end there, we then had to carefully peel the prints off the paper they had been glued onto (another heart-in-mouth experience) and place them onto wire meshes to dry. Once dried the end results were fantastic: it has given a new lease of life to some of the older and more dirty prints, the detail is now more profound and they are great to look at. I also tried my hand at sewing a book for the first time, this turned out to be great fun and I don't think anything went too wrong!

All I hope now is that the breadth of knowledge from these books and experiences will enter my brain via osmosis during my time here and I will leave a genius!