This collection comprises some of the original manuscripts extracted from the extensive historic medical library of the University of Manchester. The majority of the material has its origins in the library of the Manchester Medical Society, who deposited their library with the University in 1930. A significant portion of the colleciton originates from the Radford Library of St Mary's Hospital with a much smaller proportion coming from the library of the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Much of the surviving printed material from these libraries is currently held by the Rare Books Department of the John Rylands University Library and likewise there are several older manuscripts that were originally part of the Manchester Medical Society that are held separately by the John Rylands University Library.
The collection's content is broad and includes copies of lecture notes, case books, diaries, and pharmacopoeia from centres of medical teaching such as Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Berlin, and Leiden. The full range of subjects associated with medical education in this period are represented including anatomy, surgery, physiology, materia medica, botany, midwifery, and chemistry. A handful of diaries and a commonplace book give contextual information as to the more general social, political, and economic events that formed the backdrop to the medical profession in Manchester and the country as a whole.
The majority of these manuscripts came to either the Manchester Medical Society's library or the Radford Library as aresult of donations from some of 19th century Manchester's most distinguished medical men, such as John Hull, Charles Clay, and Thomas Radford. It is around these men that the collection has been arranged, with the manuscripts grouped into 22 series, each representing the individual who was either responsible for their creation or for their collection. Some of the manuscripts were created as a result of their own studies or professional activities (e.g. case books) and others had been collected or purchased by them and stand as a reflection of their professional interests. Those manuscripts created by Robert Dobson (MMM/1) and those created and collected by Thomas Radford (MMM/14) originate from the Radford Library of St Mary's Hospital rather than the Manchester Medical Society. Those manuscripts contained in series MMM/18-22 were donated at a later date and therefore were donated directly to either Owens College or the Victoria University of Manchester rather than through one of the older libraries. Where they are known, former references from these older libraries are given in the descriptions of individual items.
A final series (MMM/23) represents discrete manuscripts where their origins are not immediately clear. Many of these volumes contain annotations to indicate that they originated from the Manchester Medical Society's library but other than that it is not clear who was responsible for donating them. In some instances it is clear that manuscripts have been purchased by the Medical Society through the efforts of its committed librarians, such as Thomas Windsor, rather than having their origins in the local medical profession; the Hebrew manuscript of Avicenna's Canon of Medicine (MMM/23/2/14) is one such example.
The collection is significant for its reflection of the growth of the Manchester medical profession and the interests and activities of its members as well as containing some of the only known copies of early medical lectures given in the Manchester medical schools. These include those taken down by students John Lomas (MMM/7) and John Shepherd Fletcher (MMM/10), a copy of Joseph Jordan's surgical lectures (MMM/19/2), a copy of Samuel Bardsley's practice of physic lectures (MMM/23/1/20), and notes of midwifery lectures given by Thomas Radford, written in his own hand (MMM/14/1/9). In terms of subject matter there is a heavy emphasis on midwifery and obstetrics, which is a reflection of the interest some of the medical men of Manchester held in the subject at the time. The collection does not however focus solely on Manchester, and as Manchester-based doctors travelled to study they brought back from other regions lecture notes from some of the most prestigious physicians and surgeons of the time. Equally some individuals purchased copies of these lectures without actually having attended them if they were of interest, adding them to their own libraries before donating them to the Medical Society's library.
Individual items of particular interest are a small manuscript of cases treated in Manchester during the cholera outbreak of 1832 (MMM/4/2/1/2), a case book detailing the pioneering ovariotomy work of Charles Clay (MMM/16/1/1), and Samuel Bardsley's commonplace book (MMM/3/1) which references some of the major social and political changes of the early 19th century. There are some manuscripts that are made all the more valuable owing to the lack of work published by their authors, such as those containing notes from the midwifery lectures of Colin Mackenzie (MMM/14/2/3, MMM/16/2/6, MMM/23/1/3). More unusual items include an early 17th century German manuscript created by esoteric author Johann Baptist Grossschedel containing a pharmacopoeia and astrological works (MMM/23/2/1).