Medical Manuscripts Collection

  • Reference
      GB 133 MMM
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English , German , Latin , French , Dutch Hebrew
  • Physical Description
      13 li.m 319 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, Main University Library.

Scope and Content

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.

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).

Administrative / Biographical History

Reognising the lack of a professional organisation for the now burgeoning medical profession in the Greater Manchester area to meet and discuss new ideas and share practical experiences, the Manchester Medical Society was formed in 1834. The obstetrical surgeon John Hull was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the society as well as its first president, and he being a keen bibliophile it was no surprise that one of its central services was its medical library. The library was intended as an invaluable resource accessible to all members, the like of which did not exist anywhere else in the area. The library began relatively modestly with small donations from Hull himself, and benefactors such as Samuel Argent Bardsley, Thomas Radford, and John Windsor. Just one year after the Society's formation, an 1835 catalogue detailed 1075 items in total.

The Society and its library were initially housed at 40 Faulkner Street, the house of one Mrs Boond, who took up the role of librarian for several years. In 1845 the move was made to rooms in the Royal Institution on Mosley Street, where they remained for thirty years. It was during this time, in 1855, that the Society's fortunes hit their lowest point and was in danger of dissolution. The Society's finances were in such disarray that an agreement was entered upon with the Royal Institution whereby the Society would become the Institution's medical section and the library was handed over to them in trust with a further provision stating that should the Royal Institution ever dissolve the library would be left to the Chetham Library authorities.

Dr Samuel Crompton, on taking up the position of secretary for a second time in 1856, made a concerted effort to reverse the Society's fortunes with an appeal for donations in the form of money and books; he himself gave 211 volumes. At the same time Crompton was also successful in enlisting the help of Thomas Windsor, who in 1858 was appointed honorary librarian and went to great lengths to improve the library's usability by preparing a number of catalogues as well as broadening the scope of the collection through the purchase of a number of rare books. This saw 10,000 volumes added to the collection during his time as librarian. Windsor gave up the official role of Librarian in 1864, but that did not mean that his endeavours to see the library expand into an exceptional resource ended there, and by the early 20th century it was hailed as the largest medical library in the UK outside of London. His successors in the post of librarian included John Roberts (1864-1868), Christopher Currie Ritchie (1871), and Charles J. Cullingworth (1872-1878), all of whom made notable contributions to the working of the library.

1861 saw another significant donation to the library when Charles Clay donated his valuable library of nearly 1000 volumes on obstetrics. Other notable donors over the years include Thomas Windsor and James Lomax Bardsley. By 1879 the library contained and estimated 22,623 volumes.

In the 1870s the Manchester Royal School of Medicine merged with Owens College to become their department of medicine, and following the erection of new premises by Owens College to the west of Oxford Road it was seen fitting that the medical library be housed nearby. As such, the Society's library was transferred to the new College buildings in 1875. The Royal Institution and the Chetham Library authorities agreed to cancel the deed of agreement previously reached meaning that the library was now to come under the full ownership of the Medical Society for the first time in a number of years. The library continued to grow over the following years and by 1930 the Medical Society found itself unable to meet the demands of administering such a large library and so at an annual meeting of 7 May 1930 it was resolved to hand it over to the University, where Society members would still retain a right to use the facilities.

The University at this time also held medical libraries donated by the Manchester Royal Infirmary and St Mary's Hospital. The Radford Library of St Mary's Hospital had been established in 1853 through the generous gifts of Thomas Radford and focused predominantly on obstetrics and the diseases of women and children. In 1877 when a catalogue was produced by Charles J. Cullingworth there were approximately 3,400 volumes in the library and by the time it was donated to the University in 1927 the figure was believed to be closer to 7,000. The library of the Manchester Royal Infirmary was of a similar size and had been gifted to the University in 1917. Similar contributions came from the Macclesfield and Bolton Infirmaries.


The collection has been arranged into the following 25 sub-fonds: 

  • MMM/1 - Robert Dobson
  • MMM/2 - John Hull
  • MMM/3 - Samuel Bardsley
  • MMM/4 - John Windsor
  • MMM/5 - Edward Stephens
  • MMM/6 - John Gregson Harrison
  • MMM/7 - John Lomas
  • MMM/8 - Joseph Jordan
  • MMM/9 - Adolph Samelson
  • MMM/10 - John Shepherd Fletcher
  • MMM/11 - James Bower Harrison
  • MMM/12 - Edward Lund
  • MMM/13 - Arthur Burgess
  • MMM/14 - Thomas Radford
  • MMM/15 - James Barlow
  • MMM/16 - Charles Clay
  • MMM/17 - Samuel Crompton
  • MMM/18 - William Smith
  • MMM/19 - Ernest Bosdin Leech
  • MMM/20 - Frederick Craven Moore
  • MMM/21 - Robert Newton
  • MMM/22 - John SB Stopford
  • MMM/23 - Discrete Manuscripts
  • MMM/24 - John Ward
  • MMC/25 - John Sims
  • MMM/26 - John Augustine Orr

This is a reflection of the individual Manchester medical men who were responsible for the creation and/or collection of the manuscripts before they were donated to the medical library. MMM/23 lists a number of discrete manuscripts where information relating to their creator and/or their custodial history is not known, which is further subdivided into British and Continental European manuscripts.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Act 2018 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Archivist's Note

Throughout the catalogue the original terminology has been used in the description of each item with modern terms given in square brackets using MeSH (US National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Headings) where appropriate. Similarly translations of some Latin terms are also provided in square brackets.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


Accruals are possible. The series will be maintained to accommodate single manuscripts or very small collections which complment the existing content.

Related Material

The archive of the Manchester Medical Society (MMS) is also held at the University of Manchester Library and contains a section with papers relating specifically to the operation of its library (MMS/1/9). Also of interest and held at UML is the Manchester Medical Collection (MMC) which contains a wide range of documents relating to the history of medicine in Manchester including many rare publications, biographical information of Manchester-based practitioners, and material relating to early medical education in the city, medical societies, and many of the medical institutions and organisations.


E.M. Brockbank, 'The Library of the Manchester Medical Society', British Medical Journal, 1930, 1(3621) pp.1017-8.

William Brockbank, The Honorary Medical Staff of the Manchester Royal Infirmary, 1830-1948 (Manchester, 1965).

Catalogue of the Library of the Manchester Medical Society (Manchester, 1890).

C.J. Culllingworth Catalogue of the Radford Library, St Mary's Hospital, Manchester 1877.

C.J. Cullingworth, 'The Library of the Manchester Medical Society, Manchester, England', Medical Libraries, 1900, 3(1) pp.4-6.

W.J. Elwood é A.F. Tuxford, Some Manchester Doctors (Manchester, 1984).