Papers of: Barton, Alfred Bowyer (1825-1905)

Scope and Content

MSS. 5958-5963 comprise journals of A B Barton, mainly written while he was a medical officer in the service of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P & O), 1853-1858. They cover his journeys between Bombay, Singapore and Hong Kong; to the Crimea; and to the Far East. They include descriptions of the progress of the Chinese rebellion (MS. 5959), tending to and transporting the sick and wounded from Balaclava to Scutari (MS. 5960), and his shipwreck off the coast of Ceylon, together with General Henry Havelock, on the steamer Erin (MS. 5962). Some are manuscript or typescript copies. MSS. 7589-7594 comprise journals and sketches mainly relating to the Yangtse expedition, led by Captain Thomas W Blakiston, on which Barton served as a medical officer, 1861. One journal, MS. 7591, also records the end of the expedition and Barton's journey to Ceylon via Singapore, with entries on hunting expeditions in Ceylon. The journals are all fair copies. MS. 7592 comprises a narrative of the Yangste expedition read by Barton to the Royal Geographical Society, based on his journals. MS. 7593 is a series of mainly topographical illustrations relating to the expedition, comprising sketches by Barton, plus photographs and engravings based on other sketches by Barton, some of which were used to illustrate Five Months on the Yang-Tse by Thomas W Blakiston (London: John Murray, 1862). MS. 7594 comprises later papers of Brian M Gould relating to Barton and his journals, 1967 and n.d.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alfred Bowyer Barton was born at Bungay, Suffolk, in 1825, and entered University College, London, in 1844. After qualifying in 1847 he joined the West India Mail Steamship Service and worked through the yellow fever epidemic in the West Indies in 1848. In 1853 he was in the Peninsular and Oriental Company's service as a medical officer and worked in the East until 1855. He then went to the Crimea where he was in charge of the transport of the sick and wounded from Balaclava to Scutari. At the end of the war he sailed for India, and on the way was shipwrecked along with Sir Henry Havelock, then on his way to command the forces suppressing the Mutiny. Barton next saw service in the China war of 1860, and afterwards practised for a time in Shanghai. In 1861 he joined Captain Blakiston and Colonel Sarel in an exploration of the Yangtsze-Kiang River, then an almost unknown river above Hankow. The party reached Pingshan on the Tibet border but were forced to return by the rebels. For their work each of them received the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. After his return to England Barton took the MD degree of the University of St Andrews (1866), and the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, by examination (1865). He lived in retirement in Brechin Place, South Kensington, until his death on July 4th, 1905. Further biographical information can be found in A Doctor Remembers by Dr Edwin Alfred Barton, son of A B Barton (London: Seeley, Service & Co Ltd, c.1950). See also 'Notes on the Yangtsze-kiang' by A B Barton, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 1862.

Access Information

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

MSS. 5958-5963 purchased at Sotheby's, 19 July 1990, lot 317 (acc. 348373). MSS. 7589-7594 purchased at Sotheby's December 1997, lot 37 (acc. 350792).

Other Finding Aids

Described in: Richard Palmer, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine: Western Manuscripts 5120-6244 (London: The Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine, 1999) and subsequent typescript supplementary finding aids by Richard Aspin, Christopher Hilton, Keith Moore and Richard Palmer.

Archivist's Note

description compiled by Amanda Engineer based upon those in the Library's published finding aid by Richard Palmer and subsequent typescript supplementary finding aids by Richard Aspin, Christopher Hilton, Keith Moore and Richard Palmer. The biographical history is based on an obituary of Barton in the Lancet, 1905, vol 2, p193, and Barton's entry in Plarr's lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England revised by Sir D'Arcy Power; with the assistance of W G Spencer and G E Gask (London: Royal College of Surgeons of England, 1997).

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.