Notes on Clairvoyantes who have Read in Nutshells

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Notebook giving brief descriptions of 44 unidentified females who had read in nutshells, or evidenced some other clairvoyant ability. Many of the women had undergone hypnosis. The paper of the volume is watermarked 1848.

Administrative / Biographical History

The clairvoyancy referred to in the title appears to have resulted from a form of hypnosis, or mesmerism, where practitioners (usually male) rendered subjects (usually female) unconscious via a series of repeated hand gestures. Thus entranced, subjects experienced various forms of altered states, including personality shifts and clairvoyance. In the depths of the trance, they appeared unable to see, hear or experience pain, a state of great interest to early Victorian surgeons searching for ways to anesthetize patients. The treatment was never without controversy and a series of fraudulent cases discredited animal magnetism within the London medical elite. However, the popularity of mesmerism increased during the 1840s and 1850s, sustained by a growing number of lay and professional practitioners who used it to treat mental and physical disorders, chronic invalidism and to relieve the pain of childbirth. Clairvoyant feats were one of the most debated phenomena of mesmerism, especially in the 1840s.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Rylands, on behalf of the John Rylands Library, in 1901 from James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford.

Note

Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow, with reference to Alison Winter, Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain (1998).

Custodial History

Formerly part of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana, the Library of the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, from Haigh Hall, Wigan, Lancashire. Stamped The Laboratory, Soho, 48 Greek St.