Papers relating to Percival Willughby

Scope and Content

Research notes and correspondence relating to Professor Phillips' address given at the Lloyd-Roberts Lecture at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester in November 1952, entitled 'Percival Willughby, Gentleman: A Man-Midwife of the 17th century', and also concerning his efforts to reprint Blenkinsop's edition of Willughby's Observations.

Administrative / Biographical History

Percival Willughby (1596-1685) was born at Wollaton Hall in Nottinghamshire. He was admitted as an Extra-Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1640. After practising in Derby, Stafford, and London, he returned to Derby in 1659 and built up his extensive midwifery practice. He died in 1685, aged 89.

He left no published works in his own lifetime, but by 1670 he had recorded in writing 150 case histories illustrating the problems and challenges he had encountered when called upon to assist at difficult births, or at deliveries made complicated by the inexperience or inefficiency of the midwife. He was scathing of those midwives he considered to be over officious and advocated a greater trust in nature to take its course with minimal obstetric intervention.

Willughby drew on his experiences to produce a further manuscript work, The country midwife's opusculum or vade mecum, showing the ways how to deliver any difficult birth, be it natural or unnatural, intended as a handbook for midwives. Willughby's Observations existed in several manuscript copies and gained considerable renown among those fortunate enough to have read it. Dr Henry Blenkinsop of Warwick announced his intention to publish his manuscript copy in 1848, and a limited edition of 100 copies appeared in 1863.



This material was originally received into the Archive in envelopes, as collated by Professor Phillips. The original order within envelopes has been retained and a system of arrangement imposed on the files to facilitate access.

Access Information

Open to researchers by appointment, Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm. mailto:

Other Finding Aids

File level descriptions for this series are available from the RCOG Archivist. mailto:

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Some items are fragile and require careful handling.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is vested in the estate of Professor Miles Harris Phillips.

Reproductions are available at the discretion of the College Archivist.

Custodial History

This is a composite series, retaining where possible original order and groupings of papers.

Related Material

Observations in midwifery, as also, The countrey midwifes opusculum or vade mecum, Percival Willughby, Henry Blenkinsop, 1863 [CQ Willughby] is held by the RCOG Library.

The Library of the Royal Society of Medicine holds a copy of Blenkinsop's edition as well as Blenkinsop's own copy of Willughby's original manuscript, given to the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society in 1881 by J.H. Aveling.