Papers of: Nightingale, Florence (1820-1910)

Scope and Content

The collection chiefly comprises correspondence by Florence Nightingale, either in original or in copy form. The date-span covers the whole of her life and the subjects range from her attempts to become a nurse, service in the Crimea and subsequent work reforming the training and practice of nursing, through her other concerns such as Indian sanitation, cottage hospitals and the use of medical statistics, to personal and family matters. Well-represented correspondents include her family (particularly her sister Parthenope and brother-in-law Sir Harry Verney), Sir William Aitken (1825-1892), Professor of Pathology at the Army Medical School; George Hanby De'ath (c.1862-1901), Medical Officer of Health for Buckingham; William Farr (1807-1883), statistician; Miss Louisa Gordon, Matron at St Thomas' Hospital; Miss Amy Hughes, Superintendent of the Nurses' Co-operation; Sir John Henry Lefroy (1817-1890); Charles C. Plowden of the Sanitary Department of the India Office; and Mary Clarke Mohl (1793-1883). In addition, there is twentieth century material relating to Nightingale's legacy such as photographs of her grave (at MS.9101) and administrative papers relating to the compilation of A calendar of the letters of Florence Nightingale (Oxford, 1977) by Sue Goldie (MSS.9106-9109).

Administrative / Biographical History

Florence Nightingale was born to a wealthy family in 1820. She entered into cottage visiting and nursing early, and from 1844 to 1855 visited hospitals in London and abroad. Returning from an 1849-1850 tour of Egypt she visited the Kaiserswerth Institute for deaconesses and nurses and trained here as a nurse in 1851. In 1853 she became Superintendent of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen in London. In 1855 at the invitation of Sidney Herbert she took a party of nurses to the Crimean War, serving at the hospital in Scutari Barracks and also visiting Balaclava. On her return to the United Kingdom she engaged in a campaign for the sanitary reforms that she had instituted in the Crimea to be accepted as general practice. Her campaigning led to the foundation of the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital, London. She was also involved in campaigning for humanitarian aid during the Franco-Prussian War, for improved sanitation in India, and for cottage hospitals in the United Kingdom. She died in 1910.


The collection comprises three main blocks of material: MSS.5471-5484, 6930 and 8991-9109, each with a distinct character. MSS.5471-5484 comprise original correspondence by Florence Nightingale; of these, MSS.5471-5482 represent correspondence to particular individuals, one manuscript number per individual, MS.5783 represents miscellaneous correspondence to a wide variety of recipients, and MS.5784 an album of correspondence and other documents relating to Florence Nightingale, compiled by a Mrs. Shore, probably a relation of Nightingale. MS.6930 comprises copy correspondence by and to Nightingale relating to the case of Charlotte Salisbury accused of misappropriation of army stores. MSS.8991-9109 chiefly comprise photocopies and photographs of material by or concerning Nightingale and her family held at other repositories, the vast majority of this (MSS.8991-9082) held by the Verney family at Claydon House: within this block of material the broad divisions are MSS.8991-9015, letters by Florence Nightingale; MSS.9016-9029, other material by Florence Nightingale, including undated letters and some correspondence not listed in Goldie's calendar; MSS.9030-9082, material by persons other than Florence Nightingale, chiefly letters to or from family members; MSS.9083-9105, copies of letters and other material by Florence Nightingale held at repositories other than Claydon House, with some associated items such as twentieth-century photographs and correspondence at MSS.9101 and 9105; MSS.9106-9109, administrative papers relating to the composition of Sue Goldie's A calendar of the letters of Florence Nightingale (Oxford, 1977).

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

The original items in this collection, held as MSS.5471-5484, were purchased from a variety of sources: Sotheby's, London, April 1919 (accession numbers 67280-67285), February 1930 (accession number 52441), July 1930 (accession number 63153), December 1930 (accession number 73339), July-August 1933 (accession number 66167), November 1933 (accession number 67476) and July 1969 (accession number 317230); Puttick & Simpson's, London, December 1929 (accession number 52269); Stevens', London, July 1931 (accession numbers 67352, 67354-67362); and Glendining's, London, February 1933 (accession number 67753), July 1934 (accession number 67831) and December 1934 (accession number 67930). The copy correspondence held as MS.6930 was purchased from Winifred A. Myers (Autographs) Ltd., 1992 (acc. 348957). The photocopies and associated items held as MSS.8991-9109 were made by Sue Goldie of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine during the production of her A calendar of the letters of Florence Nightingale (Oxford, 1977).

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.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Original correspondence, photocopies and photographs

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Christopher Hilton 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.

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.

Related Material

MS.3992, one of a set of 19 prescription books of an unidentified London chemist probably based in Islington, includes a cut-out signature of Florence Nightingale pasted inside the cover. MS. 5485 comprises photocopies of miscellaneous correspondence and papers of the Florence Nightingale International Foundation, especially of a Sub-Committee on Nightingale Records. MS. 5486 comprises letters to the diplomat Stratford Canning (1786-1880), 1st Viscount Stratford De Redcliffe, mainly while Ambassador at Constantinople during the Crimean War, from various correspondents including Florence Nightingale. MS 7204 comprises manuscript notes of conversations in 1859 with Florence Nightingale, taken by her relative and co-worker, the poet Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861), topics including God and the divine will, motherhood, Nightingale's reminiscences of her service in the Crimea, and more formal dictated material on nursing administration. MS.7307/2-3 comprise letters by the writer Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) to Frederick Knight Hunt, Editor of the Daily News, on Florence Nightingale. MS.7337/94 is a letter to Auguste Roscorla (n?e Lemon), one of Florence Nightingale's first trainees. MS.7655/187 is a note by Mary Stanley (sister of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-1881), Dean of Westminster Abbey, and associate of Florence Nightingale), apparently incomplete, describing relations between doctors and nurses in the Eastern Hospitals. MS.8643 comprises correspondence by Dr. Cecil John Hackett concerning a proposed Florence Nightingale memorial and museum at Selimye barracks, Scutari.

Location of Originals

The originals of MSS.8991-9082 are held at Claydon House, Claydon, Buckinghamshire. The originals of MSS.9083-9106 are held by various organisations and repositories such as: American Nurses Association; Archive of the Sisters of Mercy, Bermondsey; Bellevue Training School for Nurses, New York; Biblioth?que de Gen?ve; British Library; Cornell University; East Orange General Hospital, New Jersey; Elisabet Willner, Uppsala; Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge; Kaiserswerth; Menninger Foundation Museum and Archives; Mitchell Library, Sydney; Mugar Library (History of Nursing Archive), Boston University; Nottingham University; Royal Malta Library; Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney; St Mary of the Angels Bayswater; University of British Columbia; University of New South Wales, Armidale; Wayne State University; Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine; Yale Medical Library. The source of most of these items is noted on the copy but some sources are not recorded.


The majority of the items in this collection are summarised in Sue Goldie, A calendar of the letters of Florence Nightingale (Oxford: OMP, 1977).