An exhibition of material from the Monash University Library




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A Doctor's Delights

Discoveries from the Richard Travers Collection

An exhibition of material from the Monash University Library

Rare Book Collection


I am greatly honoured to be asked to put this exhibition together. It has been hard to pick the hundred or so favourites from a collection of 15,000 titles, but I have chosen those titles I was most pleased to find. To make a dangerous paraphrase of Dryden, there is a pleasure in collecting books, which none but collectors know. My excitement might have come from finding a book by a special author for the first time (such as John Hunter, who was introduced to me by Graeme Schofield); it might have come from finding a book not known to exist (such as Cole’s Anatomy), or one known only by title (such as Percy Mole’s). It might have come from finally completing a set (such as the Australian Medical Journal). Many of the Australiana items are unique; at least, there are no other known holdings in Australia. Much of the joy comes from collecting ephemeral publications, and here I must acknowledge the great help I have had from Melbourne book dealers, who have kept many of these things aside for me, awaiting my periodic visits.


I first collected books on the history of medicine, encouraged by Dr Frank Forster. He had an unparalleled obstetrics and gynaecology collection, which is now in the appropriate College, housed in a splendid library of his own creation. Soon after this, I started collecting the classic texts of medicine, and here my greatest stimulus was the second-hand department of H. K. Lewis & Co., Ltd., a medical bookseller in London. Between 1976 and 1979 I spent many happy hours studying the shelves with my bible, Garrison and Morton’s bibliography, in hand. What a great way to learn about the development of medicine! For the last 25 years, however, I have concentrated on medical Australiana in its broadest sense, with the encouragement of that doyen of Australian medical history, Dr Bryan Gandevia.


The suggestion to transfer my collection to Monash University came first from Barry Firkin, Professor of Medicine at the Alfred Hospital, and keen medical historian. Richard Overell, the Rare Books librarian, offered me shelf space and now, with the AMA collection and the Ian Goller AIDS collection, Monash University has a remarkably strong holding in the historical and social aspects of medicine. In every great library I have consulted I have found myself the beneficiary of the generosity of previous donors, so I can think of no better place than this one for my own books.


Dr. Richard Travers


Abbreviations used in the text:


BIBAM – Bicentenary Bibliography of Australian Medicine and Health Services to 1950. Edited by B Gandevia, J Donovan, R Doust, B Pribac, B Proud, R Travers and P Woolcock. 4 vols. Canberra, AGPS, 1988.

Ford – Bibliography of Australian Medicine 1790-1900, by Sir Edward Ford. Sydney: Sydney University Press 1976.

GM – Morton’s Medical Bibliography. An annotated checklist of texts illustrating the history of medicine (Garrison and Morton), edited by Jeremy M Norman. Fifth edition. London, Scholar Press,1991. Previous editions were published in 1943, 1954, 1970, and 1983. Because of the many additions and the few deletions, there may be minor changes in number.


Central Display Case


Early works


1. Willis, Thomas, 1621-1675.


Opera omnia (Geneva : Samuel de Tournes, 1676)


Willis was remarkable for his careful clinical observation, and was second only to Sydenham in his day. This book, volume 1 of his collected works, was written in Latin and bought in Florence in 1976. The transaction had to be conducted, rather unsatisfactorily, in French, and on returning to our camp site I realised that Vol. 2 was missing. When the bookshop eventually reopened at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, delaying our departure, the proprietor was unable to find the missing volume, so – most unusually – refunded half the cost. The book is open at the famous plate of the inferior surface of the brain, showing the arterial “Circle of Willis” (Cerebri Anatome, Plate 1). This plate, and many of the others, was engraved by Christopher Wren. [GM 62].


2. Bernard, Claude, 1813-1878.

Illustrated manual of operative surgery and surgical anatomy / by Cl. Bernard and Ch. Huette (New York [etc.] : Baillière Brothers, 1861)


This French surgical textbook, which in translation was much used in North America, has hundreds of hand-coloured plates. A point of interest is that the fifth Baillière brother listed as publisher of the translation, Ferdinand François, worked in Melbourne. He published many of Dr James Beaney’s books, and sued him unsuccessfully for recovery of some of the costs [see Ford 224].


3. Cadogan, William, 1711-1797

A dissertation on the gout / by William Cadogan 11th ed. (London : Dodsley, 1772)


Cadogan’s book was an instant success on its publication in 1771, and went through 11 editions in just two years. He said that gout was caused by idleness, intemperance and stress, rather than it being an hereditary and (at the time) incurable disease. One is reminded of John Abernethy’s advice to such a patient a generation later: “Live on sixpence a day, and earn it.” [GM 4489]


4. Darwin, Erasmus, 1731-1802.

Phytologia, or, The philosophy of agriculture and gardening : with the theory of draining morasses, and with an improved construction of the drill plough / by Erasmus Darwin (London : Printed for J. Johnson ... ; by T. Bensley ..., 1800)


Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin, was a physician and was noted for his freethinking opinions, his poetry (often dealing with scientific subjects), his large botanical garden and his mechanical inventions. Phytologia is chiefly remarkable for his advocacy of bone dust as a fertiliser. This copy was bound by Miss Edith Dew, a creative bookbinder in Melbourne, and sister of Sir Harold Dew [see item 64]


5. Le Clerc (Charles Gabriel), M., b. 1644.

The compleat surgeon: or, The whole art of surgery explain'd in a most familiar method. Containing the principles of that art; and, an exact account of tumours, ulcers, and wounds, simple and complicated ... The method of dissecting the brain, by M. Duncan; several reflections and new machines by M. Arnaud. Likewise, a chirurgical dispensatory; shewing the manner of preparing all such medicines as are most necessary for a surgeon ... Written in French ...The 6th ed., to which are added, the method of midwifery; of preparing the unguentum matris, and the unguentum styracis; a short introduction to botany; and some examples of reports in surgery. (London, J. Walthoe, 1727)


A translation of La chirurgie complète, a book covering many topics, which went through 18 editions. The control of bleeding was (and still is!) very important, and Le Clerc mentions the use of vitriol buttons and direct pressure. This copy has been bound by Miss Edith Dew, and signed by her on the back cover. [GM 5574]


6. Giffard, William, d. 1731.

Cases in midwifery / written by the late Mr. William Giffard, surgeon and man-midwife ; revis'd and publish'd by Edward Hody (London, Printed for B. Motte, 1734)


William Giffard was a London obstetrician, who made notes of 225 cases he attended between 1724 and 1731. These were collected after his death and published by Edward Cody. Case 14 contains the earliest public record of the use of the hitherto secret Chamberlen forceps, with a folding plate to show two variations. This copy was bought at the Bourke Street Treasure Chest in 1969. One of my teachers at the Queen Victoria Hospital told me how disappointed he was to have been beaten to it – a great lesson that, if one sees a desirable rare book, one should put one’s foot on it! [GM 6156.3]


7. Nightingale, Florence, 1820-1910.

Notes on nursing : what it is and what it is not / by Florence Nightingale. (London : Harrison, [1859])


The Crimean War (1853-1856) allowed Florence Nightingale to show the value of trained nurses. Within a few months of her arrival at Scutari, the mortality rate among soldiers there fell from 42% to 2%. Her 800-page report to the Royal Commission on the Army (1858) was not intended for circulation, but her distilled wisdom, published here, has caused her to become the greatest figure in the history of nursing. The copy displayed was presented by Florence Nightingale’s cousin, M. W. Tindall, to her sister, E. O. Blackburn, June 1860. [GM 1612]


8 Travers, Benjamin, 1783-1858.

A synopsis of the diseases of the eye, and their treatment / by Benjamin Travers. 3rd ed.(London: Longman,Hurst,Rees,Orme & Brown, 1824).


Benjamin Travers FRCS, FRS, a pupil of Sir Astley Cooper [see item 39], was a surgeon at St Thomas' Hospital in London, and President of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1847 and 1856. This book is the first systematic treatise in English on diseases of the eye. [GM 5843]

Benjamin Travers and I are both descendants of Benjamin Travers 1708-1758 (separated by 2 and 6 generations respectively), who was master of the Vintners Company in 1725. Sir Thomas a’Beckett Travers, a third cousin of mine, trained in ophthalmology at Moorfields Hospital in London in the 1930s, and was agreeably surprised to discover this connection. He achieved great prominence in eye surgery on his return to Melbourne.


9. Virchow, Rudolf Ludwig Karl, 1821-1902.

Cellular pathology : as based upon physiological and pathological histology. Twenty lectures delivered in the Pathological Institute of Berlin during the months of February, March, and April, 1858 / by Rudolf Virchow. (London : John Churchill, 1860)


Virchow was the greatest figure in the history of pathology. This book, published first in Berlin in 1858, is one of the most important books in the history of medicine, and the foundation stone of cellular pathology. One of his sayings has relevance to my book collecting, for it is the behavioural aspects of medicine which interest me most: “Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale.” [GM 2299]


10.H. K. Lewis (Publisher

Lewis's 1844-1944 : A brief account of a century's work.(London : H.K. Lewis, 1945)


Before its closure in the 1990s, H K Lewis & Co. Ltd. was a world leader in medical bookshops. In addition to selling a copy of nearly every medical book published, one was placed in its circulating library. When a book ceased to be borrowed from the library, it was sent down to the second-hand department, to join the books recycled by clients. This was entered through the door on the left of the building, as shown in the frontispiece. What treasures there were for the person who had the time to scan the shelves! In addition to being a book dealer, the firm had a long history in medical publishing, particularly of the New Sydenham Society (1859-1907) volumes. In addition to giving modern translations of ancient authors, these volumes provided translations of important French and German contributions, and are much sought after by medical historians. Lewis’s also published many Australian authors; Sir James Barrett gets a special mention in this book. It was a real moment of sadness when, going down Gower Street, I discovered that this shop had disappeared.


Australian medical books

11. Alexander, F. Matthias (Frederick Matthias), 1869-1955.

The theory and practice of a new method of respiratory re-education / by F. Matthias Alexander. (Melbourne : H. Hale, 1907)


Alexander was born in Wynyard, in north-west Tasmania. He developed a love of the theatre in his later teenage years when the mining company, of which he was a clerk, brought in entertainment to divert the men from gambling and prostitution. He soon came to Melbourne, and was apprenticed to the elocution teacher FW Hill. In 1892 he began a career as a professional elocutionist himself. It was with this background that he became interested in voice production and breathing control, which was later developed into the control of posture itself, in later days with the laying on of hands accompanying the instruction. This has the Alexander technique has proved enormously popular throughout the world, and is an important Australian contribution to physical therapy. [the BIBAM copy]


12. Sanitary tracts / issued by the Australian Health Society, Melbourne.

(Melbourne : the Society, 1882) First series, No.1-13


The Australian Health Society was founded in 1875, dedicated to health education and campaigns to improve health legislation. Leaders of the profession gave public lectures, classes, and prepared pamphlets and broadsheets. The lectures appeared as separate publications, but a few collections were prepared for presentation to public libraries and institutions. This is a collection of the first 13 pamphlets. [Ford 101]


13. Beaney, James George, 1828-1891.

Original contributions to the practice of conservative surgery : being a selection from the surgical cases occurring in the practice of James G. Beaney. (Melbourne : George Robertson, 1859)


The first book on surgery to be published in Victoria. This copy belonged to William Fookes, who was clerk to Palmer and Hedderwick, solicitors. This firm acted for Beaney – unsuccessfully – in his suit against Fitzgerald, which sought damages for libel or slander, the issue being whether he was, or was not, entitled to display a Crimean medal in a glass case in his consulting room. Beaney was, however, successful in defending two charges of murder, in 1866 (perforated uterus) and in 1866 (removal of a bladder stone). [Ford 191]


14. Bird, Frederick Dougan (1858-1921)

Notes of cases”


Frederick Dougan Bird (1858-1929) was a charismatic figure, and a keen teacher and surgeon. He was associated with the Melbourne Hospital and the University of Melbourne, and had a very successful private practice, centred on his private hospital in Spring Street. He was three times mentioned in dispatches and for his part in the Gallipoli campaign during the Great War. It might be wondered why he was not given a knighthood; the medical students certainly thought he deserved one. A verse written for their anthem at the time of Prince Edward’s visit in 1920 refers to him, and to William Moore (1859-1927), in this context. It was sung to me by Sir William Upjohn, in 1975:


And now to bless our land

Prince Edward’s on our shores, sir.

The Regent said “Arise, Sir Fred

And Sir Jerry Moore, sir.”


Neither of them was knighted, in the event.


This notebook documents 52 cases seen between 1886 and 1892. At the back are tables of income, 1885-91. This and two other notebooks (with notes of lectures he had attended, a catalogue of his library, and draft lectures he gave at the University of Melbourne) were given to me, along with John Hunter’s portrait (Wall Case 1) by Margaret Colquhoun, née Brookes, who was Bird’s granddaughter. She was a great friend to me.

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