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Patient from a 19th century psychiatric ward with text ;

Institute of Psychiatry (IOP) Historical Collection

Although the IOP Historical Collection contains fewer than 1,000 items, its importance should not be overlooked. The provenances of many of the items reflect some of the personal relationships between eminent British psychiatrists and their cumulative contributions to scholarship from 1800 to approximately 1930.

This is a characteristic which it shares with the other historical medical collections in the Foyle Special Collections Library, and make it a rich resource in the history and bibliography of psychiatry. The IOP Historical Collection covers the whole range of psychological science, and includes works of neuroscience in addition to academic monographs on psychiatry.

Origins and history   

In the Victorian era, it was common for each lunatic asylum to have its own library. This reflected the rather lowly status of psychiatry (or ‘alienism’, as it was then called). While other branches of medicine were busy establishing their scientific credentials, and making major advances in diagnostic and operative techniques and in epidemiological research, psychological medicine was very much the poor relation. 

The mainstream study of medicine was increasingly attaching itself to universities, but the study of alienism remained locked away in isolated institutions which were devoted to caring for those with a variety of mental illnesses. Although alienists had their own journal and professional organisation, other medical practitioners regarded them with condescension and suspicion.

Diagram showing central sensory channels from Santiago Ramón y Cajal's 'Histologie du systeme nerveux de l’homme et des vertébrés' (1909).

The origins of the IOP Historical Collection lie in one of the first attempts to overcome this fragmentation of both the discipline of psychiatry and the resources for its academic study. In the 1880s an organisation comprising the directors of London lunatic asylums had been established, which decided to found a central pathological laboratory at Claybury, Essex.

The laboratory had its own library, which subscribed to the current books and journals in the field. Various items in the IOP Historical Collection bear the stamp of the Claybury library, among them the 1909 French edition of Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s groundbreaking work on the histology of the nervous system, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1906. This item was displayed in the Mind matters exhibition in 2010. (See Fig. 1.)

Figure 1. Diagram showing central sensory channels from Santiago Ramón y Cajal's Histologie du système nerveux de l’homme et des vertébrés. Paris: A. Maloine, 1909 [Institute of Psychiatry Historical Collection h/Caj]

Sir Frederick Mott and the Claybury Laboratory

The director of the Claybury Pathological Laboratory was the distinguished neurologist Sir Frederick Mott (1853-1926) who, during the First World War, applied his expertise to military psychiatry. The IOP Historical Collection includes a number of items which bear his provenance, including some notorious works, such as Leonard Darwin’s The need for eugenic reform (1926), which is inscribed by the author, and Henry Cotton’s The defective delinquent and insane (1921), also inscribed by the author, in which Cotton propounded his theory that mental illness was caused by toxicity in the body (e.g. decaying teeth). Both these items were displayed in the Mind matters exhibition.

Henry Maudsley and John Conolly

When the Maudsley Hospital was founded in 1914 through a £30,000 bequest from the alienist Henry Maudsley (1835-1917), Sir Frederick transferred the laboratory and the library to the Maudsley site in Camberwell. In the terms of the bequest Maudsley stipulated that the institution should be a teaching hospital and research centre with a large outpatients department. In other words, medical practice and research were to become more closely integrated. The collection of the Claybury Laboratory, together with Henry Maudsley’s and Sir Frederick’s own collections of books and journals, formed the basis of the collection.

The editions of Henry Maudsley’s own books are more interesting than they seem at first sight. His books are much rarer than most medical textbooks produced by trade publishers. As the author of a bio-bibliography of Henry Maudsley states, in the last years of his life, 'he had instructed his principal publisher [Macmillan] to destroy all the remaining copies of his books, this being one of the reasons for their being so extraordinarily scarce.' He refers to this request in a letter to Sir Frederick Mott, which is inserted in another of Maudsley’s books in the IOP Historical Collection.

Maudsley was no scientist, and he may have felt that the more empirical work of Sir Frederick and others like him had superseded his own more speculative work. However, he had nothing but contempt for the work of his own father-in-law, the pioneering alienist John Conolly (1794-1866), a number of whose inscribed books are included in the IOP Historical Collection. John Conolly was a pioneer in treating patients suffering from mental illness without mechanical restraint. Of particular interest is Conolly’s own copy of the first edition of his Indications of insanity (1830) (Fig. 2). He annotated it at various times from 1840 onwards. His inscriptions reflect his own experience of managing lunatic asylums and his changing views of the role of physicians within them. It is highly likely that this book passed to Maudsley’s ownership on Conolly’s death.

Title page from John Conolly's 'Inquiry concerning the indications of insanity' (1830).

David Ferrier, Sir George Henry Savage and Virginia Woolf

Another item which is of interest because of its associations with King’s is the copy in the IOP Collection of David Ferrier’s The functions of the brain (1876) (Fig. 3). This copy has the bookplate of Sir George Henry Savage (1841-1921), who has become notorious to posterity as one of the novelist’s Virginia Woolf’s psychiatrists. Woolf, who was a student at King’s for a brief period, exacted her revenge on Savage by making him the model for the unsympathetic and authoritarian Sir William Bradshaw in her novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925), whose insensitive ministrations contribute to the suicide of a mentally unstable First World War veteran. David Ferrier’s work on the localisation of disease in the brain enabled the first operation to remove a brain tumour. Sir Rickman John Godlee (1849-1925), the nephew of Joseph, Baron Lister (1827-1912), Professor of Surgery at King’s and pioneer of the scientific basis for antiseptic surgery, undertook this operation.

The location of various sensory and motor functions in the brain, from David Ferrier's 'The functions of the brain' (1876).

Maudsley and Institute of Psychiatry

The library was always intended to be a resource which would support the current research activity of the Maudsley Hospital and (as it became after the Second World War) the Institute of Psychiatry. Under the influence of Edward Mapother (1881-1940) and Sir Aubrey Lewis (1900-75) it became very influential both as a magnet for refugee scholars from Nazi Germany (one of whom was Heinz Wolff) and as a rival to the Freudian-influenced Tavistock Institute. In 1997, as part of the general re-organisation of teaching hospitals in London, the Institute of Psychiatry became part of King’s College London.

Although it was never intended that the IOP should house historical collections, the foundation collections had, with the passage of time, become primarily of interest to historians of psychiatry and neuroscience. With this change of purpose in mind, the historical collection of the IOP was transferred in 2007 to the Foyle Special Collections Library.

Using Library Search

Records from all collections are available through King's Library Search.

Being signed in to Library Search gives the best functionality for searching and the homepage gives advice on how to narrow down your searches by using scopes and by filtering searches you have made. For full instructions please see both the Library Search homepage and also our 'Catalogues' webpage, available by scrolling down to the menu on the Special Collections homepage.

Using scopes

You can limit your search to Foyle Special Collections Library items by using scopes.

If you select the ‘Library Resources’ scope, only the print and ebooks, audiovisual material and journals held by the campus libraries and Foyle Special Collections Library will be retrieved in your searches

Using filters

For finding material related to specific collections or former owners, use the ‘Library Resources’ scope in the drop down menu and then filter by ‘Former owner’ in the Advanced search criteria to display records from a specific collection.

You can also use the Location drop down menu on the left hand side of the screen to identify items from specific named special collections.

Please do contact us for further advice on identifying material which will assist you with your studies.


Several items from the IOP Historical Collection were included in the exhibition Mind matters: an exhibition on the history of neuroscience and psychiatry (2010), which can be viewed online. The exhibition explores several themes which are mentioned here in more detail. It also includes a comprehensive bibliography.

The papers of both Sir Aubrey Lewis and his wife Hilda North Lewis, who was an eminent child psychiatrist, are held in the College Archives.

Select bibliography

German Berrios and Hugh Freeman (eds) 150 years of British psychiatry, 1841-1991. London: Gaskell/ Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1991

Michael Collie. Henry Maudsley: Victorian psychiatrist, a bibliographical study. Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies, 1988

Stanley Finger. Minds behind the brain: a history of the pioneers and their discoveries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000

Hugh Freeman and German Berrios (eds) 150 years of British psychiatry: volume II, the aftermath. London ; Atlantic Highlands, N. J.: Athlone Press, 1996

Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.) Dictionary of scientific biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975

Andrew Scull, Charlotte MacKenzie and Nicholas Hervey. Masters of Bedlam: the transformation of the mad-doctoring trade. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1996

Stephen Trombley. ‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and her doctors. London: Junction Books, 1981

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