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In the Spotlight

Spotlight highlights 2015-2016

Earlier issues of Spotlight features are available below:

‘Give physick to the sick, ease to the pained’: medicine in Shakespeare's time

by Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections

This Spotlight article features a work that featured in the June - September exhibition in the Weston Room: 'The very age and body of the time': Shakespeare's world. It is now available to view online.

The work is by John Gerard (1545-1612) and is entitled The herball or general historie of plantes … Very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson. London: printed by Adam Islip, Joice Norton and Richard Whitakers, 1633. Foyle Special Collections Library, Rare Books Collection  FOL. QK75 GER

Medicine in Shakespeare's England

Portrait of William Shakespeare. From: Israel Gollancz. A book of homage to Shakespeare, 1916The medical practices of Shakespearean England still depended largely on the doctrines of humoral pathology first advanced by Hippocrates and further refined in medieval times by Galen.

According to humoral theory, all physical matter, including the human body, was composed of one or more of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – in varying proportions.

In the human body the proportions in which these elements existed within an individual dictated that person’s ‘humour’, or overall physical and psychological temperament. An excess of air generated the sanguine humour, which was hot and moist, an excess of earth the melancholic humour, which was cold and dry, and so on.

Diseases and their treatment were still commonly viewed through the prism of humoral theory; thus, the widespread use of blood-letting as a therapeutic procedure, a use that endured long after Shakespeare’s day, had its origins in the belief that the hot and moist conditions associated with a high fever were caused by an excess of blood, the fluid associated with the sanguine, or air-dominated temperament.

Shakespeare’s plays display a notable knowledge of and interest in medical matters; metaphors of sickness and cure occur frequently, as does imagery associated with herbs and other medicinal plants. Shakespeare’s elder daughter, Susanna, was married to Stratford physician John Hall (1574/5?-1635) and it is likely that some of Shakespeare’s medical knowledge was derived from his son-in-law.

Shakespeare’s plays and poems abound in imagery drawn from the plant world, imagery which often combines beauty with close and accurate observation. Nearly 800 different plants are named in his works, from the common kitchen herbs and English meadow flowers enumerated by the mad Ophelia to the ‘Arabian trees’ yielding ‘medicinal gum’ to which Othello compares his weeping self.

Shakespeare shows plants as instruments of death – there are several instances of death by poison in his plays – but also as tools of healing.

John Gerard’s Herbal

Images of two types of plantain. From: John Gerard. The herball or generall historie of plantes, 1633This is a work with which Shakespeare was probably familiar and  is opened in the exhibition to show the description of the common plantain. Gerard recommends the use of its leaves as a poultice:

It stayeth bleeding, it heales up hollow sores and ulcers, as well old as new.

As does Romeo:

Romeo. Your plantain leaf is excellent for that.
Benvolio. For what, I pray thee?
Romeo. For your broken shin.

Probably the best known English herbal, John Gerard’s monumental work, first published in 1597, has gained for its author a lasting reputation which he does not entirely deserve.

Gerard’s text was largely derived from an unfinished English translation made by a Dr Priest of an earlier work, Stirpium historiae pemptades sex, by the great Flemish herbalist Rembert Dodoens (1517-85), a fact which Gerard failed to acknowledge in his preface.

Image of the Virginia potato, with a description. From: John Gerard. The herball or general historie of plantes, 1633Notwithstanding such plagiarism, Gerard (1545-1612) remains an important figure. The huge scope of the Herbal, its copious woodcut illustrations and the author’s lively and readable text ensured its lasting popularity and in 1633, over 20 years after Gerard’s death, the revised and expanded edition featured here was published.

The image on the left shows the Virginia potato and the description accompanying the illustrations is thought to be the first description of the potato in English.

The exhibition runs until 24 September and we welcome both visitors from King's and members of the public.



Pamphlets relating to the EU in the historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

by Paul Harrop, Special Collections Project Cataloguer

The historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) which was transferred to King’s in 2007, contains much modern material on the politics and economics of European integration, and the nature of Britain’s relationship with Europe – a subject of course at the forefront of the national consciousness.

Cover of FCO publication: Facts and fairytales revisited, 1995The focus of this article is on EU-related material in the 20th century pamphlet collection of the FCO. These published items were collected by the FCO for their library collection up to 2005, and they now form part of the collection held at King’s.

The pamphlet collection itself is diverse and comprises not only published pamphlets, but articles, offprints, circulars and cuttings – a range of which are referenced in this article. 

The items in the collection concerning Britain’s relationship with Europe come from both a practical perspective (for example, dealing with agriculture, economics and government) and a more polemical standpoint, dealing with the range of perspectives on Britain’s relationship with the continental mainland.

A philosophical approach

An article by Winston Churchill, held in the collection and published in 1930 in the Philadelphia Saturday evening post, examined the history of Europe and argued that the conception of a United States of Europe was right, but that Britain is ‘with Europe, but not of it … we should [tell European statesmen that] “I dwell among mine own people”’. Churchill’s attitude to Britain’s relationship with Europe was largely determined by his preference for the continuing hegemony of the British Empire and the trade links and prosperity that this offered to Britain.

Cover of pamphlet entitled: Britain and the EEC: the economic background, 1967Pragmatic economics

In recent years in Britain, much of the debate on our relationship with Europe has concentrated on the pragmatic economic advantages and disadvantages of British membership of European organisations, rather than Churchill’s more abstract philosophical considerations of European union.

This is reflected in titles such as If Britain joins: the economic effects of membership of the Common Market, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 1961; and Britain and the EEC: the economic background, published by the Department of Economic Affairs in 1967.

A similar tone was found in Britain and the Common Market: texts of speeches made at the 1962 Labour Party Conference by Hugh Gaitskell and George Brown.

Parliamentary sovereignty

The collection also contains material on the topic that fuelled, informed and inflamed the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns: that of the retention of the UK’s parliamentary sovereignty within the EU.

In a lecture given in 2000 by Frederick Forsyth, the best-selling novelist, entitled Britain and Europe: the end of democracy?, Forsyth expresses his confidence in the British people’s ability to reject the idea of a single European state if they are given the opportunity.

Three pamphlets from the previous British referendum on Europe, in 1975, also offer a range of perspectives. In addition to Why you should vote Yes, published by Britain in Europe, and Why you should vote No, published by the National Referendum Campaign, there is also an official government publication entitled Britain’s new deal in Europe, in which prime minister Harold Wilson states that HM Government recommends to the British people to vote to stay in the European Community.

One of the most significant documents in the history of European political and economic integration, the Report on economic and monetary union in the European Community, the so-called Delors report, which led to the Treaty of Maastricht and the creation of the single market, is a surprisingly dry, technocratic typescript document.

Square, or just unripe strawberries?

An image from FCO publication: Facts and fairytales revisited, 1995That same accusation could not be laid at two FCO publications from the 1990s, The European Community: facts and fairytales; and Facts and fairytales revisited, which both seek to allay common fallacies such as Brussels legislation banning curved cucumbers, square strawberries, milkmen, or trading in traditional tripe, with the aid of amusing illustrations.

Tameion orthodoxias

Theophilos, Bishop of Kampania. Tameion orthodoxias. En Kōnstantinoupolei: Typographeion Euangelinou Misaēlidou, 1859

Foyle Special Collections Library [Rare books collection BX320 THE]

by Lavinia Griffiths, Special Collections Project Cataloguer

Title page. From: Theophilos. Bishop of Kampania. Tameion orthodoxias, 1859The Foyle Special Collections Library has recently acquired a rare edition of the Ταμείον Ορθοδοξίας (Treasury of Orthodoxy) written by Theophilos of Ioannina (ca 1749-95), bishop of Kampania in what is now the Thessaloniki region of Greece. As a bishop at a time when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, in addition to his spiritual authority Theophilos exercised temporal power within his ‘millet’, or confessional community.

Taking the form of a dialogue, the Ταμείον Ορθοδοξίας belongs to a tradition of treatises aimed at instructing both clergy and laity in the theology, scriptures and doctrine of the Orthodox Church. One of its themes is the proper use of wealth. The text was first published in Venice in 1788; a second edition, also printed in Venice, appeared in 1804.

Woodcut of the Nativity. From: Theophilos. Bishop of Kampania. Tameion orthodoxias, 1859Our copy, advertised as a third edition, was published in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1859 by Evangelinos Misaelidis (1820-90) a 
journalist, novelist and translator. Born in the city of Manisa in one of the Aegean provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Misaelidis 
was educated at the Evangelikos School in Smyrna before attending the then newly-established University of Athens. He became a 
prominent figure in the 'Karamanli' press, employing the Greek alphabet to print Turkish language material for Turkish-speaking 

Woodcut of Cain and Able. From: Theophilos. Bishop of Kampania. Tameion orthodoxias, 1859There appear to be no other copies of this edition of the Ταμείον Ορθοδοξίας in libraries in the United Kingdom, or in any other library outside Greece.

It is of particular interest for its illustrations, 12 woodcuts of (mainly) biblical scenes; subjects include Cain and Abel and the Nativity, which are shown in this feature, along with the title page of the book.

Exhibiting Malta

This In the Spotlight feature focuses on three items concerned with the island of Malta, which featured in the 2016 Special Collections exhibition: West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967.

The first featured item is an early 19th century travel narrative:

Thomas Walsh. Journal of the late campaign in Egypt: including descriptions of that country, and of Gibralter, Minorca, Malta, Marmorice, and Macri. London: printed by Luke Hansard, for T Cadell junior and W Davies, 1803

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection DC225 WAL

Malta officially became part of the British Empire in 1814, ceded to Britain from France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris – though it had been under British control since 1800. It remained part of the British Empire until gaining independence in 1964 and its position in the centre of the Mediterranean gave it importance as both a military base and, following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, a stopping-off point on the trade route to India and the East.

A Maltese carriage and passengers. From: Thomas Walsh. Journal of the late campaign in Egypt, 1803The hand-coloured plate shown here beautifully illustrates the carriage and costumes encountered by Captain Thomas Walsh, an officer in the 93rd Regiment of Foot as he travelled via Malta as part of an expeditionary force to Egypt, to counter the actions of the French in their Egypt and Syria Campaign of 1798-1801.

In his observations of the island and its archipelago, Walsh remarks on the ‘extremely spacious’ harbour of Valletta and on the church of St John, which is ‘far superior to the rest … beautifully sculptured and adorned with some good paintings’. The Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, or the Knights Hospitallier were a religious order which ruled the island from 1530 to 1798, building fortifications and undertaking extensive infrastructure projects.

Great Britain. Central Office of Information. Introducing the Mediterranean colonies. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1948

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection 

This item is one of a number of photographic sets in our collections, issued by the Central Office of Information between 1948 and 1962, and which illustrate social life and economic conditions across the British Empire.

The island of Malta was home to the Mediterranean Fleet from the early 1800s until the 1930s, after which the fleet was moved to Alexandria because of the fear of bomber attack from Italy. This left the island largely undefended and the Siege of Malta by Axis powers from June 1940 to November 1942 saw huge damage inflicted on the island and population from bombing raids, as German and Italian naval and air forces attempted to disable the British base and bomb the island into submission.

In late 1942, with allied gains in North Africa and Spitfires and Navy submarines combatting Axis threats, the Siege of Malta effectively ended. Allied convoys were now increasingly able to travel in the Mediterranean theatre of the war, and their forces could attack Axis ships.

The island was collectively awarded the George Cross in April 1942 and the award citation delivered by George VI recorded that this honour would ‘bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history’.

Ship at the British naval base in the Grand Harbour of Valetta, Malta. From: Great Britain. Central Office of Information. Introducing the Mediterranean colonies, 1948The photograph shown here is of the Grand Harbour of Valletta and the naval base, which was used by Britain until 1959. Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) and her husband Prince Philip lived at Villa Guardamangia, on the outskirts of Valletta, while Philip undertook naval service between 1949 and 1951. It is the only time the present Queen has lived abroad and their time on Malta is said to be remembered fondly by the royal couple.

Great Britain. Colonial Office. Coronation 1953: Booklets, programmes, etc. showing manner of celebration in colonies. [1953]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection 
FOL. BX5147.C6 ELI

Malta gained independence from Britain in 1964, eleven years after these photographs of the 1953 coronation celebrations were taken. The photographs show floats, huge crowds and street party celebrations and are from a collection of documents on the coronation assembled by staff of the Colonial Office Library.

Coronation scrapbook 1953, open to show celebrations in Malta, in Weston Room exhibition caseThe souvenir programmes and photographs still present a picture of an empire united in loyalty to the sovereign, but some of the confidential despatches tell a different story; in Malta’s Mediterranean neighbour, Cyprus, for example, no details of the celebratory programme were released until a fortnight before the event, so as to minimise opportunities for planned disruption.

All the images shown here are from items from the historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Two recent acquisitions by the Foyle Special Collections Library

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg. Grammatica Damulica. Halæ Saxonum [Halle an der Saale]: litteris & impensis Orphanotrophei, 1716

[Foyle Special Collections Library, Rare Books Collection PL4753 ZIE]

The Foyle Special Collections Library is delighted to have acquired a copy of the first printed grammar of the Tamil language, compiled by the German Lutheran missionary Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg (1683-1719) and published 300 years ago in his native Saxony.

Title page from: Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg. Grammatica Damulica, 1716Copies of the Grammatica Damulica do not often become available for purchase and this new acquisition complements our existing holdings of works associated by Ziegenbalg, most notably his translation, with Johann Ernst Gründler, of the New Testament into Tamil.

Printed in 1715, this was the first New Testament to be published in any of the languages of India. Ziegenbalg had been sent with a companion, Heinrich Plütschau, to the Danish possession of Tranquebar, at the southern tip of India, at the behest of his patron, King Frederick IV of Denmark. They were the first Protestant missionaries to India, arriving at Tranquebar in 1707.

Ziegenbalg immediately set about learning Tamil, with a view to translating the New Testament into that language.  With financial support from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), this project came into fruition in 1715, with the printing of the New Testament in Tranquebar.

Details of Tamil pronunciation. From Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg. Grammatica Damulica, 1716Ziegenbalg also produced Tamil hymn books and catechisms and was instrumental in the establishment of schools and a seminary in Tranquebar. The tercentenary of his arrival in India was widely celebrated in that city. 

The Grammatica Damulica was clearly aimed at potential fellow missionaries in Germany and elsewhere. Our copy appears to have belonged at some point to the library of the Société Asiatique in Paris and to have formed part of the collection of books and objects bequeathed to it by Édouard-Simon Ariel (1818-1854), a noted scholar of the Tamil language. An ink stamp on the title page indicates that the book was later the subject of an exchange with another unspecified library.

Édouard Hospitalier. L’électricité dans la maison. Paris: G Masson, 1887 

[Foyle Special Collections Library Early Science Collection TK145 HOS]

Figure holding a candelabra. From: Edouard Hospitalier. L'ectricite dans la maison, 1887This lavishly illustrated and comparatively rare book is one of a series which Hospitalier wrote about electricity and its uses. It offers insights not only on the scientific development and technical applications of electricity but also casts light on the fascination of the 19th century with electricity’s potential and its consequences for everyday life.

The book discusses the domestic applications of electricity, including lighting, alarms, telephones, clocks and electric games and toys.

This book complements our existing holdings on the subject. This includes the collection of Sir Charles Wheatstone, items from whose library featured in the 2015 Weston Room exhibition on the former King's professor.

Sir Charles Wheatstone's diverse interests and collections

by Brandon High, Special Collections Officer

This In the Spotlight article examines two items which featured in the 2015 Weston Room exhibition Getting the message across: a Victorian inventor at King's.

Portrait of Sir Charles Wheatstone from King's College London ArchivesThe exhibition demonstrated the very diverse nature of Sir Charles Wheatstone’s interests through museum objects, including a telegraph and a nail fiddle, stereoscopic photographs and inscribed items from his personal library.

In addition, there were selections from his personal papers which focus on his relationships with his fellow scientists, such as Michael Faraday, and on his long connection to King’s College London.

The exhibition marked the conclusion of the cataloguing of the papers and personal library in the Archives and Foyle Special Collections Library at King’s. This cataloguing was included in the Scrambled Messages project, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

A scientific instrument from Sir Charles Wheatstone's collection at King's College London ArchivesSir Charles Wheatstone (1802-75) was professor of experimental philosophy at King’s from 1834 until his death, during which time he invented the electric telegraph, the stereoscope and a number of musical instruments.

He embodied in his career and accomplishments the developing significance of science as a discipline and its relationship to society during the Victorian era.

The Universal Private Telegraph Company. [Prospectus] [1861?]
Foyle Special Collections Library Wheatstone Collection  PAMPH. BOX HE7761 UNI

This very rare item of ephemera marks the legal incorporation of the Universal Private Telegraph Company in 1861. This enterprise was established in order to exploit two of Wheatstone’s telegraph patents which were taken out in 1858.

Image of the Communicator. From: Professor Wheatstone's patents, 1861It offered direct telegraph services between particular points, such as business offices or private premises: other telegraph companies could not offer this. It was therefore popular and profitable.

As it used Wheatstone’s newly patented ABC telegraphs, which could function without Morse-trained operators, overheads were kept to a minimum. At the time of nationalisation in 1869 the compensation paid to the Company’s shareholders was an estimated 20 years’ worth of profits. 

This prospectus includes an application form for shares.

Spencer, Browning and Co. Instruments exhibited by Spencer, Browning and Co., 111 Minories, London, E. C. [1862?]
Foyle Special Collections Library Wheatstone Collection PAMPH. BOX QC876.6 SPE

Flyer for an international exhibition of scientific instruments. From: Instruments exhibited by Spencer, Browning and Co, 1862The firm of Spencer, Browning and Co. was established in the late 18th century, and soon established itself as a leading maker of navigational instruments. 

Wheatstone retained many ephemeral items, such as this flyer, which were available at international exhibitions.

Wheatstone was instrumental in founding the Kew Observatory for observing meteorological, electric and magnetic phenomena, and had responsibility for maintaining instruments there between 1843 and 1846. As the inscribed items in his personal library testify, he was acquainted with some of the leading astronomers of the day, including Sir George Biddell Airy, the Astronomer Royal.


Brian Bowers. Sir Charles Wheatstone, FRS, 1802-1875. London: The Institution of Electrical Engineers in association with the Science Museum, 2001

Geoffrey Hubbard. Cooke and Wheatstone and the invention of the electric telegraph. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965

Alison Winter. Mesmerized: powers of mind in Victorian Britain. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1998

War neuroses and shell shock

Frederick W  Mott. War neuroses and shell shock. London: Henry Frowde; Hodder and Stoughton, 1919

[Foyle Special Collections Library, IOP Historical Collection h/Mot]

by Brandon High, Special Collections Officer

This month’s In the spotlight focuses on Frederick Mott’s War neuroses and shell shock (1919), an important milestone in the relationship between war and psychiatry. It featured in our Maughan Library exhibition: 1914-18: 'the most stupendous struggle', which ran from May to September 2014. 

The First World War and psychiatry     

The room of recovery sign from the special treatment room of the Maudsley Hospital. From: Frederick Mott. War neuroses and shell shock, 1919The First World War presented a pressing need for the services of psychiatrists, but military psychiatry experienced difficulty in establishing its usefulness. The categories of mental illness which had been used by psychiatrists since the discipline established itself in the late 18th century comprised symptoms, which, when observed by a psychiatrist, were thought to comprise illnesses.

However, these categories were unstable and there was much disagreement about them. Since many, if not most, mental illnesses had no observable biological and neurological origins, which could provide clues as to effective treatments, by the late 19th century psychiatry was already lagging behind other areas of medicine. Military psychiatry did not differ in this respect from its civilian counterpart. 

These diagnostic problems were exacerbated by the unprecedented nature of the symptoms, caused not only by the duration and intensity of individual battles, but also by the discrepancy between soldiers’ expectations and the experience of war. The attitudes of psychiatrists towards soldiers, and of the military high command towards psychiatrists, were complicated by the pervasive tendency to form moral judgments about soldiers who were suffering from mental illness. Often the commanders assumed that low ranking soldiers were ‘malingering’, and many psychiatrists shared this assumption.   

The experience of the First World War went some way towards casting much doubt on the assumption - favoured by Henry Maudsley among others - that hereditary causes were responsible for mental illness, as the cases with which military psychiatrists had to deal were demonstrably rooted in environmental factors.

After the War, the Maudsley Hospital seemed for a time to signal a re-orientation in civilian psychiatry away from the warehousing of so-called ‘incurables’ in lunatic asylums towards ascertaining who was capable of responding to treatment, and administering psychiatric medicine to them with the hope of facilitating eventual recovery. However, in the interwar period the Maudsley Hospital, along with, arguably, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, was a relatively isolated example of such enlightened thinking.

Sir Frederick Mott

Section of a frontal cortex from a case of shell gas poisoning. From: Frederick Mott. War neuroses and shell shock, 1919Sir Frederick Walker Mott (1853-1926) was a distinguished neuroscientist who applied his expertise to military psychiatry. He studied the ‘fight or flight’ reflex in cases of war neurasthenia, and concluded that the endocrine glands’ role had failed in producing adrenalin under the immense strain of combat. He also played a key role in the development of the Maudsley Hospital. As Mott was a neuroscientist, he was in a very good position to endeavour to clarify the nature of both neurological and psychiatric disorders associated with active service in wartime.

However, the precise connexions between physical injury, predisposition to psychiatric illness, overwhelming stress and the manifestation of symptoms of psychological disturbance remained opaque. 

Shell shock

Although Mott states in his book that ‘shell shock’ is a useful term if limited to cases where there is definite evidence of a shell or a bomb which bursts near enough to cause a temporary loss of consciousness, the phrase had its origins in popular discourse and was therefore used imprecisely. Psychiatrists found that the concept embraced too many diverse symptoms for it to be of much medical use.

A patient from the First World War being helped to walk. From: Frederick Mott. War neuroses and shell shock, 1919Many doctors suspected that shell shock concealed ‘malingering’, a complaint which seemed to be confined to the lower ranks. According to the neuroscientist Henry Head, who rejected shell shock as a useful category, it was ‘a heterogeneous collection of different nervous affections from concussion to sheer funk which may have merely this in common, that nervous control has finally given way.’


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

Tom Burns. Psychiatry: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006

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

Edgar Jones and Simon Wessely. Shell shock to PTSD: military psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf War. Hove/New York: Psychology Press, 2005

Alan Kramer. Dynamic of destruction: culture and mass killing in the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007

Peter Leese. Shell shock: traumatic neurosis and the British soldiers of the First World War. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002

Andrew Scull. Madness: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011

EA Sharpey-Schafer, ‘Mott, Sir Frederick (1853-1926)’, rev. Rachel E. Davies, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 19 March 2014] 

Ben Shephard. A war of nerves: soldiers and psychiatrists, 1914-1994. London: Jonathan Cape, 2000
Edward Shorter. A history of psychiatry from the era of the asylum to the age of Prozac. Chichester: John Wiley, 1997

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