Medical Manuscripts Go Digital

Riza Hussaini, Medical Collections Project Assistant, writes about digitising medical manuscripts from Special Collections.

For today’s blog I’ve picked three of my favourite medical manuscripts to focus on, out of the thirty-eight I’ve digitised for the Medical Collections Project.

The first is ‘Lecture notes on medical topics, reputedly made by James Tatham’ (MS 2032/16).

Modern student notes may often contain rough notes, sketches, quotes and the occasional doodle.

A number of the manuscripts of medical lecture notes I have digitised dissolve that perception. Most are dense with information and some are beautifully illustrated.

It has been thought, for several of the manuscripts, that the student surgeon attended lectures around the country, with the notes providing reading material for other would-be surgeons.

Mostly compiled in elegantly bound volumes they all appear to be similar in style; introductions to medical conditions, followed by the causes, treatments and occasionally, patient cases. They are written in neat and fairly legible hand. The tone is utilitarian and doubtless, this was how the lectures were conducted.

Digitising this particular manuscript was tricky as a lot of the pages were brittle and holding together like a jigsaw. It has since been rebound; an example of how we are committed to preserving the collection through digitisation and physical conservation.

James Tatham Lecture Notes
MS 2032/16 James Tatham Lecture Notes; rebound. Image credit Leeds University Library

It may be surmised, but impossible to confirm, that this was transcribed by James Tatham, a surgeon-apothecary based in Leeds. There are lectures delivered by several notable individuals like Thomas Pridgin Teale Senior and William Hey III; founders of the Leeds School of Medicine.

Next is ‘Notes on forensic medicine and on insanity’ (MS2032/19).

If you, like me prefer your medical notes to be accompanied by chemical formulae, this is it. The unknown author is thought to be Berkeley G.A Moynihan (1865-1936), but the provenance is unclear.

Manuscript in tête-bêche style
MS 2032/19 Notes on Forensic Medicine. This manuscript is in tête-bêche style (first half written normally, second half written from the back and upside down). Image credit Leeds University Library

It is a comprehensive toxicology guide offering a fascinating insight into forensic medicine. The manuscript focuses on different aspects of ‘insanity’ from the reverse. It goes into detail about the affective symptoms of different conditions to ascertain grounds for insanity defence in legal cases.

Finally, ‘Notes on surgery made by Leonard Ralph Braithwaite’ (MS 2032/23).

This is probably the most legible and also one of the youngest manuscripts (early 20th century). It is written in ball point pen and is one of the few manuscripts that has coloured illustrations.

The notes were written by Braithwaite during his medical training and early career as a surgeon, and delve into quite significant detail. For example, he provides information about how to perform both simple and invasive surgeries, such as amputations. Even without a medical background, I found the notes comprehensible and fascinating.

Leonard Braithwaite Notebook
MS 2032/23 Leonard Braithwaite Notebook. Three examples of illustrations. Image credit Leeds University Librar

If this has piqued your interest, you can explore The Medical Manuscripts Collection and search through the Special Collections catalogue to browse the digitised manuscripts.

Library project: Flying Start

As a Student Ambassador for the Library, one of my tasks over the last couple of months has been to work on an individual project with supervision from one of the library’s Learning Advisors. The project is based on one of the Skills@Library resources, Flying Start, which seeks to provide guidance to first year students in their transition to studying at university.

There is information on everything from how to make the most out of your lectures, how to manage your time and guidance for tackling your first assignment. Speaking from the point of view of a current student, I can see how useful Flying Start will be for people who are about to start university and want to get a head start before the beginning of the semester.

The bulk of my time was taken up meeting with my supervisor to discuss the main aims of carrying out the survey and coming up with questions for the survey. Once the survey machine was up and running in the Laidlaw Library, I did some observation of how people reacted to the machine and whether it was visible to passers-by. By doing this, we’ll not only have feedback on the Flying Start resource, but also on the mode of gathering feedback and how effective this was in practice.

All in all, I think that Flying Start is a fantastic resource for giving new students an insight into studying at university and helping them to feel less nervous at the prospect of new learning styles and assessment methods. It will be really useful to see the feedback that students have given in the survey, and it will hopefully give us some pointers as to how the Flying Start resource can be improved in the future to better suit the needs of first year students.

‘Austin Wright: Emerging Forms’ Exhibition Launch

On Tuesday 21 November we welcomed visitors to celebrate the opening of our new special exhibition, Austin Wright: Emerging Forms. Guests were treated to some personal insights into the artist and his life by his son, Crispin Wright, and an opportunity to explore the incredible works on display.

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The evening opened with a private viewing for FUAM members who listened to curator Layla Bloom talk about the artworks on display. We then welcomed visitors to the public launch with an introduction from Stella Butler, University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, and some words from Crispin Wright which delighted the audience .

Austin Wright was a Gregory Fellow at the University of Leeds from 1961-1964. The exhibition explores the development of his practice and his reputation in the art world between 1955-75. Wright began practicing as an artist quite late in his life after being bluntly told by Henry Moore to ‘just get on with it’.

Through his drawings and sculptures, visitors can see how Wright’s work developed. In the 1950s he focused on dynamic human figures and in the 1960s, during the Gregory Fellowship, he shifted towards more abstract forms. Following his service in the Second World War he moved to Yorkshire where he drew inspiration from his surroundings and the landscape. The exhibition thus focuses on Wright’s time in Yorkshire as a key period in his career.

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The exhibition displays drawings, maquettes and sculptures made by Wright, many of which have been generously loaned by his family. The distinctive aluminium sculptures hanging in the Gallery were intended to hang within the landscapes which inspired their creation. We imagine this would been quite a spectacular sight! Our guests were particularly taken by these works.

Following such a wonderful launch evening, which was marked by enthusiastic responses and discussion, we invite you to come along and explore this archive of Austin Wright’s work. This exhibition will be on display in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery until 17 March 2018.


20,000 Open Access papers made available from White Rose Research Online

local support This post is by Beccy Shipman, Research Support Advisor from the Research Support Team based in the Research Hub on Level 13 of the Edward Boyle Library.

This significant milestone was reached earlier this year when “How Sharing Can Contribute to More Sustainable Cities” by Dr Milena Büchs (School of Earth and Environment) and colleagues was uploaded to White Rose Research Online via Symplectic.  This reflects the accelerating pace of deposit – numbers have doubled since December 2015 and could hit 25,000 by the end of 2017.

“I think open access research repository systems like Symplectic are very useful tools in today’s research world” says Dr Büchs. “The process of uploading your paper is very easy and just involves a few clicks, and it means everyone with internet access can search for and read our work. This is important because academic research should benefit everyone, not just those who have privileged access to expensive journals”.

Papers uploaded to Symplectic are available online to read, download and re-use via White Rose Research Online as soon as any publisher embargo expires and subject to licence terms. They are also searchable via Google Scholar, CORE and other search engines which helps to increase their visibility, reaching wider audiences and creating more opportunities for people to see, engage, consume and build upon. Submitting your full text papers to Symplectic as soon as possible after acceptance for publication will also help you meet funder requirements and preserve your eligibility for REF 2021.

Staff in both the Library and Research Innovation Service are working with school and faculty-based contacts in a variety of different ways to support academics, helping them ensure their work is open access and REF-ready.

Professor Nick Plant, Dean of Research Quality and Impact said, “It is very encouraging to see the rapid increase in deposit that has taken place since 2015.  Open access helps our research reach the widest audience possible, increasing its impact, as well as helping us to meet our obligations to funders and supporting our REF2021 submissions”.

Please contact the Research Support team in the Library should you have any open access queries.

There is also local support offered to help support you with HEFCE open access compliance.

Rediscovering Herbert Read

Photographic portraits of Herbert Read
Image credit Leeds University Library

Recent cataloguing work has highlighted undiscovered gems in the Herbert Read archive.

Sir Herbert Edward Read (1893-1968) was an art historian, poet, literary critic, philosopher and anarchist. Born in Yorkshire, he lived at Stonegrave House near York for much of his life. He maintained a strong connection with the University of Leeds up until his death in 1968.

Special Collections acquired Read’s extensive library and much of his archive during the 1990s.  A lot of the material has been catalogued, but a series of files remained unlisted.

We were recently able to record this material due to generous support from the Strachey Trust.  An inventory of the contents of 84 boxes of archives was created, with records now available online.

The material discovered in this collection is exceptional. Letters, manuscripts and photographs show the extent of Read’s influence on artistic and literary life over many years.

Files cover key literary and artistic figures of the 20th century.  They include letters from people as diverse as E.M. Forster, Leonard Woolf & the Hogarth Press, T. S. Elliot, and Jon Silkin. There is also correspondence with artists Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Hans Richter and Naum Gabo.

The collection indicates how Read helped shape artistic and literary sensibilities at home and abroad. Letters from Peggy Guggenheim show Read encouraging her to bequeath her collection to the Tate, while correspondence with publishers highlights Read’s influence as an editor. A long series of letters from Bonamy Dobree (Professor of English Literature at Leeds, from 1936 to 1955) show Read’s prominence in the development of Gregory Fellowships at the University.

The Dobree correspondence covers the years 1925 – 1968 and is an important record of their relationship. The letters demonstrate, in great detail, their collaborative work on the London Book of English Verse (1953): evidence of the creation of a national literature in action.

Library projects

Find out more about what projects our Library Ambassadors have been working on and how they can help you.

From First to Final year they’re asking for your input to improve Library services for all students. Watch our video to find out more about these exciting projects.

They will be updating on how the projects are going shortly, so look out for their posts in the next few weeks detailing their findings.

Shut up and Write: tomatoes, biscuits, peace and quiet

Over the summer and during the autumn term we have been piloting Shut Up and Write sessions for researchers up on Level 13 of the Edward Boyle Library. Similar sessions have been running successfully for some time for undergraduates, but we weren’t sure what the interest would be from RPGs and staff.

It was considerable!

Sessions booked up quickly which led us to schedule weekly slots – alternating morning and afternoon – for the whole of the autumn term. We continue to monitor progress.

Il pomodoro

The sessions utilise the ‘pomodoro technique‘, named after the tomato-shaped timer used by Francesco Cirillo who developed the technique 30 years ago. Rather than a tomato we tend to use an Apple (iPhone), more sophisticated if less characterful, but the principle is the same with over 2 hours dedicated to focused writing time split into 25 minute ‘sprints’. The idea is that this structure enables you to concentrate and not become over-tired. After each sprint there is a short break to grab a brew and a biscuit or chat. The full process is outlined on our handout (word.docx) which includes links to useful resources as well as tips to running your own sessions.


So why do researchers who may have their own workspace want to come and sit in a structured, silent session in the Library? Why did we have good sign up over the summer when there are lots of free spaces to study in all the University Libraries?

Here are some of the reasons people find the session useful:

1. For PhD candidates in particular, writing can be a lonely pastime. It’s easy to feel isolated. In SUAW, the individual is part of a group and has opportunities to chat to others and feel part of a community.

2. For academic staff, it can be difficulty to carve out protected writing time. If you’re in your office, there are the regular distraction of emails, knocks at the door and all the other work you need to be getting on with. Shut up and Write is in your calendar; it’s protected, quiet time.

3. Getting out of your usual space can be stimulating and lead to greater productivity or new ideas. The same old four walls may not always be doing you a favour.

4. One PhD candidate noted that the regular writing slot is helpful psychologically and also in terms of ensuring there is new written work to discuss in supervision sessions. Put simply, if you know you’ve got time to write, you don’t have to worry about not writing the rest of the time.

5. Free tea and biscuits!

Turn up and Talk

As a counterpoint to Shut up and Write we’re hoping to pilot a series of sessions to facilitate conversation among researchers.

The Research Hub provides a great space for informal events and we would like academics from across the campus to use it to present their research and to develop cross-disciplinary networks.

Some ideas might be:

  • Speed networking – facilitated networking via timed one-on-one conversation
  • Data conversations – come and talk about your quantitative or qualitative datasets and associated issues
  • Conference clinic – come and practice your presentation in a supportive environment

Let us know what you think and get in touch with any ideas of your own.