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Introduction

In 2003 the Library was awarded a grant of £36,000 from the Wellcome Trust to make two significant medical collections available to a wider community.  The two elements of the project were the cataloguing of ca. 1200 items and conservation work on 810 volumes deemed in need of repair after an initial survey. The project was completed in April 2004.

The cataloguing element of the project involved the creation full antiquarian standard electronic catalogue records for the printed books in the Floyer and Metcalfe collections, searchable via Oxford’s union catalogue, SOLO. The records include detailed copy specific information such as a brief description of the history of the collections, provenance, manuscript annotations and notes, bindings, hand coloured illustrations, imperfections etc.

These records are made available to researchers through the union catalogue of the Consortium of University and Research Libraries (COPAC) and the Hand Press Book database of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL HPB).

The records for the manuscripts (20 items), catalogued in conformity with ISAD(G), the General International Standard Archival Description, are available via this website (see below).

The Collections

Floyer Collection

Sir John Floyer (1649-1734) matriculated at Queen’s in 1664, receiving a BA in 1668, MA in 1671, BM in 1674 and DM in 1680. After Oxford Floyer returned to his home city of Lichfield where he practised as a physician until his death at the age of 85 in 1734. He published widely during his life and is best known for his research into the properties of cold bathing, on asthma, from which he himself was a sufferer, and for his pioneering work developing a pulse watch.

The collection of 150 volumes which Floyer left to Queen’s is made up of printed copies of his own writings, books from his own library and seventeen manuscripts including Advice to a Young Physician written to his infant grandson who died before he could fulfil any of his grandfather’s ambitions for him. The books that belonged to Floyer formed his working library. On blank pages in many of the books and sometimes on printed pages Floyer wrote comments, notes and prescriptions, as well as adding marginal annotations. These identify his collection as being for use rather than for show. In some cases the books were used by him in support of his practice as a physician, others were acquired to assist him in his research and writings on medical subjects. In his own publications he referred to many of these books and their authors. In addition to the books that he bought which were relevant to his practice he acquired important Renaissance works from his predecessor in Lichfield, Dr Anthony Hewett (?1603-1684). These earlier books were absorbed into his working library thus extending the span to over a century and a half. There is much evidence that he used books from every period in the development of his own ideas. For example De medicates aquis, Venice 1564, by Fallopius, promoted the revival of medical interest in waters and bathing, about which, as has been mentioned before, Floyer became enthusiastic, writing extensively on the subject.

The range of subjects and authors in the collection reflect Floyer’s wide interests in both the practical and theoretical aspects of the medicine of his time. The Floyer collection is thus particularly significant as the personal working library of an important provincial physician who had exceptional intellectual ambitions and energy during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Metcalfe Collection

Compared to Floyer, Theophilus Metcalfe (1690-1757) is a considerably more elusive character. Metcalfe was not a member of Queen’s, but of Hart Hall (later Hertford College) where he matriculated in 1706, received his BA in 1710, MA in 1713, BM in 1716 and a DM in 1724. Little is known of his life, although his memorial in the church of Ambrosden, Oxfordshire, describes him as a “learned, skilful and tender hearted physician”.

It is not certain why he left his extensive medical library of over 1000 volumes to Queen’s. In 1743 on the flyleaf of one of his bound volumes of medical pamphlets Metcalfe wrote, “This book, with all the others, I give to Queen’s College out of gratitude, respect and in the cause of friendship.” It may be possible that Metcalfe chose to leave his books to Queen’s because the College had already expanded its medical collections through Floyer’s gift. Whatever the reason Metcalfe’s library made the Queen’s medical collection among the largest in the Oxford Colleges.

Metcalfe’s collection, which is more academic in character than Floyer’s, is diverse and includes chemical and alchemical works as well as medicine and is particularly strong in gynaecology. It is based in part on late Renaissance medical bibliographies by Pascalis Gallus (Pascal Le Coq) and various other producers of bibliographies (Spachius, Schenk von Grafenberg) and represents a sort of ideal library for the reader of about 1630. The collection has real coherence and includes many well respected but non-conformist figures in the Galenic tradition such as Fernel and Argenterio. The collection also includes three of his manuscript notebooks. Like Floyer, Metcalfe annotated many of his books on the flyleaves.

Catalogues

Manuscripts

Metcalfe manuscripts catalogue

Floyer manuscripts catalogue

Printed books

Records for the printed books in the Floyer and Metcalfe collections are available via SOLO and may be found by searching the copy-specific notes for Floyer or Metcalfe (or both) along with the word Wellcome for greater accuracy.  Links to pre-filled searches are available below:

Metcalfe books on SOLO

Floyer books on SOLO