From the Collections

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  • Bearded ladies on display


    Bearded ladies have long been one of the most familiar of performers in travelling shows and circuses. Often it was the contrast between their femininity and their wild, masculine appearance – bearded face and hairy body – that attracted an audience.… Continue reading

  • Dyeing for whiskers


    There have always been attempts to curb the hair loss and greyness long associated with ageing. A beard that grew a different colour to the head hair, for example, could be – and still can be – an irritating inconsistency.… Continue reading

  • Medieval embroidered binding.

    Another enigma: reading the embroidered binding of MS. 8932


    As noted by Elma Brenner in her post ‘The enigma of the medieval almanac’, Wellcome MS. 8932, a folding almanac produced in England in the first part of the 15th century, is a remarkable object. The almanac is of great… Continue reading

  • Faux french firefighters with false beards


    In the Library collections is this print intriguingly captioned “The false bearded sapeurs-pompiers at Fourneaux”. The caption tells us that the figures are firefighters in a small town on the French-Italian border, but what’s the story behind the false beards?… Continue reading

  • Notes from beyond


    Is this the Wellcome Library’s most striking catalogue description? MS.1074: Message stated to have been given at a séance at Bristol on Sunday, November 1st, 1874… For the perspective of the librarian or archivist this immediately raises a cataloguing conundrum  – who do… Continue reading

  • Text from 15th century manuscript.

    Before Agincourt: a contemporary voice on war in a medieval medical manuscript


    ‘What have you got on the Black Death?’, students occasionally ask in relation to the Wellcome Library’s medieval manuscripts. Surprising as it sounds, the answer is ‘nothing’. How can it be that some 300 mainly medical books, many of which… Continue reading

  • Film archives at risk


    World Day for Audiovisual Heritage falls on 27 October and the slogan for this year’s celebration is “Archives at Risk: Protecting the World’s Identities“. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced that all of the world’s… Continue reading

  • Image from birth scroll

    Wellcome MS. 632: heavenly protection during childbirth in late medieval England


    Wellcome MS. 632 may be the only surviving ‘birth girdle’ in England that was actually used during childbirth. This parchment roll survives as a rare artefact from a time when women, who could afford it, gave birth in well-furnished darkened… Continue reading

  • Edith Morgan: a life’s work in mental health


    Edith Morgan was a prominent figure in the field of mental health for over 40 years, both in the UK and internationally. Her personal papers, documenting her remarkable career, have just been catalogued and are available to view at the… Continue reading

  • Doctors and the invention of the English seaside


    How did the so-called ‘sea cure’ supplant the taking of waters at fashionable spas for Georgian England’s worried well? This was the question I sought answers for in the Wellcome Library’s collections. There I found several intriguing medical tracts, not… Continue reading