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Collegium Regium Chirurgorum Edinense Nov 02

Yesterday took me to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh for a visit to their library and museum organised via ELISA. The college itself is on Nicholson Street near Edinburgh University, its pillared frontage opposite the Festival Theatre standing out amongst the banks and restaurants.

The very enthusiastic librarian kindly showed us a number of very old books including a Book of Hours and a Nuremberg Chronicle, both from the 15th century and in Latin. The latter is an early printed work, full of marvellous wood-cut illustrations and charting the history of the world up to 1493 (though omitting the discovery of the New World). The library also holds the College archives, which include letters leading up to the 1505 formation of the college (as the Craft Guild of Barber Surgeons) written in Old Scots.

We were treated to a visit to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums. The pathology museum is well worth a visit, but is not for the squeamish or for the hypochondriac: there are plenty of human remains, assorted tumours and kidney stones, plus battlefront injuries in the form of damaged bones and paintings of the victims. Like the photographs on European cigarette packets, there were plenty of images and objects to put you off an unhealthy lifestyle (or going to hospital…). There are also displays about Joseph Bell, a Fellow of the College and the main inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, Burke and Hare, and the history of the College.

For more information, see the College’s website.

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