It’s not obviously an ownership mark, and doesn’t look like a signature: it might be a note of someone else’s name for future reference. However, Mr Kidder of Emmanuel might be traceable.
According to John Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses, a Richard Kidder studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge from 1649 to 1653, going on to become a fellow of the College. He later had a distinguished career in the Church of England, ending his career as Bishop of Bath and Wells. He died in bed at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells during a storm on the night of 26 November 1703.
Is Hippocrates likely reading material for a future bishop? It might seem somewhat unlikely, but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography does note that Kidder initially trained as an apothecary before going up to study at Cambridge, so perhaps he carried on an interest in medicine.
Less surprising is that a bishop would have owned a collection of books: David Pearson’s list of 17th century English book owners notes that Kidder was described as ‘a man of many books’, and that a catalogue of 500 of them survives. I’m yet to check that catalogue, at Wells Cathedral Library, for any Hippocrates.
Letters written by Kidder in 1680 and later survive in a collection of letters in British Library. It’s hard to be certain when comparing possibly youthful book annotations and serious mature episcopal correspondence, but the evidence doesn’t rule out the writing coming from the same man.
All in all, there’s a lot of potential in this book. I’d be delighted if anyone’s looking for a research project and wants to come and investigate it in more detail.
Katie Birkwood, rare books and special collections librarian
Rare books from the RCP library are available for research by appointment. The collection is catalogued online. Please contact the library to make to make an appointment or if you have any enquiries.
- There are many annotated books in the RCP library collections. Most notable are the dozens of volumes previously owned by the Elizabethan polymath John Dee (1527–1608), the largest surviving remnant of his famous and extensive library, 12 of which have been digitised and transcribed by the Archaeology of Reading project, and are available open access online.
- There are many more, written on by known or unknown writers including an Oxford don studying Galen, RCP fellow Baldwin Hamey learning pharmacology in the 1600s, unknown readers (and one cat) perusing mathematical texts, and many others.
- Searching for ‘manuscript notes’, ‘MS notes’, ‘annotations’, or ‘marginalia’ in the library catalogue will reveal many more examples, but most have not yet be examined in detail, so there are plenty more surprises to discover on the shelves.