How were the publications used?
Simms amassed his impressive collection over a twenty-year period. Many of the titles are as interesting for reasons connected with their provenance, as for the medical content itself. For example, Taylor’s Manual of medical jurisprudence (1874) was awarded as a prize in May 1876 to John Chestnutt, a medical student of Queen’s College Cork.
Books as gifts:
There is further evidence that some of the books within the collection were presented as gifts. For example, R.[?] Stephenson presented to the Belfast Medical Library the fifth edition of Magendie’s Formulary for the preparation and employment of several new remedies (1825), thereby indicating the importance of up-to-date knowledge in the medical profession and the value bestowed upon the latest current practice.
And J.M. Sanders (1814-1846) received Bichat's General anatomy (London: S. Highley, 1831) from his "affectionate aunt" ("B.H.") in June 1834 when undertaking his medical studies. Sanders, surgeon and medical administrator, was a demonstrator of anatomy in Royal Belfast Academical Institution in 1835-1836 and it is likely that he used this very copy when instructing students there. Highly esteemed by his students, they presented him with a silver lancet case in 1836 (preserved in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast). He would go on to have a distinguished, albeit short career, working as medical officer to Belfast Dispensary from 1836, surgeon to Belfast Fever Hospital (1838-46), contracting, and dying of tuberculosis in 1846.
The Longevity of Man (1879), written by the Deputy Librarian of the House of Lords, in which he laid down some rules for validating longevity claims, is another publication containing interesting provenance notes. It is inscribed to Josephine Edwards "from her old friend" the actual author, William J Thoms (1803-1885).
It appears that the same copy was subsequently gifted to the Dean of Down, Downpatrick, dated July 1932. At that time the Dean was Rev. William Patrick Carmody, a position he held 1923-38 (Rankin, p. 14). It is inscribed to the Dean from H.B. Swanzy dated July 1932, likely to be the Rev. Henry Biddall Swanzy (1873-1932), who published extensively on Irish church history and Irish genealogy and who was Dean of Dromore 1931-1932, a position which he held until his death in November 1932 (Rankin, p.18). The inscription is all the more poignant since it predated his death by a few months.
Books as study aids:
There is ample evidence that these books were actively used as study aids by students and medics throughout their history. The presence of marginalia notes, scribbles and underlined elements suggest strongly that these texts were pored over by those studying the contents held within. Annotations and comments – even notes pertaining to grammar and syntax for foreign language texts – pepper many of the books in the collection, indicating that many of these publication were core study aids.
Provenance notes further confirm that many of these books – in all likelihood before they had been acquired by Simms – belonged to local medics. For example, the aforementioned Bichat’s General anatomy (1831) belonged to a mid-19th century local medic. It is likely that these texts were used by students of Royal Academical Institution. Additionally, labels pasted to the inside covers of many of the books indicate that they initially formed part of the corpus of the Belfast Medical Library and, later, the Library of the Ulster Medical Society.
Bichat, Xavier. General anatomy, applied to physiology and the practice of medicine by X. Bichat, translated from the last French edition by Constant Coffyn; revised and corrected by George Calvert. London: printed for S. Highley, 1831. 2 vols.
Clarke, R. S. J. (comp.). A directory of Ulster doctors (who qualified before 1901). Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2013. Vol. 2, p. 1004. Magendie, François. Formulaire pour la préparation et l'emploi de plusieurs nouveaux médicamens. Paris: Méquignon-Marvis, 1825. 5th éd. rev. et augm.
Rankin, Fred (ed.). Clergy of Down and Dromore. Part 1: 1930-1995, edited and with brief parish histories by Fred Rankin. Part 2: before 1930, being reprints of the biographical succession lists compiled by Canon J.B.Leslie and Dean H. B. Swanzy. Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation & Library Committee of the Dioceses of Down & Conor, 1996.
Taylor, Alfred Swaine. A manual of medical jurisprudence. London: J. & A. Churchill, 1874. 9th ed.
Thoms, William John. The longevity of man: its facts and fictions: with a prefatory letter to Prof. Owen ... on the limits and frequency of exceptional cases. London: F. Norgate, 1879.
Yperman, Jan. La chirurgie de maitre Jehan Yperman: chirurgien belge (XIIe-XIVe) siècle / publiée pour la première fois d'après la copie flamande de Cambridge par M.C. Broeckx. Anvers: J. de Koninck, 1866. 2nd éd.