Birmingham Medical Institute auction to offer midwifery book at $46,500

The second part of the Birmingham Medical Institute's library will be sold at auction tomorrow (July 26), with a rare 17th century midwifery book expected to be top lot.

Birmingham Medical Institute Percival Willughby Observations on Midwifery
Willughby's book tells of "strugling, halings, and enforcements"

Some of the rarest books from the vast collection will be sold off to raise money for the struggling organisation, which is currently experiencing a decline in income that means it is unable to meet rising rent costs. Part one of the sale saw strong results from the library, helping the institute well on the way to its £500,000 target.

Originally founded as a medical library in 1875, the collection was initially put together from donations. The institute has now become a valued and respected resource for practitioners, and stands as one of three medical societies remaining within its original premises.

Percival Willughby's Observations in Midwifery will headline the sale with its harrowing descriptions of the practices of 17th century midwifes. The book was written by Willughby circa 1670 "to inform ignorant common midwifes with such wayes as I have used with good successe... shewing the wayes how to deliver any difficult birth, bee it naturall, or, unnaturall".

The 600 page manuscript records more than 200 cases and is one of the most important books in the history of obstetrics. It is one of only two known full-length copies in the author's hand, prompting an estimate of £20,000-30,000 from the auction house.

"It's incredibly rare," auctioneer Chris Albury told UK newspaper the Guardian. "And it's a fantastic piece of work. It's just so charming, the handwriting is so legible and the language so fresh. You really feel a genuine warmth to this person. It's not just of medical interest - it's an insight into 17th century society, in that it gives details of these families and homes he is visiting, and their circumstances. You really get a whole flavour of the period from this one perspective."

Find out how the rather gruesome book fared by checking back soon with Paul Fraser Collectibles. We also have our own stunning selection of rare books and manuscripts currently on offer.


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