Birmingham Medical Institute auction topped by 1670 midwifery book

The second instalment of the Birmingham Medical Institute's library auction (July 26) has been highlighted by the 26.6% increase on estimate seen by Percival Willughby's Observations on Midwifery.

Birmingham Medical Institute auction midwifery book
Willughby's book tells of "strugling, halings and enforcements"

The Cirencester, UK auction saw the book sell for £38,000 against a £20,000-30,000 estimate. The sale will help the institute on its way to raising the £500,000 it requires to maintain its current premises and meet rising rent costs.

The 600 page manuscript records more than 200 childbirths and is Willughby's attempt "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". Created circa 1670, it is considered one of the most important books in the history of obstetrics and is one of only two known full-length copies in the author's hand.

Also featuring were two lots from the noted English physician Edward Jenner, who is best known as the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine. A personally inscribed copy of his work An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, which was published in 1800 and made out to his close friend and confident Henry Hicks, sold 37.5% above estimate at £11,000.

Following this was a copy of a circular letter which Jenner sent to his professional colleagues asking about their experiences with the smallpox virus. Jenner believed the main cause of re-infection was improper vaccination and therefore had the text inserted into medical journals and the lay press as a warning. An important item, which ultimately led to his development of an effective vaccine, it sold with an impressive 133.3% increase on its $6,000 high estimate for $14,000.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a fantastic range of investment-grade books currently in stock.


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