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The Winterbottom Catalogue

Information on the project funded in 2003 through the Full Disclosure programme

The Full Disclosure 2003 award to Durham University provided funding for the retrospective cataloguing of the Thomas Winterbottom Collection.

Thomas Masterman Winterbottom was born in 1766 in South Shields, County Durham, the son of a surgeon-apothecary. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, receiving his medical degree in 1792. Immediately after graduating he was appointed Physician to the Colony of Sierra Leone. The colony was founded as a new homeland for freed American slaves, and some of the books in Winterbottom's library reflect his interest in the anti-slavery movement. He seems to have been diligent and well-liked and remained in Sierra Leone until 1796 when he returned home to South Shields to take over his father's medical practice, finally retiring in 1820. He died in 1859 aged 94 having spent his retirement in philanthropic and educational work.

Winterbottom was a scholar and a book collector, publishing books on his medical research including his classic description of sleeping sickness (1803). He accumulated a library which included a collection of medical works bequeathed to the General Infirmary in Newcastle, now part of the Robinson Library, Newcastle University. His remaining books were bequeathed to Durham University. They are largely 18th and 19th century editions but include 7 incunables, 16 STC and 9 Wing items. In subject coverage, the collection's strengths are its natural science, for example the works of Newton and Linnaeus, and travel. In the travel section books on Africa and Asia predominate, some obviously related to Winterbottom's sojourn in Sierra Leone. In addition there is a small but interesting representation of French, German and Italian literature, and some local history material as well as works reflecting Winterbottom's philanthropical concerns such as books on education and prison reform.

The final report is available (see PDF files).

Lead Institution: University of Durham

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