26
26
Robertson, Dr Robert
A COLLECTION OF FIVE AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPTS:
Estimate
10,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 10,625 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
26
Robertson, Dr Robert
A COLLECTION OF FIVE AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPTS:
Estimate
10,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 10,625 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations

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Robertson, Dr Robert
A COLLECTION OF FIVE AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPTS:
Two Diaries: i) Diary, with daily entries recording his medical practice along with weather reports on the facing versos, providing a detailed account of his career at sea on HMS Edgar, including an account of the Battle of Cape St Vincent and other encounters with enemy ships, then on HMS Romney (from 20 July 1782), then in private practice in Hythe, Hampshire (from 6 April 1783) and finally as physician in charge at Greenwich Royal Hospital (from 26 August 1791), with detailed records of interesting cases, notes of those added to the sick lists, and some general comments on disease, the later entries largely restricted to weather reports, c.387 pages, with five additional leaves inserted, 22 October 1779 to 20 August 1795, large 4to (295 x 240mm), half calf on marbled boards, worn, hinges splitting, loss at spine; ii) Diary, at Greenwich Hospital, with daily entries primarily recording weather conditions but with regular additional remarks on such subjects as the treatment of prominent or interesting patients (e.g. Sir Hugh Palliser in 1796), the lying in state of Lord Nelson at Greenwich ([4 Jan. 1806] "Vast numbers of people came to see the Remains of Lord Nelson" [5 Jan. 1806] "Horse Guards came down to keep the mob off the gates, which they forced"), public affairs, his own ill-health and personal affairs, c.236 pages, 22 August 1795 to 6 February 1823, folio (380 x 255mm.), vellum boards, worn, hinges splitting, loss at spine

Three sick books: iii) Sick Book maintained during service as Ship's Surgeon on HMS Edgar and HMS Romney, with title ("Edgar's Diary of the Sick"), daily entries recording those in the sick bay, their name, age, date taken sick, date of recovery or when sent to hospital, disease and symptoms, and medical treatment, c.376 pages, 1 July 1779 to 31 December 1782, large 4to (295 x 240mm.), half calf on marbled boards, binding worn, upper cover detached; iv) Greenwich Royal Hospital Sick Book, listing patients' names, ages, date of admission, place admitted from, disease and symptoms, medicine ordered, whether they recovered or died, and their date of discharge, with monthly summary returns of admissions, showing an average intake of between 30-50 admissions per month, mostly of older patients suffering from a wide range of diseases including many cases of fever, bowel cases, phthisis, intemperance, insanity, and other common disorders but with rarer cases including St Vitus Dance and vertigo, also with related notes including on controversy about the treatment of the families of pensioners, and a note that "The air pump vapor Bath was made a trial of on Admiral [John Willett] Payne nine times - under the Direction of Dr Blegborough" (July 1803), 462 numbered pages, 22 December 1790 to August 1803, folio (368 x 270mm.), quarter vellum on marbled boards, worn; v) Greenwich Royal Hospital Sick Book, listing patients' names, ages, date of admission, medicine ordered, place admitted from, and outcome, partially autograph, c.118 pages, plus blanks, 1 January 1815 to 1 December 1818, 8vo (243 x 148 mm.), contemporary calf, worn


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Catalogue Note

Dr Robert Robertson (1742-1829), physician, began his career as a ship's surgeon. He served on a series of men-of-war from 1761 to 1783. The final years of his service on Edgar (74 guns) and Romney (50 guns) are recorded here both through Robertson's diary and a sick book. Robertson's record of sickness on HMS Edgar during the naval war between Britain and Spain that formed part of the American War of Independence includes many cases of venereal disease, scurvy, and fever as well as contusions and wounds, as well as providing additional detail on the most unusual incidents such as the death of a fourteen year-old midshipman following a fall into the hold on 28 April 1781, or the unfortunate Richard King, who "shot off his left fore-Finger by accident while Sentinel last night" (17 December 1781). His concurrent diaries provide further detail about his life and work on board and include accounts of enemy action, most notably the Battle of Cape St Vincent on 16 January 1780:

"About 1 PM yesterday a Signal was made for a strange Fleet - which proved to be the Spanish Fleet of 13 large (& a number small) Men of War. Our signal being made we soon came up with a No. of the Enemies Ships & engaged. About ten minutes after we left their Sternmost Ship wearing a Broad Pendant she blew entirely up. A shocking sight. One of our Lieut. of Marines & five men were killed: & about 24 wounded & hurt but a number of them do their Duty. 21 of them in the List only. There were two legs to amputate & two badly woundly [sic]..." (17 January 1780)

Robertson was in private practice in Hampshire for much of the 1780s, but in 1790 he was appointed physician in charge of the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, the charitable institution established in 1694 for the care of retired naval men. His sick books provide an important medical record for the hospital over a period of seventeen years, and his diary is a significant additional source for his personal and professional life in Greenwich. 

Robertson was a noted authority on fever, publishing 13 volumes on the subject between 1777 and 1812, and became a member of both the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society. His particular clinical interests can be seen, for example, in his diary note when he first came on board HMS Romney:

"...June 11th [1782] I enter'd on board the Romney - since which time the most general Complaint has been the Influenza which was highly Epidemic throughout Europe as far as I can learn. Various have been the opinions amongst the Faculty of its Origin. Lind & others attributing it to Contagion while many, of whom I profess my self one, attribute it solely to the extremely cold, wet, & variable spring..." 

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations

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London