Santa Claus was good to the Dolan Collection in the person of his deputized elf, alumna Jane K. Dickinson, RN (PhD, 2000), who donated to the collection what she had received as a gift, the first English edition of Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not, published in London in 1859. You can read more about this copy’s history and how Dickinson was given the book here: http://nursemanifest.com/2016/01/17/nursing-history-and-a-book/
The slender volume shows wear, but that wear signifies the many hands and the frequent use of its many owners over the past 156 years. Notes on Nursing is the generative text of nursing practice and research, distilling Nightingale’s experiences in a variety of settings and establishing the foundational principles for nursing education.
Nightingale’s book is still in print, as well as in a variety of digital versions, including Google Books, a Gnosis library version, a digital version provided by the University of Pennsylvania, and a Project Gutenberg version.
So why does a hard-copy material version still matter?
A book is more than the words supplied by the author; it has a material reality that surrounds and conveys the author’s text, including the typography and book design selected by the publisher, and, in the case of nineteenth-century books, the advertisements for the publisher’s other books situating this book within a discursive field. These supplementary materials are known as paratexts. Paratexts gave the readers at the time of publication a set of interpretive tools (for example, is the book to be read for entertainment, edification, education, or some combination of the three?), giving modern readers and scholars hermeneutic tools.
For example, the Nightingale first edition’s publisher (Harrison) featured advertising for a variety of topics, including heraldry and travel narratives, as well as medical works.
Throughout history, book readers have actively engaged in conversation with the books, highlighting and commenting on the words on the page, rather than just passively consuming them. Often found on the margins of pages, these marginalia provide us a window into the minds of previous readers of a particular book, pointing to what they found valuable or controversial in their reading.
For example, in our first edition a cryptic note has been slipped in between pages 6 and 7 on a scrap of paper: “[indecipherable] 1859-60.”
Provenance and Association
Related to paratexts and marginalia are the documentary evidence of previous owners (provenance) and previous owners of significance or renown (association). At its best, provenance documents a “chain of ownership” used to authenticate the object; sometimes the object is associated with a significant owner.
In our new acquisition, one owner has inscribed it: “Annie Bromley | March 26th 1880.” An Annie Bromley in Coburg, England, was married and having children at that time (The Bromley brothers, 2015). More distantly, Bromley (1911) identifies several Annie Bromleys in the United States, associated with Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Sales receipt documentation included also shows that the book was sold by book seller Donald A. Berry (“Specialist in Books on Economics, History, Science, Medicine and Periodicals) in London in August 1959.
The UConn School of Nursing has a personal connection to Nightingale. Our founding dean’s maternal grandfather, Cyrus Hamlin, was a Congregationalist missionary to the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the mid-nineteenth century whose bakery provided bread to Nightingale and her hospital patients in Scutari.
We are grateful to Jane Dickinson for this generous gift to a nursing history collection that began with the generosity of Josephine Dolan and has benefited from the thoughtful donations of many other alumni in subsequent years.
Bromley, V. (1911). The Bromley genealogy. New York: Frederick Hitchcock. https://archive.org/details/bromleygenealog00bromgoog
The Bromley brothers of Munro Street, Coburg. (2015, August 13). Fighting the Kaiser: Coburg and the First World War. http://fightingthekaiser.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-bromley-brothers-of-munro-street.html