Rare Books Blog

Image of scrapbook, with manuscript postmortem accounts, newspaper clippings, and other materials
May 6, 2022

The Rare Book Collection has acquired two manuscript notebooks kept by Ludwig Freyberger, physician and early expert pathologist at the turn of the 20th century in England.   Originally from Austria, where he trained in Vienna as a physician, Freyberger was a prominent London physician and barrister-at-law at the Middle Temple.  Nominated as an expert pathologist in 1902 by John Troutbeck, Coroner for the City and Liberty of Westminster, Freyberger kept detailed notes of his postmortem investigations, recording both his own notes on the cause of death and the jury’s verdict.  Covering 1902-3 and 1908, the notebooks touch on Freyberger’s findings both in notorious trials, such as the case of George Chapman–a convicted serial killer, named as Jack the Ripper by an inspector working with the case–and in the daily trials overseen by the courts of Westminster.  Freyberger’s notes highlight the differences between the causes of death and the meanings ascribed to those deaths by the criminal justice system, for instance “wilful murder,” in the case of the woman who died from pneumonian and septic blood poisoning following an illegal abortion.

The expert witness was by no means a straightforward role in the early 20th-century British court. Freyberger’s notebooks document a moment of historical transition towards an idea of “scientific” analysis in the criminal justice system, one politicized and vocally contested by many of his fellow physicians and members of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons.  

Acquired from Jarndyce, the notebooks offer an unusual moment of insight into the view of the expert witness in an early 20th-century English court.  They also add to the Rare Book Collection’s extensive documentation of official and popular perspectives on the trial, ranging from holdings of the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Sessions through tabloid accounts of abortion, murder, and other criminal trials in popular reporting.

engraved plan of Newgate Prison, Dublin, with accompanying table
May 6, 2022

A new acquisition from Maggs: George Warner, “Paper Relating to the Prisons in Dublin” (London: Luke Hansard, 1819), with an engraved plan of Newgate Prison.

In 1819, the Dublin Alderman, George Warner, wrote this detailed survey of prison conditions in Dublin in order to criticize the proposal for a new jail.  Rather than build a new prison, Warner recommended that the sessions court meet instead on a weekly rather than fortnightly basis: “as our law presumes every one innocent until proved to be guilty of some offense, it appears to be a very desirable object that all persons should be kept as short a time in confinement before trial as the necessary forms of justice will allow.”

The work includes a detailed engraving of Newgate Prison, detailing the venereal hospital; cells, hospitals, kitchens, and yards for women, men, and felons; “dark cells”; and other aspects.  

Warner describes a state of crisis in Dublin prisons, following the terrible famine and typhus epidemic of 1817-1819, and the “general distress which has pervaded the whole country.”  This edition of the paper was printed in London, “Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 30 March 1819.”

Photograph of miniature book, shown with pencil for scale
May 3, 2022

In 1839, the English Quaker, Elizabeth Fry, published this pocket-sized devotional work, intended for distribution to women prisoners in France.  Fry was a dedicated advocate for prison reform and a founding member of the Ladies’ Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate, reconfigured in 1821 as the British Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners.   Between 1838 and 1843, Fry made five visits to European prisons.   

Published in French, and intended for women prisoners, Fry’s Textes ou sujets de méditation, pour l’année (ca. 1839) counted out the year in 365 short daily readings, with the recommendation that each be read and memorized, first thing after rising each morning.  The opening above shows the first reading, for “1 JOUR. 1 SEM. 1 Mo. (Jan. 1),” taken from Psalm 90, verse 9:  “Nous consumons nos années comme une pensée.  Ps. Xc. 9.” [Psalm 90 KJV, “We spend our years as a tale that is told.”].   Fry inscribed this copy:  “donne par [Madame] Elisabeth Fry, elle meme. Ce 25 Juillet 1839 [Given by Madame Elizabeth Fry, herself. This July 25 1839].  

Acquired from Justin Croft, the work offers an unusual instance of rehabilitative reading, as envisioned by a Quaker English woman for French women prisoners.  It adds to the Rare Book Collection’s holdings on the history of English prison reform movements, which include works such as Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon: Or, the Inspection-House (1791) and Charles Dickens’ observations on Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, published in his American Notes (1842). 

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