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More about that Vesalius volume

More about that Vesalius volume

Letter to the Editor
Re: “Taking history in hand” 
Issue #3-2009

This is a response to the letter by John Desmarteau, Meds’74, regarding the provenance of that historic book by the 16th century Belgian anatomist and physician Andreas Vesalius (1514-64). I have some information that may be of interest to Review readers. It is drawn from a typewritten bibliographic note that is kept with the book. It reads as follows:

“Vesalius, Andres, 1514-1564. De ­humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Basileae, Per Ioannem Oporinum, [1555] Second enlarged edition. First published in 1543. Illustrations were made by Jan Stephan van Calcar, a pupil of Titian

“This copy of Vesalius includes an inscription in the handwriting of Sir William Osler, who suggested to Mr. C. Bermingham1 (then visiting Sir William in company of Dr. J. Third 2) that he purchase the book for Queen’s.

“In reply to a question as to how Queen’s Library was getting along, Dr. Third had said, ‘Just fairly, as we lost a lot of books at the time of the fire.’ It was then that Dr. Osler showed Mr. Birmingham a telegram he had received from Brown of Edinburgh, offering Vesalius at a reasonable price. Mr. Bermingham agreed to buy it for Queen’s. When it arrived Dr. Osler inscribed it as a presentation from Mr. Bermingham. Dr. Third brought the book back to Queen’s.&rdquo

1 “Cornelius John Bermingham, born in 1852 in Ireland. Came to Canada at age five, and made his fortune with the Canadian Locomotive Works in Kingston. One of his sisters and a brother became MD’s from Queen’s, and one of his nieces married Hugh Osler, a nephew of Sir William. He died in 1932.” (Information provided by Margaret Angus of Kingston.)

2 “Dr. James Third, from Trenton, Ontario, and a Queen’s graduate. He was superintendent of the Kingston General Hospital.”

James Third earned his BA from Queen’s in 1919 and his medical degree in 1921. Margaret Angus, LLD’73, who died in February 2008, was a well-known local historian and author. She and her husband, the late Prof. William “Doc” Angus, LLD’90, founder of Queen’s Drama Department, were beloved by generations of students and were important figures in the history of CFRC, the campus radio station – Ed.


[Queen's Alumni Review 2009-4 cover]