College Library and Archive acquire a unique manuscript item dating from the 1760s

College Library and Archive acquire unique manuscript

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08 Apr 2022

The College Library and Archive were delighted to acquire a unique manuscript item dating from the 1760s, entitled ‘Diary of an 18th Century Man-Midwife’. 

Very few student diaries from this period survive today, making the diary an extraordinary addition to our collection. The diary belonged to surgeon and ‘man-midwife’ Isaac Williamson of Cumbria and was written during Williamson’s formative years as a medical student in Edinburgh and Dublin respectively. The manuscript offers a rare insight to the everyday life of a young man who spent his time between medical classes, clinical lectures, assisting women in labour and enjoying a very active social life with a wide circle of friends.

Importantly, the diary also has special significance to our College and its history. Edinburgh was the first city in Britain to deliver formal obstetrical training and several of our former members had strong involvement in this. For instance, Isaac Williamson attended the pioneering classes of Thomas Young, who, in 1756, become the first University Professor of Midwifery in the United Kingdom and the same year was elected Deacon (President) to the Incorporation of Surgeons and Barbers of Edinburgh (later RCSEd).

As you would expect in any collection dating back over 500 years, often repair work is required for certain items, and this is indeed the case with the diary. Our ‘Adopt-a-Book’ scheme enables persons or groups to fund necessary restoration work by bookbinding and paper conservation experts. Anyone who adopts an item from our collection will be acknowledged in perpetuity, including their names or dedication recorded in an inscription of their choosing in a protective solander box.

We are very happy to invite anyone who would be interested in “adopting” this exceptional diary to email us at

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