UCL News


Art for medicine's sake: Carswell Drawings restoration grant

6 December 2005

UCL Library Services has been awarded a grant of £40,000 from the Wellcome Trust for the restoration of the 'Carswell Drawings', a unique collection of more than 1,000 pathological drawings and watercolours.


Sir Robert Carswell was Professor of Pathological Anatomy at UCL from 1831- 1840. A superb draughtsman, his extremely detailed illustrations were used as a teaching resource for students. In 1837, he published his great work on pathological anatomy 'Illustrations of the Elementary Forms of Disease'.

The drawings are currently kept in very poor quality acidic wrappers dating from the 1930s and are difficult to access. The grant will fund an 18-month project to remove the wrappers, clean and conserve the drawings, and re-house them, thus ensuring their survival for the future and making them more accessible to users.

Ms Gill Furlong, Head of UCL Library Special Collections said: "This collection of ground-breaking work was used before the widespread introduction of microscopes, so were tremendously important at the time. During Carswell's day, the only way to examine the human body in such detail was to have a good supply of corpses for dissection. The Carswell Drawings contain many items of historical significance - the first illustrations of Hodgkin's Disease, the first portrayal of lesions of the spinal cord in Multiple Sclerosis and the first depictions of iron deficiency anaemia. Once restored, they will be a fascinating resource, particularly for medical historians."

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Image: Watercolour of monkey's lung (Carswell Drawings)