We have always been fortunate to receive regular donations of books and historical material that enhance our Collection. It is not uncommon for the donor of the work to tell us something about the material – how they have used it or why they are gifting it to us. These personal stories add real interest and help us to bring the material to life.
I have recently come across an example of this in our archives in a series of letters from George Fleming (1833-1901). Fleming was RCVS President in 1880-84 and 1886 and was responsible for, and funded the costs of, the 1881 Veterinary Surgeons Act.
On 10th March 1900 he writes:
“Dear Mr President,
I have not forgotten, nor am I ever likely to forget the generous manner in which the members of the veterinary profession acknowledged the feeble services I was permitted to render them some years ago; and I would now like to give evidence of my recollection of their beneficence in asking … [if the RCVS] …would further favour me by accepting, as a gift, my professional library”.
Fleming says that the library comprises at least 600 items, in several languages, with many of them been rare. The only stipulation of the gift is “that the volumes are to be accessible to every member who desires to refer to them”.
In the next six months, he wrote to the President on three further occasions and appears anxious that the books are transferred to the RCVS sooner rather than later to “ensure their reception during my lifetime”.
In the final letter to the RCVS, dated 24 August 1900, Fleming records that 821 books have just been collected by the shippers and apologises that they “are very dusty” blaming “workmen in the house”. Finally he suggests that a “man should be employed to arrange and catalogue them”.
George Fleming died on 13 April 1901 so I am not sure if he knew that a catalogue was made of his library. We still have it, and together with his books and the journals he had previously donated, it takes pride of place in our Historical Collection.
If you have any material that you think we might be interested in get in touch and tell us your story.