An ordinary (deaf) man – Thomas Henry Jones, Tailor (ca. 1837-1921)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 1 July 2016

To disappoint you, the person who features today had no exciting adventures, and was probably not significant to anyone outside his friends and family.  He was an ordinary person.  He probably led an ordinary life, but honestly, while we usually have some additional source to the online genealogical information, such as a short obituary or a story in a paper, I have nothing for Thomas except this rather nice photograph of him with his pinking shears. On the back it says “80 years old” in pencil, then in ink, but not Selwyn Oxley’s hand, “Thomas Henry Jones died Dec. 26 aged 86 at Ashford Mddx Tailor”.   Printed below in very small type – the photo is on a postcard backing as are most of our collection – is “Freeman, Photo, Ashford, Staines.”  The photo probably dates from circa 1915 (he was 84 when he died rather than 86 – see below).

Born in Deptford in 1837, Thomas Henry Jones was baptised on the 23rd of July that year, the son of John and Mary Ann Thomas.  His father was a shoemaker, and the family lived then in Grove Lane according to the baptismal records (lodged at the London Metropolitan Archives and also on line).  He attended the Old Kent Road Asylum, and was there in the 1851 census when he was 13.

In the 1861 census he was living with his married sister and her family in Deptford.  That census tells us he was deaf from birth.  Towards the end of that year he married a deaf lady called Susannah or Susan Anderson, daughter of Irish immigrants and, according to the 1861 census, deaf from birth.  She was born in Chelsea, circa 1834, and worked as a dressmaker.  In 1861 she was living in Carteret Street by St. James’s Park supporting her mother, and with a lodger nineteen year old Hannah Rowe, a deaf shirtmaker from Tiverton.  I wonder if they met through being a dressmaker and a tailor, or through the deaf community?  They had at least four children, Alfred, Walter, Caroline and Albert, born in Deptford, Rotherhithe and then Deptford, which suggests that the family did not move too far away from where Thomas grew up.  Susannah must have died a little after the 1881 census, as Thomas married again, to Eleanor Thompson (b.1851), in Bethnal Green in 1882 (see Free BMD).  She too was profoundly deaf, but I have not certainly identified her in the 1861 or 1871 censuses, although there is a Thompson family who might fit in the Hackney workhouse in 1871.

Thomas Jones died 1921In 1901 the family was living in Staines, with their three surviving children of six in total, and with a deaf boarder, William Lake (b.ca 1881 in New Brompton, Kent).  The youngest daughter, Beatrice, was born when Eleanor was 44. Beatrice Eleanor (b. 1895) married a George Matthews in 1915 and only died in 1974.

By 1911 they were living at 5 Vine Cottages, Ashford, Middlesex.  Thomas died at his home in London Road, Stanwell, on the 26th of December 1921, and was buried on the 31st, aged 84.

Thomas –

1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 6755; Schedule Number: 220 

1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 1175; Folio: 37; Page: 24

1881 Census Class: RG11; Piece: 701; Folio: 17; Page: 28; GSU roll: 1341164

1871 Census Class: RG10; Piece: 743; Folio: 84; Page: 24; GSU roll: 824719

1861 Census Class: RG 9; Piece: 397; Folio: 127; Page: 1; GSU roll: 542630

1841 Census Class: HO107; Piece: 484; Book: 9; Civil Parish: Lewisham; County: Kent; Enumeration District: 5 6; Folio: 9; Page: 11; Line: 2; GSU roll: 306876

Susannah –

1861 Census Class: RG 9; Piece: 53; Folio: 73; Page: 15; GSU roll: 542564

1851 Census Class: HO107; Piece: 1480; Folio: 353; Page: 46; GSU roll: 87804-87805

London Metropolitan Archives, Deptford St Paul, Register of Baptism, p75/pau, Item 007

London Metropolitan Archives, Death records Call Number: dro/022/a/01/020

Deaf Polish Jewish Artist, Maurycy Minkowski (1881-1930)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 24 June 2016

Maurycy Minkowski (1881-1930), sometime known as Maurice Minkowski or Minkovski, was a Polish Jewish artist, born in Warsaw.  He seems to an early 20th century artist who has been largely forgotten.

When one of his works, “After the Pogrom” appeared in a 2002 exhibition in The Jewish Museum (New York), it was bracketed with several other paintings by the critic as putting “a specifically Jewish spin on the worst excesses of 19th-century sentimentality” (Prose, 2002).  That seems a little harsh, but Richard Cohen says he was one of the Jewish artists who “remained deeply anchored to the cataclysmic events of the day”, namely the terrible pogroms that broke out in Eastern Europe and European Russia at the turn of the century (Jewish Icons, 1998).  If you search for his paintings on line you will get a flavour of the types of image – women, children, old men, the victims of dislocation and hatred.

It is hard to find solid details about his life, at least in English.  His family were it seems middle class, and according to Cohen were ‘acculturated’ (1998, p.245).  He had either an accident or an illness when he was 5, which entailed hospitalisation and left him deaf.  Aged 12 he was talented enough to be asked to paint a portrait of the Governor of Warsaw (Jewish Chronicle obituary).  From 1900 to 1904 he trained at the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under Jozef Mehoffer, Jan Stanisławski, and Leon Wyczółkowski (ibid and his Polish Wikipedia entry).  Cohen tells us that they awarded him with a gold medal at his graduation (ibid p.245).  He is called ‘deaf and dumb’ which suggests that he had no spoken language, but as I have found no proper interviews and only one contemporary account of him, it is impossible to say whether he signed in Polish sign language or had to use lip-reading or other forms of communication.  His Polish Wikipedia entry says that he attended the Institute for the Deaf, as well as having private tuition in drawing, but it cites no sources for that.  He had a brother, Feliks, and at some point married Rachel Marshak (Baker, p.108).  His obituary in the Jewish Chronicle, despite calling him ‘well-known’, runs to a mere 16 lines.

The pivotal period of his life that influenced his art seems to have been the events of the Polish Revolution in 1905.  There were attacks on Jews, and a pogrom at Bialystock where Cohen says (p.245) the “plight of the children left the artist shaken.”

He travelled around western Europe in the following years, and the Polish Wikipedia article says he settled in Paris in 1908, though he continued to travel.  Another source says that it was in 1924 that he moved permanently to Paris, where he exhibited (Stevens, 1925).  Interviewed by Kelly Stevens, it seems that, as he knew no French they communicated with gesture and ‘signs’.  He left Paris for Argentina in August 1930, taking 200 of his works with him.  One work, that seems to me to be very fine, a portrait of Mosheh Oved, is in the Ben Uri collection in London.  When crossing a street near his house in Buenos Aires on Saturday the 22nd of November 1930, Minkowski was struck by a taxi that he failed to hear because of his deafness, and died almost instantly (Baker p.109).  His funeral was attended by thousands of people.  About ten years after his death, some of his art was sold to cover the debts of his heirs.  Much was bought by a Jewish cultural association in Buenos Aires, the IWO (Baker, p.117).  The collection narrowly escaped total destruction when there was a terrorist attack on the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building in 1994, that killed 84 people.  You can read more about that in Zachary Baker’s article.

The short obituary cited above, quotes the Jewish Chronicle’s art critic from an earlier exhibition review –

In the work of Maurice Minkowski…. We see a splendid example of the East European Type of Jewish genius…. We find the penetrating grasp of character and the absorbed interest in human emotion which is to be expected in a Polish Jew: it is the high intensity with which these are developed which is remarkable.

MinkowskiCohen says,

The reception of Minkowski’s work in the pre-World War I period remains enigmatic. Hardly any Jewish newspaper that popularized Jewish artists singled him out, and he is referred to only fleetingly until the appearance of the Hungarian Jewish journal Múlt és Jövő in 1911. This journal gave his work extensive coverage, publishing many of his paintings. After World War I, Minkowski staged several large exhibitions in the west, which were introduced by the French cultural figure, Anatole de Monzie (Cohen p.250-1).

The photograph of the artist, from our collection made by Selwyn Oxley, is the only image of him that I have seen, and is what set me off trying to find out a little about him.  It comes from The Silent Worker article.  His seems a fascinating story, and probably requires the research skills of an art lover who can read Polish, French, and Spanish.  Please add any interesting information you can contribute in the comment space below.

UPDATE 1/7/2016: I put the wrong birth date in the heading and first paragraph from an early version – it was 1881 NOT 1888 as one or two sources suggested. I have also expanded a few bits and added a couple of links & a quote from Cohen.

Baker, Zachary M.  Art Patronage and Philistinism in Argentina: Maurycy Minkowski in Buenos Aires, 1930. Shofar Vol. 19, No. 3, Special Issue: The Jewish Diaspora of Latin America (SPRING 2001), pp. 107-119

Cohen, Richard I., Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe. University of California Press, 1998. p.245-51

Prose, Francine, The Gallery: Nostalgia and Daring in Jewish Art Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition, 2002

The Jewish Chronicle, November 28th 1930 p. 14

The Jewish Chronicle, December 5th 1930 p. 5

Stevens, Kelly, Minkowski, Polish Painter. The Silent Worker, Vol.38 (1), p.6-8

MUSEO MAURICE MINKOWSKI Calle Pasteur 633 , Buenos Aires , 1028 , Argentina

De’Via and Deaf Jewish Art


A Deaf Cuban Revolutionary in London – Captain Juan Fernandez

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 17 June 2016

Unlike most of the South American countries, Cuba was one of the last to break away from Spain, and not without a bitter struggle.  One of the heroes of the struggle was Captain Juan Fernandez.  Juan Fernandez (born circa 1868) was U.S. born  to Cuban parents, and had been educated at both the University of California and at a college in Barcelona (Ephphatha).   For three years he served under General Antonio Maceo Grajales, second-in-command in the Cuban Army of Independence, as aide-de-campe.  It was in the course of this stuggle that he was deafened by an explosion near Bahia Hondo, when a mine that was being laid to disrupt the movement of Spanish troops on the railway there, exploded early, killing several insurgents.  It forced him to leave the army.

In 1896 he travelled to Europe to represent the army of liberation.  While in London, Fernandez spoke to meetings of deaf people on several occasions (Ephphatha).

In 1899, when Fernandez was in Paris,

while he was smoking in front of the Hotel Terminus, he was approached by three Germans, who knew his name and all about him, and began to rave about the selfishness of the United States Government in its relation to Cuba.  In the course of their talk one of them showed Fernandez a photograph of a German officer, whom Fernandez recognized as the man speaking to him.  The German went on to say that through Fernandez he could get the Cubans 250,000 francs at once and plenty more when required, with all the arms and ammunition necessary for a prolonged rebellion against the United States Government, if Fernandez would work in Germany’s interest.  At this Fernandez replied: “Gentlemen, I am a Cuban by blood, but I am a citizen of the United States, and will see you and Germany in — before I would raise a finger against the land of my birth.  I shall make this public, if it costs me my head.  Good day.”

Exit three Germans in great haste and confusion.

In addition to talking about the revolution, Fernandez also pronounced on other subjects regarding Cuba, for example the beauty of the Cuban ladies.  He was careful to distance the revolutionaries, who he described as being a mixture of all Cubans as well as being supported by Europeans, from anarchists, who were widely active at that time.  He condemned the assassination of the Spanish Prime Minister Cánovas del Castillo whose repressive policies helped foster political instability in Spain.

I was about to say that have not been able to find out much more about Juan Fernandez, then discovered an article in The Illustrated Police News, that says he married in St. Mary’s Islington one Maud Ashton, a deaf lady. That would have been in July 1898.  In actual fact, the records show he married Julia Ayshford (June Quarter 1898) –

AYSHFORD  Julia Georgiana    Islington  1b 535
Fernandez  Juan    Islington  1b 535

The article also says that the ceremony was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Kibley, Chaplain of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum.  The marriage certificate, were you to obtain a copy, would show that the newspaper made another mistake and that the ceremony was conducted by our old friend, the Rev. Gilby, chaplain to the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb.   The extraordinary thing is, when I started writing this I had no idea that there was a deeper connection.  I just discovered this, in Ephphatha, for July 1898. p.115 –

London notesJulia Ayshford, previously Julia Franklin, was deaf from an accident aged 15 (see 1911 census).  She married the St. Saviour’s church stalwart and friend of Gilby’s, H.G.G. Ayshford, who died in 1893.  They had a daughter, also called Julia, who Juan adopted.  In 1901 they were living in Eastbourne.  Julia Fernandez died in Edmonton in 1933, aged 73.

In 1898 he held a commission in the U.S. Army – but perhaps that was related to the Spanish-U.S.A. War.  If that is the case, I would expect that there are U.S. Army records that would be worth checking.  From the record of his marriage online, I see that his father was a Presbytarian minister, also called Juan Fernandez, and that he was a widower.  If his father trained formally as a minister there may well be a record of that at some college.

Any Spanish speaking readers out there who would care to find out more about him and fill in some more details, please leave a comment below.  It would make an interesting addition to the history of Deaf people.  If you can tell us when or where he died that would also be of interest – he was certainly dead by the 1911 census when Julia was a widow working as a servant.
Juan FernandezTHE STRUGGLE IN CUBA . Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Friday, December 11, 1896; Issue 297. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900

Daily News (London, England), Friday, December 11, 1896; Issue 15821. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900

The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Friday, December 18, 1896; pg. 4; Issue 13178. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900

The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, August 14, 1897; pg. 5; Issue 39060. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900

The Illustrated Police News etc (London, England), Saturday, July 2, 1898; Issue 1794. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900

Ephphatha Vol 3 1898 p.37, p.62, and p.115

1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 2294

1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 880; Folio: 107; Page: 8

NB One of the witnesses at their wedding was Frank Hodgkins.


George Frankland, Deaf Journalist (1866-1936) “brilliant scholar, deep thinker and one of the finest writers of prose”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 10 June 2016

George Frankland  was born to middle class parents in Liverpool on the 9th of September, 1866 (British Deaf Mute p.290, from which much of this is taken).  The article goes on,

It is not quite clear whether George’s deafness was congenital ; his mother considers it due to falls and shocks to head in infancy.  This, by the way, accounts for his poetic tendencies.  The deafness, however, was only partial.  Consequently, George was treated in most respects as a hearing child – to his sorrow often enough.  He was sent to the ordinary hearing schools, but owing to his infirmity, and the conventional methods of education, learned comparatively little. (ibid)

However he did learn to read at an early age, which led him to writing.

Life became more difficult when his father died in 1881.  George worked for a time for his older brother, as an office boy,  but found the work too little to kindle any interest.  He went to Liverpool School of Art, but “did not distinguish himself”, although he there came into contact with another deaf person for the first time, Mr. J.R. Brown, one of the masters.  John Rowland Brown (1850-1923) had trained under T.M. Lindsay c 1864-67, and later moved to Liverpool where he was an assistant master at the college for 30 years. “Returned to Ght [Graham’s Town] on retirement c. 1902 where he held a one-man exhibition in 1916.”  (p.129, Pictorial Africana by A Gordon-Brown, via Google Books)

In 1884 George came in contact with James Wilson Mackenzie (1865-95), a gifted young deaf artist, some of whose paintings are still to be seen in the Wirral.  He and his brother introduced George to the Liverpool Deaf community.

With money short and his father’s estate tied up in the court of Chancery for may years, and failing to make his way in the world of art, George pursued a literature, learning shorthand, playing the piano to some degree, was supposedly “a genius at the organ” (Fry, 1936), and becoming enthusiastic about chess.  He stayed with his brother, trying to follow his trade as a shoemaker, but again felt he was wasting his time with too little he could do.  When his sister moved to London to study the piano, George studied typewriting “at Miss Day’s, and, through Mr. J.R.K. Toms, whom he met there, came into contact with the London deaf.” (British Deaf Mute, p.291)

He bought a typewriter but did not have the speed for office work.  Poor George seems to have really struggled to find his niche, but he continued to write, and had a safety net of a small income from his father’s property when the estate was settled.  In London he attended St. Saviour’s church, and helped organise the Cricket Club.  Gilby says that in 1894, “It was during this year that our first real Cricket Club secured a ground at Neasden, and George Frankland became its first Secretary.  It ran for several years at Bishop’s Avenue, Finchley.  Many happy afternoons did we spend there while the ladies with my assistance got tea ready and made huge out of it which went towards the rent of the pitch.” (Memoir, p.132-3)

He became a full time reporter for British Deaf Mute and The Church Messenger/Ephphatha from 1893.  In his obituary, M.S. Fry recounts that Frankland was much the quietest of the small group of journalists who worked for Joseph Hepworth on the British Deaf Monthly and The British Deaf Times.  “A brilliant scholar, deep thinker and one of the finest writers of prose, and a most lovable man” (Fry, 1936).

FranklandBritish Deaf Mute, 1896, 5:290-1 (with picture)

Fry, Maxwell S., Obituary: the late Mr George Frankland, British Deaf Times, 1936 vol.33 p.104

Picture, British Deaf Monthly 1896 vol 6, p.36

Please note, I have followed the original article in the B.D.M. fairly closely.  Please chip in with any additional information.

The Adventures of Stumpy

By Alex P Stagg, on 3 June 2016

Although the vast majority of our books are about audiology, deaf history or deaf culture, we have a few anomalies which seem at first glance to have fallen into our collection by happenstance. The Comenius book we blogged about a couple of weeks ago, for example, has little to do with our core remit. Another book which does not immediately seem to have anything to do with deafness is The AdvenStumpy1tures of Stumpy (1938), purportedly by one Stubby. The connection, perhaps rather tangential, is that Stumpy has a preface by Selwyn Oxley, Organising Secretary and Librarian for the Guild of St John of Beverley for the Deaf, and the source of many of the books and photographs in our collection*.


Stubby tells Stumpy’s story from his infancy to middle age, observing his progress with a sardonic eye and wit: which is no surprise from a published Feline Author (Stubby’s previous books include Stubby – Story of a Cat and More About Stubby).

As you’d expect from the author of two volumes of autobiography, Stubby is a very self-centred narrator: when Stumpy is struck down by a particularly nasty illness, Stubby declares ‘it was only then that I realised I was not the only one [his owner] loved’. Stumpy wasn’t the luckiest cat: apart from a clot on the brain, for which there’s an X-ray in the book, he also broke a leg, scorched himself walking into a fire, lost his whiskers, and lost his sense of smell (this last though fortunately regained). The book describes the first ten years of Stumpy’s life, and I hope I don’t spoil anyone’s appetite for the book when I reveal he’s alive at the conclusion of the narrative albeit with rather fewer than nine lives left.


This is a charming book, for cat lovers: and seems to descend from Hoffman’s (fictional) Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr.

You will find The Adventures of Stumpy in our biography section, under ‘S’ for Stubby.

*Selwyn Oxley’s wife Kate, who was herself deaf, was the compiler.

“The work of the Royal Association,” said he, “will be going on long after exclusive methods have been dropped.” Samuel Bright Lucas, & a Bristolian digression

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 27 May 2016

Samuel Bright Lucas (1840-1919) was born in London into a notable family of Quakers.  An uncle of his was the radical M.P. John Bright, famous for his opposition to the Corn Laws.  His mother, Margaret Bright Lucas, was a temperance league worker.

He lost his hearing as a child (Ephphatha, 1899).  He was tutored privately, and also taught by a ‘Dr. Webster’ of Bristol.  Thomas Webster was born in Ireland, around 1818 – I say around, as the census returns vary with both the place of birth and his age.   The place seems to be Gorey in Wexford, but one census says Cork.  Trained at the Claremont School, he was a male assistant teacher in 1834 when he was earning £20 (Pollard, 2006 p.67).  The Claremont 20th annual report says (p.33) he was appointed on the 29th of July, 1835 because of the increase in the number of pupils.  The Claremont school had major problems, and in 1842 Orpen resigned for health reasons and the superintendent the Rev. Charles Stuart Stanford also resigned.  Stanford must have been influential enough on Webster for him to later name his son Charles Stanford Webster (b.1861).  Webster took responsibility for the junior teachers at that time, but the place was in a state of chaos.  We do not have Claremont reports for that period unfortunately – you can read more about this in Rachel Pollard’s book.  Webster left around this time – perhaps he was partly responsible for the dismal state of affairs there at the time.  At any rate he got a place at the new Bristol Institution, and was there by 1844 (Quarterly Review p.67).  He replaced Matthew Robert Burns, and was head when they moved to Park Row, Bristol.  He was head there in the 1851 census.  He left the school in 1852.  There is a Bristol website here which calls him Robert Webster and says he was booted out by the governors when they discovered he had plans for a private school in Redland.  The same website points to Webster’s private school in Malvern House, Redland.  However the Quarterly Review article says that he left to pursue medical studies, and was still practicing in Bristol in 1892.  I was initially suspicious to see he described himself in censuses as a doctor, but this seems to explain it, though the Bristol website pages above suggest that he was something of a quack doctor.  He died, in Bristol, in 1910.  Quite when Lucas was his pupil I cannot say, but if it was at the school it would be before 1851, if as a private pupil perhaps between 1852 and 1856.

According to Gilby’s obituary of him, Samuel also trained at the Royal Academy School of Art (Ephphatha, 1919).  That should be possible to find out more about his time there, but as Gilby says , ‘he never followed it up as a profession in life’ (ibid).  At one time he seems to have been involved in a photographic business, at least that is what this website suggests.  Otherwise it seems he was able to live on his inherited wealth.  He was a friend of Gilby’s father, and knew Matthew Robert Burns and Samuel Smith, the chaplain to the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb, on whose committee Samuel served for many years.  He was President of the National Deaf and Dumb Teetotal Society, and Hon. Sec. of the Charitable Provident Society for granting Pensions to the Aged and Infirm Deaf and Dumb (Ephphatha, 1919).   Gilby says of him, “Very quick in his sympathies, he would blaze out against what he imagined to be any injustice or wrong of any sort” (ibid).

His first wife was Welsh, Jessie Oliver, daughter of a farmer from Merionethshire.  She was born in Dolgelly (Dolgellau).  They married in 1868, but she died on the 1st of January 1900, and he married again, to a Mrs. Parker of Passage West, Ireland.

His daughter, Margaret, married Wellesley Edward Rudston Read (1852-1934), who was deaf from aged 5, according to the 1911 census.  Rudston Read was on the committee for the Royal Association of the Deaf and Dumb.   Like Bright Lucas, he was of independent means.  Samuel’s son Charles, a journalist, predeceased him.

The 1899 Ephphatha article takes the form of an interview.

“Some people allege,” said I, “that the work of the Royal Association will soon be rendered unnecessary by the general adoption of the Oral Method of teaching deaf children.”
Mr. Lucas smiled.  “The work of the Royal Association will,” said he, “will be going on long after exclusive methods have been dropped.”
[…] “I believe in teaching the deaf to speak and lip-read wherever the probable results seem to justify the labour and expense involved, but to put them all through the same mill, regardless of their capacity or inclination, is utter foolishness.”
“Have you ever met with , or heard of, a deaf person who could follow an ordinary sermon or address by watching the lips of the speaker?”
“No, never – I do not think it is possible.  By the way, I was myself taught speech when young, and can make use of it to intimate friends; but with strangers I much prefer writing or the manual alphabet.  It is so much more certain either way.” (Ephphatha, 1899)

Bright LucasBorn in London, 4th of July 1840, died in Cork, 6th of November, 1919.

F.W.G.G[ilby] ,Samuel Bright Lucas, Ephphatha 1920, no. 44 p.568

Historical Notes of our Institutions, xv. xiii The Bristol Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.  The Quarterley Review of Deaf Mute Education vol.3 July 1892 p.65-78

Pollard, Rachel.  The Avenue – a History of the Claremont Institution, 2006.

Samuel Bright Lucas, Ephphatha 1899, Vol. 4, p.24-5

20th report of the Claremont Institution, 1835-6

1851 census Class: HO107; Piece: 1503; Folio: 44; Page: 36; GSU roll: 87837

1851 census Thomas Webster – Class: HO107; Piece: 1951; Folio: 134; Page: 42; GSU roll: 87351

1891 census Class: RG12; Piece: 209; Folio: 32; Page: 16; GSU roll: 6095319

1911 census Rudston Read – Class: RG14; Piece: 12106; Schedule Number: 237



Julius Casserius Placentinus 1552 -1616

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 May 2016

Casserius tabula prima primae hominisIt is always hard to choose a favourite book – but this book by Giulio Cesare Casseri or Julius Casserius Placentinus (ca. 1552-1616) has to be one of my favourites in our collection.  Placentinus means he was from Placentia – Piacenza (latin ‘pl’ becomes ‘pi’ in Italian).

The book’s title is, De vocis auditusque organis historia anatomica : singulari fide methodo ac industria concinnata tractatibus duobus explicata ac variis inconibus aere excusis illustrata.  It was published in 1600 in Ferrara.  It had an important contribution to otorhinolaryngology for no one had produced such as detailed anatomy for the laryngeal  structures and of course they were working without the benefit of microscopes though they possibly used lenses for magnification (Martin).  The illustrator is supposed to be the Swiss artist, Joseph Mauer (or Josias Murer to use the latin form of his surname), who lived with Casseri while he was working on the anatomy.  The title page, crested with a skeletal eagle, is reportedly by Jacopo Ligozzi.

julii casserii titleGiulio Casseri was born to a very poor family.  The date of his birth is uncertain, and the date 1552 is based on his will while the date sometimes seen of 1561 is based on a portait that does not appear in our copy*.  Casseri had gone to Padua perhaps initially as a servant to a student, then working as his servant to the great anatomist at Padua, Fabricus ab Aquapendente, under whom he learnt anatomy.  We do not know when he graduated as a student but ca 1580 is the guess of the best authorities (Riva et al).  He was soon held in high regard, becoming an examiner in place of Fabricius in 1584.  They fell out over this perhaps and over teaching methods.  Fabricius taught in public while Casserius ran a private course from his home.  The students seem to have preferred the intimacy (Riva et al.p.169).  In her book, Theaters of Anatomy, Cynthia Klestinec says,

Fabrici’s teaching was frequently described as disordered and incomplete, while the lessons of Paolo Galeotto and Giulio Casseri (Iulius Casserius, 1561-19) were described as comprehensive and clear.  Galeotto and Casseri also offered “beautiful” dissections, a description that points to a technical skill that was rarely noted in Fabrici’s courses. Galeotto and Casseri were able to maintain an emphasis on the details of anatomical structures, gradually extending their comprehensive demonstrations into areas of natural philosophy. Such particularities, analyzed in detail and over time, provide the foundation for the spectacular appeal of anatomy both inside the walls of the university and beyond. (Klestinec, 2011, p.11)

[…] When Casseri substituted for Fabrici in the public anatomy in 1604, one student noted that Casseri’s demonstration was “useful in the most important ways to the students”; “he read to the students and demonstrated ocularly this anatomy … everybody was able to see particularly all the parts … [and] the ways of treatments.” (ibid p.164)

Casserius pikeIt is a pity their feud persisted, and that Casserius did not live to see the other plates he had prepared on anatomy published.  They eventually came out in 1627 where his work was combined with that of Spigelius.  Hast and Holtsmark say, in their introduction to the partial translation,

the detailed description Casserius gives of the laryngeal muscles has no equal in the contemporary antomy of his day. […] It is true that his work does suffer from the inherited scholasticism of the Middle Ages; William Harvey’s famous publication was twenty-seven years in the future and “scientific” thinking was still teleological.  But Casserius, unlike many future students of anatomy, could approach his work without the preconceived notions we all obtain from studying the standard textbooks of anatomy (with their beautiful illustrations), guiding our knife on its proper course.  He learnt his discipline by that invaluable but laborious method of making dissections by himself. Therefore, if the reader does not always find Casserius’ description of the course of a muscle as he would expect or was taught, let him return to the dissecting room with an unprejudiced mind and without notes or textbooks.

Our copy came from the bookseller Tregaskis.  It is virtually in mint condition so probably never sat long on the desk of a student or anatomist, where I might have expected it to be better used, however, there is no frontispiece portrait in our copy so perhaps it was rebound.

The illustrations are fabulous!  There are dissections of animals and people, including a pike, (Esox lucius) and a goose (Anas anser).  I have not space for more images but you will find many on line.

Casserius laryngotomyHere we see the illustration of a ‘laryngotomy’ – a tracheotomy.


*To my mind the latter date does not seem to give him sufficient time to become experienced enough to be an examiner in 1584.

As usual, click on images for a larger size.

Casserius J. De vocis auditusque organis historia anatomica. Ferrara: Victorius Baldinus, 1601. Partial modem translation: Casserius J. The Larynx, organ of voice, translated from Latin by Malcom H. Hast and Erting B. Holtsmark. Acta Otolaryngol 1969; suppl 261

Housman, Brian ; Bellary, Sharath ; Hansra, Simrat ; Mortazavi, Martin ; Tubbs, R. Shane ; Loukas, Marios.  Giulio cesare casseri (c. 1552–1616): The servant who became an anatomist.  Clinical Anatomy, 2014, Vol.27(5), pp.675-680

Hunt, D.  Julius Casserius.  The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1878 p.269-71

Klestinec, Cynthia, Theaters of Anatomy: Students, Teachers, and Traditions of Dissection in Renaissance Venice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011

John Martin, M.D., The Vesalian School of Anatomy in Renaissance Padua

Riva, A. ; Orrù, B. ; Pirino, A. ; Riva, F.T.
Iulius Casserius (1552-1616): the self made anatomist of Padua’s golden age.  Anatomical Record, 15 August 2001, Vol.265(4), pp.168-175Casserius organi auditus 2

Charles Ebenezer Harle, Hon. Secretary for the Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 6 May 2016

Charles Ebenezer Harle (1807-92) was sometime Hon. Secretary of the Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb.  I was curious about his background so tried to see why he might have got involved in the organisation which became the modern Royal Association for Deaf people – the R.A.D.  It seems to me that the more we can discover about all the people involved in these early organisations, the better picture we can get of them and their histories.  Dots start to join up and bits of the puzzle begin to fall into place.

He was born into a non-conformist family.  His father was Thomas William Harle.  From his census entries we can see that he was a medical practitioner, L.R.C.P. – a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, and L.S.A. Lond. – Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (London).  It should be possible to check their records to find out when he qualified and perhaps something of his career.  That is probably the sort of person we might expect to get involved in such an organisation.  Also, he was born in Shoreditch, so possibly came into contact with deaf people via his work and perhaps from early mission work in London.  He never married and he died in Enfield in 1892.

In 1841 Harle was living in Bloomsbury, in Orange Street, which now lies somewhere under the old St Martin’s College of Art buildings in Southampton Row.  Nearby was Red Lion Square where the Association had its premises from circa 1847 to at least 1851.  Perhaps that was how he became involved?  Two people are at the same address, I assume them to be his brothers – Samuel, also listed as a surgeon, and Thomas, a ‘shopman’.  In the same year he edited Three Discourses … The Church: the Offertory. Edited by C. E. Harle.   What might this ‘petition‘ of 1845 be?  Was it related to the Association?  In the 1861 census he was living with Esther, Mary and Matilda Jacobs as their lodger, at 9 Cross Street, Islington, a ‘medical ?doctor? at an hospital’.   In 1871 he was living with his widowed sister in Islington, but the census is very faded in the on line version so I cannot make out the address.  He was working as an apothecary, in which he qualified in 1862.  Between 1871 and 1881 he moved to Enfield, where he remained until his death on October 21st, 1892.  The brief notice of his death in The Lancet, says ‘late of the Bank of England’, and in the 1851 census he was a ‘clerk at the Bank of England’ which seems a strange career change – medical practitioner to bank clerk to apothecary*. 

What caught my initial interest in him was this letter, which is attached to a printed section of a report on the Association’s annual meeting (not dated but circa 1856).  It may be a real letter but it could be a reproduction.  I am not clear at what date it became possible to reproduce letters.  It reads as follows –

Association of the Deaf and Dumb
15 Bedford Row
July 15 1856

Sir, –
We have on our books nine uneducated and destitute Deaf and Dumb children too old for admission to the Old Kent Road Asylum.  We should be able to send all of them to a school in the country could we raise £80 per annum for this special purpose.

Permit me to commend their case to your Christian sympathy.

I have the honor to be
Your Obedient Servt.
Hon. Secy.

I wondered who the children were and what became of them, and it seems that some of them were sent to the Brighton Institution.*

Harle was on the committee as early as 1844 and was honorary secretary from 1856-57.  He then became the medical officer.*

Harle letter 11841 Census – Class: HO107; Piece: 672; Book: 6; Civil Parish: St George Bloomsbury; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 6; Folio: 4; Page: 1; Line: 8; GSU roll: 438787

*1851 Census – transcribed as Hurle – Class: HO107; Piece: 1706; Folio: 460; Page: 10; GSU roll: 193614

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 138; Folio: 44; Page: 29; GSU roll: 542580

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 300; Folio: 34; Page: 6; GSU roll: 824928

1872 Medical Register

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1392; Folio: 33; Page: 59; GSU roll: 1341339

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1083; Folio: 109; Page: 48; GSU roll: 6096193

General Register Office: Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths surrendered to the Non-parochial Registers Commissions of 1837 and 1857; Class Number: RG 4; Piece Number: 4675

*Updated 9th of May 2016 with many thanks to Norma McGilp from @DeafHeritageUK

“To know Tongues is comly” – the Janua linguarum reserata of John Amos Comenius

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 April 2016

Comenius tableJan Amos Komenský, 1592-1670, also known by the Latin version of his name as Johan Comenius, was another of those great 17th century scholars.  His protestant family were members of the Moravian Church.  He studied at the University of Heidelberg, and before that at the Herborn Academy where he learnt the diadatic method.  His was an age of war and persucution, and eventually he fled to Poland, later spending time in Sweden and visiting England in 1648.  He finally ended up living in Amsterdam, where he died.  There is a fine Rembrandt portrait which it is suggested depicts him.

Comenius 2 picsHe was influenced by Francis Bacon, and in turn became hugely influential as Piaget shows (see link below).  The book we have by him, his Janua linguarum reserata… was originally written when he was in in exile in Poland, and was published in 1631.  The English translation was called (in short) The gate of languages unlocked: or, A seed-plot of all arts and tongues; containing a ready way to learn the Latine and English tongue.  There were many editions and it would take someone with a good knowledge of the editions to divine exactly which volume we have, as when it was rebound and the pages badly cropped, in the 19th century, it lost its title page and part of the introduction.  The end of the introduction and part of the tables were bound (then, or earlier) out of sequence, between pages 18 and 19. Comenius 3 The book aimed to have a structured breakdown of learning, divided into 1,000 sentences, with an extensive Latin index at the end.  Our version is a parallel translation, Latin on the left page and English on the right, except the last page where it is reversed, probably due to a dozy printer.  Despite its tatty condition – a few worm-holes on ther back pages and very well read – it remains an entertaining book.  The front pages begin as follows –

1. Whither the study of Tongues tendeth.

God created the world, full of the works of wisdom; and placed man in the midst of the Creatures, that by contemplating them, and Using them, and Discoursing on them, hee might have delight.  There is therefore a threefold end of our life in the World, namely that – wee view the works of God; wee learn to use them well; wee propagate to others such knowledg and use, by the help of Tongues

wherefore we learn to speak (with one Tongue or more) thast wee may attain the Knowledg of Things; but wee seek the Knowledg of Things, that wee may not mistake in the Use.  Therefore mark well.  To know Tongues is comly; more comly, to understand the things themselves, whereof it is to bee spoken; but most comly to know how to use the knowledg of both.  Tongues therefore ought to bee learned, not without the knowledg of Things, but together with it.

Comenius hackneyThere are plenty of great lines – sentence 835, “Whores and fornicators are beaten with rods or whips : Hackney-whores are branded with marks…”, 339 “Cattel happily increaseth , when their wombs are of good breed.”   “Hackney whores” is a phrase also used by Ned Ward in The London Spy (1699), and in various  sayings and proverbs of that time, like “If Paris be the hell of hackney-horses, ’tis the Paradise of whoremasters and hackney-whores” and “whores are the Hackneys which men ride to hell.”

An eager student began to gloss the index of our copy but gave up after two pages!

Why do we have it?  Well, Selwyn Oxley collected many books that might talk about language, even in passing, and the word ‘tongues’ must have made this an interesting acquisition for the ‘ephphatha’ collection.

Comenius on Wikipedia page

Piaget on Comenius

Williams, Gordon, A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature. 1994  p.636

“I gazed upon her beauteous form, As in death’s clasp it lay” – Poems on the Deaf and Dumb

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 April 2016

Poems 2Poems on the Deaf and Dumb was written, or rather compiled by William Robert Roe, and published in 1888.

Jennifer Esmail says that Roe’s book reprints American Deaf poetry without refering to the author’s nationalities, but not all of the poems are American.  Roe must have scoured all the sources he could find, in order to fill his pages.  The sources include poems by Eliza Cook, the Church of England Magazine, and the American Mrs Sigourney.  Usually I stand back from direct comment on works which appear in the blog, and perhaps I am being unfair, but I have no hesitation in calling much (not all) of this collection, mawkish and sentimental!   Judge for yourselves.  The whole book is in the link above, and a few selections are below.


Written at the death of Miss F., a Deaf Mute.

By Miss M.M.F.

I gazed upon her beauteous form,

As in death’s clasp it lay,

The smile still hovered on the lips

With which she passed away.


And n’er before had that sweet face

So lovely seemed to me;

The heavenly calm reflected there

Was beautiful to see.


Her wish at length was realised –

She’d seen the glorious face

Of Him who shed for her His blood,

Who saved her by his grace.


She’s watching for her dear ones now,

With others gone before;

And one who since has crossed the flood

And joined her on that shore.


Her unstopped ear shall catch the strain

That will our advent greet;

Her loosened tongue with ours shall join

In halleljahs sweet.


O, hasten, Lord, that meeting time,

We long to be with Thee;

To leave this world of grief and sin,

And all Thy glory see.(p.22)Mute courtship

pOEMS pARRYOne of our many copies was owned by Edwin Parry, 25 Primrose Terrace, Bower House, Blackburn, dated May 12nd [sic] 1888.  In 1911 there was an Eliza Parry, aged 54, widow, described as deaf from aged 6 (circa 1863), though the 1861 census says she was deaf ‘from birth’.  It seems her maiden name was Eliza Gladstone and that she married Edwin Parry in Blackburn in 1885.  Eliza was born in Hunslet, Yorkshire, daughter to James and Jannet(t) Gladstone, who had moved to England from Roxburgh.  We may question whether she had any formal education at all, other than at home, but it is possible.  The Leeds Deaf Institute only opened in 1876, when she was an adult.

In 1901 Eliza, already widowed, was working as a cotton winder, living with Margaret Walker, aged 67, and Jane Clara, aged 65, both deaf.   I wonder if they used signs at work, or ‘meemawing’, a combination of mouthing and mime employed in noisy Lancashire Mills, which Les Dawson famously used with his characters Cissie and Ada.  I have not been able to find Edwin on a quick look at the census records.  Perhaps he was not deaf, though I suspect he may have been.  It is also possible that, like his wife, he was not born in Lancashire.  Hunslet was a town that had mills which wove flax, and presumably Eliza moved to Lancashire seeking work some time in the 1880s.

I think our Eliza Parry died in 1915.  Do add anything you may discover in the comments below.

new ears

Esmail, Jennifer, Reading Victorian Deafness.  2013

The invalid’s hymn book [compiled by H. Kierman] with preface by H. White

1911 census Class: RG14; Piece: 25107

1901 census Class: RG13; Piece: 3915; Folio: 130; Page: 3

1891 census Class: RG12; Piece: 3416; Folio: 145; Page: 3; GSU roll: 6098526

1861 census Class: RG 9; Piece: 3357; Folio: 79; Page: 10; GSU roll: 543119