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Pettigrew, Thomas Joseph (1791-1865)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 MSS.3666, 3860-3867, 5371-5372, 5979-5981 and 7406, MSL.MS.129
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Pettigrew, Thomas Joseph (1791-1865)
Date(s): 1807-1864
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 20 volumes and 3 files
Name of creator(s): Pettigrew | Thomas Joseph | 1791-1865 | surgeon and antiquary
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Thomas Pettigrew was born in London in 1791, the son of William Pettigrew, a naval surgeon. He began medical studies in his teens as his father's assistant and as an apprentice, later studying at the Borough Hospitals. He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1812 (and a fellow in 1843). In 1808 he became a member of the Medical Society of London, in 1811 one of its Secretaries, and in 1813 its Registrar. During these years he was also involved in the founding of the City Philosophical Society and the Philosophical Society of London. He was Secretary of the Royal Humane Society during the years 1813-1820, through the influence of John Coakley Lettsom M.D. (1744-1815); shortly after Lettsom's death he published Memoirs of the life and writings of John Coakley Lettsom, M.D. (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1817). Through his position in the Royal Humane Society he came into contact with the Duke of Kent to whom he became surgeon in ordinary (vaccinating the Duke's daughter, the future Queen Victoria). He later also became surgeon to the Duke of Sussex and became involved in the cataloguing of the Duke's library. He acted as Surgeon to a sequence of London hospitals until arriving at his forties. After this point he concentrated on private practice and increasingly upon his antiquarian interests: when the British Archaeological Society was founded in 1843 Pettigrew became its treasurer and moving spirit. On his wife's death in 1854 he retired from medicine entirely to concentrate on antiquarian matters. He died in 1865.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection covers both Pettigrew's medical and antiquarian activities, which are intermingled in the material's arrangement. The medical items include correspondence with many medical figures, medical jurisprudence (an Anniversary Oration delivered to the Medical Society of London), corpulence, hydrophobia, medical observations by army officers in India, and an autobiographical memoir of the philanthropist and prison-reformer James Neild (1744-1814), transcribed by Pettigrew and incorporated into his life of John Coakley Lettsom M.D. The antiquarian items include material on Kett's Rebellion, Hindu deities, the library of the Duke of Sussex and correspondence with the Italian antiquary Giovanni Spano (1803-1878) and Gaetano Cara, as part of Pettigrew's role as Vice-President of the British Archaeological Society. Types of material held include notebooks, loose papers, correspondence and diplomas.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English; plus some Italian material in MSS.5979-5981.

System of arrangement:

MS.3666 comprises the memoir of James Neild. MSS.3860-3867 comprise material by Pettigrew, held in chronological order of composition. MSS. 5371-5372 comprise letters to Pettigrew and miscellaneous papers, of which MS.5371 comprises loose letters and MS.5372 a bound volume. MSS.5979-5981 relate to relations with the Italian antiquary Giovanni Spano: MS.5979 consists of printed works by Spano, MS.5980 of English translations of some of these works, and MS.5981 of letters to Pettigrew from Spano and Gaetano Cara, plus related papers. MS.7406 comprises correspondence by Pettigrew (and one letter by Mary Pettigrew). MSL.MS.129 consists of a volume of diplomas presented to Pettigrew, spanning his whole career.

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Described in: S.A.J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973); Richard Palmer, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine: Western Manuscripts 5120-6244 (London: The Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine, 1999); and Warren R Dawson, Manuscripta medica. A descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of the Medical Society of London (London, 1932); and subsequent typescript supplementary finding aids by Richard Aspin, Christopher Hilton, Keith Moore and Richard Palmer. Detailed catalogue available at

Archival Information

Archival history:

MSL.MS.129 was presented to the Medical Society of London by Pettigrew's grandsons.

Immediate source of acquisition:

With the exception of MSL.MS.129 and MS.7406, this collection was purchased in August 1905 at the Knight, Frank and Rutley sale of Pettigrew's collection (accession numbers 11672, 11741-11742, 64128, 67433, 76451, 83251). Moorat's catalogue of Western Manuscripts lists the accession number of some items as 67435 - this is an error for 67433. Precise acquisition dates of some items in MSS.5371-5372 not known but apparently purchased before 1923. MSL.MS.129 forms part of the former manuscript collection of the Medical Society of London, which was deposited at the Wellcome Library in 1984 and subsequently purchased outright. MS.7406 comprises a collection of letters purchased at various times: from Charavay, Paris, October 1928 / April 1929 (acc.63700); Stevens, London, January 1929 (acc.89269), March 1931 (acc.56474) and November 1931 (acc.68279); Puttick and Simpson, May 1930 (acc.62824); Mrs. Watson, Burnley, March 1945 (acc.72200), apparently once part of the autograph collection of Thomas Madden Stone, librarian to the Royal College of Surgeons of England; Winifred A. Myers, London, October 1996 (acc.350355); plus some items whose original provenance is unknown (accessions 67430, 67433, 69200 and 91800).

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Wellcome Library holds MSS.3721, 3924 and 5373-5374, which were acquired at the same time as the material described above and formed part of the Pettigrew Collection sold at this time. MS.3721 comprises a collection of drawings of exotic birds by an unknown hand, with a note by Pettigrew in the front. MS.3924 consists of memoranda made by James Plumptre (1770-1832) concerning Pettigrew's life of John Coakley Lettsom. MSS.5373-5374 comprise notes and correspondence by Nicholas Carlisle (1771-1847), antiquary, for an unpublished second edition of his A concise description of the endowed grammar schools in England and Wales (London, 1818), which were later presented by Carlisle to Pettigrew for the latter's work on the seals of the grammar schools.

Publication note:

Thomas Pettigrew's Memoirs of the life and writings of John Coakley Lettsom, M.D. (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1817) incorporates the memoir held as MS.3666.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
description compiled by Christopher Hilton based upon those in the Library's published finding aids by S.A.J. Moorat, Richard Palmer and Warren R. Dawson. Biographical information from the Dictionary of National Biography.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
December 2000.

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