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Letter from Sir William Osler to R. B. McKerrow

Oxford.—Refers to the gifts and tributes presented to him on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.




  1. vii. 19.

Dear brother Colophonist, {1}

You will be interested to know how your President survived his admission into the ranks of the “last-lappers”. From our standpoint the birthday was a great success. The anniversary volumes with articles from 150 contributors {2} are themselves a direct encouragement to bibliography. As for the Regimen sanitatis, {3} which you and others so kindly sent,—please accept very hearty thanks for such a gem—both author and printer have already stimulated my interest, which is the test of the value of any incunable. An untouched 1859 Omar, inscribed to Prof. Max Müller with the compliments of the translator, {4} was a pleasent† surprise on the breakfast table. A present of the snuff-box of our lamented friend Bannister, whose Vatican mixture had stimulated the pineal glands of all the chief continental bibliographers, h[as induce]d your President to take up a habit of such undoubted [anti]proge[ric val]ue. {5}

That a well ordered 70th birthday may have all the advantages of the final exitus is shown by the July number of the Johns Hopkins Bulletin, which leaves nothing to be said. {6} The end of the number brought the thrill of the day, where I saw the utter shamelessness of my life—and the true reason of our secretary’s attachment to me! a bibliography of my writings extending to 740 articles!—

An illuminated address from the staff at Bodley, (not to have worshipped at whose shrine I count the day lost,) the promise of [a] {7} medico-literary anthology in my honour,—with greetings from scores of dear friends helped to complete a very happy birthday.

Sincerely yours
Wm Osler


The background of this letter is discussed by Richard L. Golden in ‘William Osler and the Col-ophon Club: A Last Tribute’, The Osler Library Newsletter, No. 107 (2007), pp. 6–10.

{1} Osler was President of the Colophon Club, of McKerrow was also a member (H. Cushing, The Life of William Osler, p. 1318). The Club was composed of London members of the Bibliographical Society, of which Osler was also President. Osler sent letters similar to this one to the Club itself the following day (McGill University Library, CUS417/129.92), and to A. W. Pollard (Golden, ‘A Last Tribute’, p. 8).

{2} Contributions to Medical and Biological Research, dedicated to Sir William Osler, Bart. M.D., F.R.S., in honour of his seventieth birthday, June 12, 1919, by his pupils and co-workers, ed. C. L. Dana, 2 vols. (1919).

{3} Regimen contra pestilentiam, by Johannes Jacobi (Paris, c. 1498). See Bibliotheca Osleriana (1969), No. 7446, and Golden, ‘A Last Tribute’, p. 8.

{4} A first edition of Fitzgerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, published by Bernard Quaritch.

{5} The letter is damaged. The gaps in the text have been supplied by reference to the letter to Pollard. See Golden, ‘A Last Tribute’, p. 8.

{6} Osler’s birthday was commemorated by a special issue of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin.

{7} Omitted by mistake.

† Sic.

Letter from Thomas J. Wise to R. B. McKerrow

25 Heath Drive, Hampstead, N.W.3.—Invites him to a Colophon Club dinner. Has inspected the Nashe tracts at Christ Church, Oxford.



25 Heath Drive, Hampstead, N.W.3
4. 3. 23.

My dear McKerrow,

The members of the Colophon Club will be having a dinner on the 17th of the present month. Will you do the Club the favor† of being present as one of its guests? The dinner will be at Pagani’s Restaurant {1} at 7. o’clock.

With kindest regards,
Always sincerely yours
Thos. J. Wise

Dr. R. B. McKerrow.

P.S. Have you seen the collection of Nashe tracts at Christchurch College? {2} I spent a large part of last Sunday {3} over them. The two volumes include some splendid pieces (including The Unfortunate Traveller & the first issue of Summers Last Will & Testament), {4} but they were both reeking with damp!


This letter was formerly inserted after p. 152 of McKerrow’s annotated copy of his Works of Nashe, vol. v (Adv. c. 25. 76). Cf. the note to Add. Ms. a. 457/1/6.

{1} Pagani’s, in Great Portland Street, was particularly noted as a meeting-place of writers and composers. The walls of its Artists’ Room were inscribed with the signatures of some of its best-known patrons.

{2} i.e. in the Library of Christ Church, Oxford.

{3} 25 February.

{4} Closing bracket supplied.

† Sic.