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Müller, Friedrich Max (1823–1900), Sanskritist and philologist
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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 Andrew Lang to J. G. Frazer

1 Marloes Road, Kensington, W. - Has written a fresh introduction [to his 'Modern Mythology'] to try to put the general question [of Max Müller's 'Contributions to the Science of Mythology'] clearly, and cut the dedication, but Mlle Ferrand was a romantic creature, suggests he read Condillac's preface to 'Traité des sensations'; wants to give the mice theory as an alternative.

Copy letter from A. Lang to J. G. Frazer

1 Marloes Road, Kensington, W. Dated April 20 - Two line letter instructing Frazer to note the dedication of an unidentified text, and says 'Max [Müller?] has pinned Oscar of Sweden a usurper'.

Copy letter from A. Lang to J. G. Frazer

1 Marloes Road, Kensington, W. Dated May 9 - Suggests Miss Kingsley for something in Frazer's 'totem line'; dropped Max [Müller's?] Icelandic and wrote a new introduction for an unidentified work.

Copy letter from Edward Lawrence to James G. Frazer

Kama, Sunningdale Avenue, Chalkwell Park, Westcliffe-on-Sea. Dated June 8, 1917 - Read his 'Totemism and Exogamy' and has some notes on maternal influence upon the unborn: the 'elephant man' whose mother was frightened by an elephant, chicks who similarly looked like a parrot, suggests a parallel with a mention in Max Müller's autobiography of a bodily sympathy with others who are injured.