|Ramsay, Portrait of Dr. Richard Mead|
Sometimes it’s my husband’s fault. He’s the one who asked me if I’d ever heard of Dr. Mead. When I looked blank, he read the following from a New Yorker piece on papyrus scrolls: “Mead was a distinguished British physician, a fellow of the Royal Society, and a noted book collector, with a library of more than a hundred thousand volumes in his house in Bloomsbury, which was dispersed in an epic, fifty-six-day auction after his death, in 1754.”
A hundred thousand volumes? Naturally, I had to investigate.
Among other discoveries, I found this obituary in Munk’s Roll, Royal College of Physicians, Lives of the Fellows, and a series of blog posts, written in conjunction with an exhibition I wish I’d seen: "The Generous Georgian: Dr. Richard Mead."
He was, most definitely, a gentleman of the Enlightenment. Along with the book collection (which this site puts at 10K, not 100K), he was a patron of the arts, gave generously of time and money to The Foundling Hospital, experimented on himself—e.g., drinking snake venom—to test theories, published a number of treatises (here’s one), strongly supported smallpox inoculation (but do take a look at which persons were experimented on first) and ...
|Gillray, The Cow-Pock 1802|
But why not just click on the Generous Georgian link, and read the posts for yourself? In sum, this man was no slacker.
Online you can also find these catalogs from the auction of his collection:
“Valuable gems, bronzes, marble and other busts and antiquities" and some weird other stuff here. "Pictures, consisting of portraits, landscapes, sea-pieces, architecture, flowers, fruits, animals, histories" here. "Genuine, entire and curious collection of prints and drawings (bound and unbound) here.
"The said collection may be view'd on Thursday the 9th and every day after (Sunday excepted) till the time of sale, which will begin each evening punctually at half an hour after five o'clock."
Images: Allan Ramsay, Dr. Richard Mead (1747) courtesy Coram in the Care of the Foundling Museum. James Gillray, The Cow-pock—or—the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation (1802) courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.
Clicking on the image will enlarge it. Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.