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Gunther, Robert Theodore [manuscript by Lionel James Picton] | Coelenterata: Hydrozoa, Acraspeda, Anthozoa, Ctenophora. Notes from the Lectures of Mr. R. Gunther of Magdalen...

  • RESERVED A remarkable and unusual anatomical manuscript on jellyfish based on laboratory work and lectures by Oxford zoologist Robert Theodore Gunther (1869-1940). The title, Coelenterata, is an antiquated term for species in the phyla Cnidaria (corals, sea anemones, true jellies) and Ctenophora (comb jellies). The student who compiled these notes would win the Welsh Prize for anatomical drawing in 1898 and go on to become a highly respected physician. While volumes of lecture notes in popular subjects such as zoology, anatomy, and botany are not uncommon, we have never come across one related to species such as jellyfish.

    Gunther was the child of the zoologist Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf Günther (1830–1914) and Roberta M’Intosh, herself “a gifted zoological painter” and he “absorbed his family's consummate involvement in medicine, natural history, and the museum”. After graduating with a first in morphology (now termed zoology) from oxford he spent two years studying marine and freshwater medusae at the Marine Zoological Research Laboratory in Naples.

    Gunther was appointed lecturer in natural science at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1894, beginning this course in the same year. “As natural science tutor he had supervision of all Magdalen's science students, and from 1894 of the Daubeny Laboratory (which served a wider clientele within the university). He also lectured in comparative anatomy (biology) from 1900 to 1918, was librarian, 1920–23, published various works relating to Magdalen's history, and was a curator of the adjacent botanic garden, 1914–20” (ODNB).

    The compiler of these notes, Lionel James Picton OBE (1874-1948) earned undergraduate degrees at Oxford in 1901 the year after he qualified in medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. After several years as house surgeon at institutions in London and Liverpool he settled in practice at Holmes Chapel, a village Cheshire. He served as a medical officer for the nearby urban district of Winsford and as surgeon to the town’s infirmary. Picton was a driving force for innovation in medical care and administration both regionally and nationally as a member of the British Medical Association. He was particularly interested in the connections between agriculture and nutrition, particularly “the treatment of soils and the nourishing of crops by suitable manures and the breeding of tubercule-immune cattle... and the preparation of wholemeal bread, raw greenstuffs, turnip juice, and other vegetable products” (obituary in the British Medical Journal, November 27, 1948) and in 1946 published a book on the subject, Thoughts on Feeding.

  • ...delivered in the Michaelmas term ‘94 & the Hilary term 1895: A : Di in the University Museum — supplemented by notes and sketches of laboratory work, & other additional matter from various sources. Merton College, Oxford. Oxford, 1894-95.

    184-page manuscript (205 x 166 mm, text primarily on the rectos) bound in pale cloth, title “Coelenterata” in gilt to the spine and upper board. Extensive lecture notes and drawings in black ink with numerous elaborate illustrations, many coloured in with pencils. Cloth stained and darkened, hinges starting. Very good condition.