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A collection of 7000 works on psychiatry and psychiatric treatment, which was formed by Ida Macalpine and her son, Richard Hunter, and purchased in 1982 after the latter's death the previous year. Both have contributed to the history of psychiatry in their books, such as Three hundred years of psychiatry, 1535-1860.

The material in the Hunter collection ranges from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Although a substantial portion of the collection is English, a significant number of the texts are in French, and there are around 1,000 works published in German-speaking countries. The subject matter is wide-ranging: early works are on subjects such as witchcraft, demonology and ghosts, mesmerism or animal magnetism (early forms of hypnosis), religion, literature, music and art, as well as the more predictable suicide, epilepsy, melancholy, and dreams. The collection also has many works on the Victorian science of phrenology. There is a significant collection of material on the illness of George III, including a prayer book said to have been used by the King at a service of thanksgiving for his recovery. Macalpine and Hunter's interest in this topic resulted in their George III and the mad business (London, 1969), suggesting the diagnosis of porphyria which was referred to by Alan Bennett in his play The madness of George III.

The collection also includes works by and about pioneers in psychiatry such as Emil Kräpelin, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Martin Charcot and Philippe Pinel. Many works are present in multiple editions, which allows a detailed study of the psychiatrists' developing ideas. This can be particularly important for an author such as Kräpelin, whose classification of mental illness is the basis for much of modern psychiatry: we have one of his major works (Psychiatrie: ein kurzes Lesebuch für Studirende) in the first 8 editions, which shows the constant evolution of his ideas. Some works are available in the original language and in translation.

In addition to medical works, the collection contains works on the law relating to the mentally ill and accounts of lunatic asylums and hospitals in the 18th and 19th centuries (particularly in Britain, America, France and Germany); this includes works about the buildings, their design and administration as well as about the treatment of the patients.

References and further reading:

  • R. Hunter & I. Macalpine, Three hundred years of psychiatry, 1535-1860: a history presented in selected English texts (corrected reprint). New York, 1982. 326:3.c.95.1571