A Welsh veterinary adviser

In honour of St David’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, I have decided to look at one of the two Welsh language items  that we have in our collection Meddyg y fferm arweinydd i drin a gochel clefydau mewn anifeiliad by James Law which was published in 1881.

Plate 7 Cheviot Ram

Plate 7 Cheviot Ram

I am no Welsh language expert, so a friend has translated the title for me, and her translation leads me to believe that this is a Welsh language version of Law’s The veterinary adviser: being a guide to the prevention and treatment of disease in domestic animals which was first published c1879 running to at least 8 editions.

These English and Welsh versions have a number of features in common: they share a publisher, Thomas Jack of Edinburgh, and their pagination and number of plates and illustrations is the same which would appear to confirm my theory that they are one and the same

As the title suggests the book was intended to be a guide for the farmer to use when they were unable to get advice from a veterinary surgeon.  It offers practical veterinary advice on common diseases of domestic animals which the farmer can use instead of consulting a ‘quack’.

Plate 5 - Short Horned and Aberdeenshire Polled bulls

Plate 5 – Short Horned and Aberdeenshire Polled bulls

The preface of the 8th edition of The veterinary adviser,  written in 1896 when Law was working in America and at a time when the American veterinary profession was still in its infancy, expresses the aim of the book rather nicely:

“This work is especially designed to supply the need of the busy American farmer…we have…livestock estimated at $1,500,000,000…affording an almost unlimited field for the…pursuit of veterinary medicine…[yet] livestock is largely at the mercy of ignorant reckless pretenders whose barbarous surgery is only equalled by their reckless and destructive drugging…to give the stock owner such information [to allow] him to dispense with the…services of such pretenders…is the aim of this book”

The book also contains 24 full page illustrations showing breeds of livestock, three of which are shown here, and numerous other illustrations within the text.

Plate 1 English Cart Horse and th method of giving draughts to horses

Plate 1 – English Cart Horse and the method of giving draughts to horses

The author James Law, a 1861 graduate of the Dick Veterinary School in Edinburgh, had a prestigious teaching career in both Scotland and America. Following his graduation he taught at the New Veterinary College Edinburgh with John Gamgee.  He was then hired in 1868 by the newly formed Cornell University to teach biology, agriculture and veterinary medicine. It was at Cornell that his later writings, including his 5 volume Textbook of veterinary medicine, took shape.

 The inscription in the front of our copy of  Meddyg y fferm arweinydd i drin a gochel clefydau mewn anifeiliad  indicates that it was owned by a couple named Thomas who lived in Llangyfelach near Swansea.  Unfortunately we don’t know anything about them so we can’t say if they actually used the book to help  care for their animals.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

A troubled artist: Sir Edwin Landseer

The RCVS headquarters tidy-up has revealed another gem, and led us to discover the fascinating story of a troubled man. Eight large prints of paintings by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873), depicting animals and bucolic scenes, have been discovered.

Landseer (1802-1873), an English painter, was renowned for his paintings of horses and dogs. Included in his artistic achievements are the lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square. His dog paintings of the 1830’s are by far his most popular work, ‘Dignity and Impudence’ (1839) being the most famous of all.

Edwin Landseers 'Dignity and impudence' 1839

Dignity and Impudence (1839)

The two dogs in the life sized ‘portrait’ belonged to Jacob Bell, a chemist, who commissioned the work. The bloodhound is called Grafton and the West Highland terrier is named Scratch. Landseer cleverly parodies the Dutch portraiture style, where the subject is framed by either a window or a door, with a hand hanging over the edge. According to the Tate’s summary of Landseer’s painting, Grafton was quite the bohemian and was a visitor at several artists’ studios in London but Scratch was Bell’s favourite of the two dogs. Apparently, Bell made a bet with the owner of a poodle that his West Highland terrier was the better looking of the two. Landseer was to be the judge, he took one look at Scratch and announced, without any prompting, ‘Oh what a beauty!’

Bell and Landseer’s lifelong friendship was founded on a mutual love of animals. Eventually Landseer came to rely on Bell as a business advisor, being ill equipped to deal with every day business matters. Along with Landseer’s brother James, Bell oversaw the commission and sale of his portraits, securing the very best prices. He took on rather more duties than a normal business manager might, as he was heavily involved in the rebuilding of Landseer’s home and helped him to purchase land.

Landseer was the youngest son of an engraver and initially developed his talents with his father. He was later sent, along with his two brothers, to study under Benjamin Robert Haydon, the historical painter, in 1815. It was Haydon who encouraged Landseer to study animal anatomy. His early paintings benefit from his excellent anatomical knowledge and portray a variety of moral messages which contributed to his popularity with his Victorian audience. His later work was marred by his sentimentality and the humanization of his animal subjects.

Landseer had social as well as professional success; his friends included Dickens and Thackeray. He moved freely in aristocratic circles and enjoyed royal patronage in the 1840s.  A favourite painter of Queen Victoria’s, she described Landseer as being ‘very good looking although rather short’. Landseer visited Balmoral in 1850 to paint a portrait of the royal family. The painting was never finished, and the failure of his first royal commission greatly contributed to his deteriorating mental health.

In 1840, Landseer suffered a severe mental breakdown, thought to be triggered by the Duchess of Bedford’s refusal of his marriage proposal (Incidentally, the Duchess was the originator of the very British concept of ‘afternoon tea’!). For the rest of Landseer’s life he was plagued by severe bouts of depression, exacerbated by his alcohol and drug use. His family had him declared insane in July 1872. Landseer died a year later on 1 October, 1873. The country mourned the loss greatly, shops and houses lowered their blinds, flags were hung at half mast and crowds lined the street to watch his funeral procession.

See our full collection of Edwin Landseer’s prints on our Facebook page.