Edward Snape’s muscular preparation

The library is currently having a makeover which has meant emptying shelves and cupboards.  One thing that has come out of its cupboard is a print titled ‘A muscular preparation of a horse with references.’

Snape A Muscular preparation of a horse

Edward Snape – A Muscular preparation of a horse

The inscription reads:

“To His most Excellent MAJESTY GEORGE III. King of Great Britain &c &c. This Plate is most humbly inscribed by His Majesty’s most faithfull (sic) Subject and Servant Edwd Snape Farrier to their Majesty’s & the 2nd Troop of the Horse Guards.
Published 15th April 1778 and sold by E. Snape in Berkeley Square”

Edward Snape 1728-18?? was a London based farrier who claimed to be a descendant of Andrew Snape of The Anatomy of an horse fame.

Edward Snape

Edward Snape

Little is known of him but he seems to have had a genuine desire to see his profession progress.  In 1766 he proposed the establishment of a “hippiatric [horse] infirmary” as a school for the “instruction of pupils in the profession.”   The school eventually came into existence in Knightsbridge in 1778.

There is a short account of the school in an ‘advertisement’ (which reads like an obituary though Snape was still alive and presumably the publisher knew this!) in the 2nd, 1805,  edition of the Practical treatise on farriery (1st edition 1791) though it doesn’t actually say it opened –  just that it was built.  The ‘advertisement’ also makes the following claim “whatever benefit the Country now derives from the establishment of the Veterinary College, originated in him.”

Alongside the Practical treatise the print is the only other thing that Snape is known to have published.  My research suggests that  Snape’s print is based on an earlier  one by Jeremiah Bridges.  Looking at reproductions of the two prints side by side in the Veterinary History article the illustrations are remarkably similar though Snape has added labels (his ‘with references’).  If it is true that Snape has copied an existing illustration then he would share a trait in common with his supposed ancestor Andrew Snape who used Carlo Ruini’s Anatomia del Cavallo as the basis for his work (for more information on Ruini’s work and Andrew Snape)

Close up of head

Close up of head

It would appear that the print I ‘found’ is not the first ‘edition’ as it has some minor changes to the inscription when compared to the earliest known copies.  Luckily we also have a copy of the earlier printing (of which Wood says there are only 4 known copies)

One interesting thing about the early version of the print is that  whilst it bears the date 1778 all the known copies are on paper bearing an 1808 watermark. I doubt we will ever know why that is the case.  It could it be that it was prepared for use at the hippiatric infirmary but not actually printed until the later date.  Or was it produced in 1808 but ‘back dated’ to give some credence to the claim that the benefits of the Veterinary College (now the Royal Veterinary College, founded 1791) originated in Snape?

Close up fore legs

Close up – fore legs

Once the library is back in order I will give the two prints a proper outing and put them on display – do come and see them.

Update: See comments for further information on Snape


Smith, Frederick (1924) The Early history of veterinary literature and its British development Vol II.  London: Bailliere, Tindall & Cox

Wood, John GP (2004) A tale of two prints: Jeremiah Bridges and Edward Snape Veterinary History Vol 12 no 2 pp 173-183

Strickland Freeman’s observations on the horses foot

Our historical collection has over two hundred books on farriery and horse shoeing many of which contain anatomical drawings of the foot of the horse.  One such book is Strickland Freeman’s

Observations on the mechanism of the horse’s foot its natural spring explained, and a mode of shoeing recommended, by which the foot is defended from external injury, with the least impediment to its spring

which was published in 1796.

Strickland  Freeman was a Buckinghamshire landowner and sporting gentleman  who wrote a number of works on horsemanship and farriery.   Observations is his most important anatomical work: focusing on horse shoeing practices and methods, the work consists of  109 pages of text and 16 coloured plates with outlines.

I have found two reviews of the book from the period.  One in The Critical Review is less than complimentary.   Speaking of the illustrations it says:

“[they] do not illustrate the complete anatomy of the foot:  they are imperfect, from a total neglect of the nerves and absorbent vessels of those parts, two points in the structure, which have been found to be inseparably connected with many diseases of the feet of horses”

The reviewer also takes issue with the cost of the book given its alleged shortcomings:

 “When a voluminous and expensive work is laid before the public…we are led to expect something approaching toward a complete account of that subject… To the anatomist he affords no information, to the gentleman, we fear, he conveys little knowledge which can be applicable in practice… We would advise further adventurers in scientific pursuits with which they are not fully conversant, to be more backward in taxing the world with expensive books”.

A more positive review appeared in The Monthly Review which describes Observations as a ‘most splendid work’ and says:

“it is evidently the result of attentive observation…that will afford useful hints to those who are practically concerned in the subject”.

Writing in 1929 Frederick Smith in Volume 2 of his Early history of veterinary literature says:

“[Freeman] knew nothing of the anatomy of the horse’s foot.  The text is consistently weak, though largely atoned for by…[the] beautifully coloured plates”.

I am not qualified to comment on the accuracy of either the text or illustrations, but can’t help but agree that the illustrations, which are by G Kirtland who was a leading anatomical artist at that time, are beautiful.  Four of them are shown below, what do you think?

Plate 3. Front view of the bones of the fore foot of a horse in their relative situation

Plate 3. Front view of the bones of the fore foot of a horse in their relative situation

Plate 4. Back view of the bones of the fore foot in their relative situation

Plate 4. Back view of the bones of the fore foot in their relative situation

Plate 8. View of the posterior surface of the foot to shew the arteries and veins

Plate 8. View of the posterior surface of the foot to shew the arteries and veins

Plate 9. Side view of the foot to shew the arteries and veins

Plate 9. Side view of the foot to shew the arteries and veins

A Gift Horse

Gift Horse by Hans Haacke, Trafalgar Square

Gift Horse by Hans Haacke, Trafalgar Square

Sitting proudly on top of the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square currently is ‘Gift Horse’ by Hans Haacke.

The sculpture is based on illustrations from George Stubb’s Anatomy of the horse and so feels strangely familiar to me – apart from the live share-price ticker tied to its foreleg.

Looking at our catalogue I found we have another book of the same title in our collection – Ernst Gurlt’s  Anatomy of the Horse (A Schloss 1833, translated from the original German by J Willimott) and like the Stubbs it is lavishly illustrated.

Ernst Friedrich Gurlt (1794-1882)  was Professor at the veterinary school in Berlin where the anatomy collection  still bears his name.

He published a number of works on anatomy the first of which was Handbuch der vergleichenden Anatomie der Haus-saugethiere  (Handbook of comparative anatomy of domesticated animals).  This covered the anatomy of the horse, ox, sheep, swine, dog and cat.

A review of the English translation of Gurlt’s Anatomy of the Horse in the Veterinarian (1833 pp 46-50) begins by setting Gurlt’s anatomical works in the context of those that had gone before describing  his  Handbuch der vergleichenden Anatomie der Haus-saugethiere ‘as the great treasure of the veterinary anatomist’.

Of the English translation of the Anatomy of the Horse it is less favourable – though no discredit is attached to Gurlt.  Instead it argues that by taking the plates on the horse from Gurlts more comprehensive earlier book of comparative anatomy  the publisher, Mr Schloss, has ‘destroyed the charm of the work, as one of comparative anatomy and rendered it incomplete as an elementary book’.

The review does go on to say however that ‘to the student who confines his inquiries to the horse, it is still a most valuable present’.   The cost of this ‘valuable present’ is given as £3 5s.

Anatomy of the horse was published in two parts – the text which is an index to the plates (128 p 8vo) and the 35 folio sized plates several of which are reproduced below.

Gurlt Plate 1 Skeleton seen from the left sidePlate 1 Skeleton seen from the left side

Gurlt Plate 7 Muscles of the headPlate 7 Muscles of the head

Gurlt Plate 10 Fourth layer of muscles seen from the left sidePlate 10 Fourth layer of muscles seen from the left side

Gurlt Plate 13 Salivary glandsPlate 13 Salivary glands

Gurlt Plate 15 Intestinal canalPlate 15 Intestinal canal

Gurlt Plate 22 Pregnant uterus of the mare, opened from belowPlate 22 Pregnant uterus of the mare, opened from below

Gurlt Plate 24 Female foetus 57 days oldPlate 24 Female foetus 57 days old

Gurlt Plate 28 arteries on the head and neck

Plate 28 Arteries on the head and neck

A Few Of My Favourite Things

I thought before I leave my role here, and go off to study for my MA in Archives and Records Management, it would be a nice idea to share snippets of my favourite finds and favourite materials that I’ve had the pleasure of working with during my time with RCVS Knowledge’s historical collections.

For those of you who also follow us on social media you might be aware of some of the fun we’ve had using hashtags whilst photographing our daily finds and tasks.

I have enjoyed never having to beat the Monday blues whilst I’ve been working here. In fact Mondays have been every colour imaginable and I’ve been celebrating that with #marbledmondays on our Instagram account

Highlights of our #marbledmondays photographs on Instagram

It didn’t stop with Mondays – #tinytuesdays, #waybackwednesdays, #throwbackthursdays and #finebindingfridays, have all allowed me to engage with our library and archive collections in new ways, and of course, to show them off!

More photographs showing off our collections!

I have also adventured to far-flung lands alongside fascinating people, such as Captain Richard Crawshay, who authored the book The Birds of Tierra del Fuego (published in 1907). His letters are now transcribed and can be viewed via our Digital Collections website here.

Page from letter to Frederick Smith from Richard Crawshay, Useless Bay [Inutil Bay], Tierra del Fuego, [Chile], 29 Jan 1905 [FS/3/3/3/1]

This is one of my favourite quotes from Crawshay’s letters (pictured above):

“The most sensational birds I have – to me at least are a tiny Reed Warbler no larger than a Bumble Bee, a tiny black wren from the depths of the forest at the entrance of Admiralty Sound, a tiny tiny owl from the forest weighing exactly 3 oz, probably the largest bird of prey in the island – an Eagle measuring 5ft 91/2 inches from wing tip to wing tip…”

One of my favourite people to get to know was Henry Gray, an early 20th century veterinary surgeon. I am cataloguing his papers and have learnt so much through the words of his correspondents. Henry Gray’s papers have given me a great insight into the plight of the veterinary professional in the 1900’s. Through Gray and his peers I have learnt about the veterinary surgeon’s tremendous work ethic and their incredible anatomical, clinical, pathological and physiological knowledge. One of the most interesting letters I found in Gray’s papers was one where he had a response from a librarian from the Royal Society of Medicine after requesting Ivan Pavlov’s research into canine hysteria and neurasthenia. It put Gray’s life into a greater context for me – imagine being able to reach out to Pavlov himself for your own research?

Letter to Henry Gray from H E Powell, Librarian, Royal Society of Medicine, 9 Oct 1929

The most recent exciting discovery was a batch of finely detailed 19th century artworks which the archivist found tucked away in a cupboard. The pieces have now been carefully restored and we have an online shop where you can pick up a select few as prints! (You can visit the shop here: I enjoyed getting to digitise these amazing paintings and drawings, even though the art is as equally beautiful as it is grisly! Ovet the next few months, we are going to be asking our Instagram and Twitter audience to help us identify the parts of the anatomy we can’t, so stay tuned for that! There are many other amazing artists in our collection and it was interesting for me to find out that some of them had actually practiced as veterinary surgeons too, such as Edward Mayhew and John Roalfe Cox.

Anatomical artwork by Joseph Perry, January 1835. From the Field Collection.

A page from John Roalfe Cox’s sketchbook

Thank you to everyone who has been following along with us. I have had so many great experiences in my time working for RCVS Knowledge. I’ve been here over a year and there is still so much more to discover. I’m so glad to have had a hand in sharing the important historical value of such an amazing profession.


A delve into veterinary case notes…

From February to April this year, RCVS Knowledge were very pleased to welcome Claudia Watts, an MA History student from King’s College London. As part of her studies, Claudia was tasked with selecting highlights from Fred Smith’s veterinary case notes, and digitising and transcribing them for us. The results are now published in our Digital Collections, and here Claudia shares some of her thoughts on the project.

Over the past few months, I have had the wonderful task of exploring and transcribing the incredible sources left behind by Veterinary Surgeon Frederick Smith during his time in India in the 1880s.

The further I delved into the mountain of work he left behind, I developed a clearer picture of this man; relentless, dedicated and a complete workaholic.

I have uncovered some truly unique treasures – often turning a page only to have my breath honestly taken away as I stumbled upon beautiful artwork (FS/2/2/2/1/7), unique photographs (FS/2/2/2/1/10) and of course mounds of fascinating case notes and reports. His work provides wonderful insight not only into the man himself, but also the workings of the Army Veterinary corps. In addition to this, it has been fascinating to see how he has used his findings and research to educate. Many case notes appearing in his articles and manuals. Within these folders are pieces of crucial veterinary history as Smith helped guide the profession, contributing to the institution today.

Sub pleural Emphysema [FS/2/2/2/1/7]

Transcribing his work has been a challenge I have never faced before, and I have a newfound appreciation for the patience and hardwork of an archivist. Smith’s handwriting, to say the least, is rather tricky! But after a few days, and then a few weeks I have cracked it. That satisfaction of becoming a specialist in one individual’s handwriting is strangely thrilling! Staring at one mystery word for an hour and triumphantly declaring “manually!! He means manually!!!” has probably caused my colleagues sitting near me a few headaches….

“was got up two or three times during the day in order to ease the lungs…” Extract from the case notes for Horse E-16 [FS/2/2/2/2/3]

At times his work left a bitter-sweet taste, as he describes horses who despite all odds cling to life. When reading his work it becomes clear he had a deep appreciation and respect for the animals in his care. A piece which has become a personal favorite of mine, comes from the folder on Fractures and Wounds. Horse E-16 while being treated:

“…suddenly wheeled round,

ran back then rushed forward, turned sharp and jumped a

Bamboo hen Coop and then started off at a mad gallop

towards the troop lines and bolted into the angle formed by

two walls dashed his head against the wall and lay doubled


Smith includes a sketch of the horse, and states that the horse “with its characteristic facial expression enabled me to recall this case when I raised this in June 1927 namely 47 years after the event.” Despite all that time, and probably after hundreds of other horses had come under his care he remembered E-16.

Sketch of Horse E-16 [FS/2/2/2/2/3]

It truly has been an eye opening few months, and to have had the opportunity to work so closely with such wonderful materials has been a pleasure. I am so grateful to everyone at RCVS Knowledge. I hope the sources I have transcribed and digitized will be of use and potentially encourage individuals to take their own journey into these amazing resources.

by Claudia Watts, MA History, Kings College London

To explore these veterinary case notes yourselves, visit our Digital Collections website, or contact us to view the full collection in person.