Accessibility statement

Milnes Walker collection

The collection

The Milnes Walker collection consists of 200 early medical books, most of which were associated with Wakefield in Yorkshire and which cover a period of almost 450 years.

The earliest book in the catalogue is 1538 and the latest 1970. A few items date from the 16th century being mainly commentaries on Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides; the greatest number are by 17th and 18th century writers such as:

  • Thomas Sydenham, one of the most innovative physicians of the 17th century
  • John Huxham, notable for his studies of fevers
  • Richard Morton who studied tuberculosis
  • John Floyer, best known for introducing the practice of pulse rate measurement
  • Richard Mead, who helped towards a better understanding of transmissible diseases

Many of the books are illustrated.

The collector

The books were the gift of Robert Milnes Walker, (b. 1903), Professor Emeritus of Surgery in the University of Bristol. He inherited them from his father, John William Walker (b.1859) who had bought the books at a sale at the beginning of the twentieth century. John William Walker was the son of Thomas Walker who was a Wakefield surgeon. Bookplates represent Wakefield medical circulating library and the Wakefield medical library which belonged to the Clayton Hospital, and was probably housed in the Wakefield dispensatory. Wakefield general dispensatory was established in 1787 and the library was probably originally housed there. A catalogue for the Wakefield medical library exists in the West Yorkshire Record Office.


The collection came to the University in three stages between 1966 and 1983.

Collection access

Most of the material in the collection is catalogued and can be accessed via the University of York’s online catalogue. Items can be consulted in the Borthwick Search Room and copies can be made subject to copyright.

Related collections

Further Information


  • Rules and Catalogue of Books of the Wakefield Medical Library December 1872. Printed in Wakefield by B W Allen, Market Place 1872. Housed in West Yorkshire Record Office.
  • Medicine in seventeenth-century Yorkshire. Yorkshire Archaeology Journal 1946, 36, 288-296.