Manuscripts and Special Collections

Florence Nightingale, and the Florence Nightingale Collection

August 13th, 2010 at 09:08

Readers browsing on our website, or in our catalogues may be surprised to see that the University holds a Florence Nightingale Collection. It is very small, (only 27 items in number), and contrary to expectation does not consist of works about the famous nursing reformer, but comprises a rather miscellaneous group of books which belonged to Florence Nightingale. Today, on the centenary of Florence Nightingale’s death (13th August 1910), it seems appropriate to take a closer look at the collection.

The books include a number of works on the Crimean War, and on nursing and treatment of the sick. There is also a life of the Earl of Shaftsbury (reformer of mental institutions), titles on the history of Egypt, and the Indian Empire. A book about the sun was given to Florence by her relative Shore Nightingale, and a biography of Baron Bunsen was given by his widow. The Nurses Journal of the Pacific Coast was presented to her by the California State Nurses Association in the early 20th century. One or two titles suggest an interest in natural history, including a volume of letters to the Times about birds.  Many of the books are autographed by Miss Nightingale. It seems likely that they represent only a small proportion of the books she would have owned during her lifetime.

So how did these books come to the University of Nottingham? The Nightingale family had strong links with the East Midlands, as Florence’s father had inherited Lea Hurst, a small estate in Lea, Derbyshire, and this was where Florence and her family spent the summers. The rest of the time they resided at Embley Park in Hampshire.

In the 1930s Mr Shore Nightingale was a member of University Council, and presented these books, which belonged to Florence Nightingale and her family, to the University. In the 1950s a further donation of books associated with Miss Nightingale was presented by Mr E. Osborne. At first the collection was held in Nightingale Hall (one of the halls of residence at the University of Nottingham, named after Florence Nightingale), but it has since been transferred to Manuscripts and Special Collections. They can all be consulted by registered readers in our Reading Room.

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