The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Forensic Card Catalog

I'm behind on my blog reading after the holiday weekend and some computer trouble and that's the only way to explain how I missed seeing this great item from an upcoming Sotheby's auction discovered by Silent Porn Star.

It's a card catalog filled with individual autopsy reports from the "father of professional forensic pathology", Sir Bernard Spilsbury (1877-1947) covering London in the period 1905-1932.

There are many stories recorded in these terse notes, from horrific examples of neglect and abuse to bizarre cases such as the unfortunate Helen Elphinston-Dalrymple, who died of the effects of a dry shampoo applied at the Harrods salon in 1909. On 12 February 1918 Spilsbury performed an autopsy on 16 year-old Nellie Trew, and also examined her clothing for blood and semen: she had been raped then strangled on Eltham Common. The subsequent trial has recently been described by Rose as "one of the most blatant" miscarriages of British justice of the 20th century. Spilsbury's notes for 16 June 1919 record the autopsy of a 72 year-old widower who had been admitted to hospital two days previously: "He stated that on June 13 he had glass of beer ... Then stopped by 2 men who offered him whiskey. Drank 2 tablespoonfull which burnt his mouth". He had been given hydrochloric acid, which burnt through his stomach wall. In October 1923 Spilsbury examined the remains of a soldier, James Frederick Ellis ("H[anker]Chief & piece of cloth tied over mouth ... limbs had been tied ...when found body was reduced to skeleton except portion of lower limbs which were clothed in tight fitting garments..."), who suffocated as a result of masochistic sexual practices with another member of his regiment ("...he & Ellis proposed playing Cowboys & Indians & he trussed up Ellis who then told him that he was all right...").

If someone buys this for me (estimated at only 7000-9000 GBP) I swear I'll struggle through the doctor's handwriting and blog them all.


C. B. James said...

That is maybe the coolest thing ever to come up for auction.

Unfortunately for me it's 11,000 dollars U.S.

Nathan - Bat Country Books said...

Pretty neat, and right up my alley of collection.. I'll share some of my "macabre" ephemera collection with you at some point.

Silent-Porn-Star said...

Dude, they could even buy half for you, half for me; then we could split the typin' :p

Hope your pc starts behaving... I miss the posts :)

William Smith said...

SPS: It's a deal! We could the Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett of the blogosphere.

William Smith said...

Nathan: Macabre ephemera is my favorite ephemera. Please show and tell.