…said the gynaecologist to the Bishop

Visitors to the Library’s Reading Room may not be aware that there are more books contained there than initially meet the eye, for in the corner by the donations box is a specially designed cabinet known as Bishop Fraser’s chest, containing a collection of papers relating to James Fraser (1818-1885), Second Bishop of Manchester.

The Fraser Collection includes twelve volumes of notes and sermons, invitations, notices of meetings, four scrapbooks detailing his activity as Bishop of Manchester, and reports of Fraser’s work in the field of education. These were acquired in 1895 and a special locked bookcase was made for them, where they have been housed ever since. Eagle-eyed visitors may notice that the right-hand side of the bookcase has been reduced by 1 1/2″ to compensate for the uneven floor level.

We have just been given a quantity of additional material relating to Bishop Fraser, generously donated by Bishop Nigel McCulloch, the recently retired Eleventh Bishop of Manchester. This includes letters, printed notices, books of reports and a Bible presented to Fraser on the occasion of his marriage by notable Manchester medic and eminent gynaecologist Thomas Radford. Given that James Fraser was the ripe old age of sixty-two on his wedding day, possibly Radford, in his wisdom, thought that Bible reading might be the safest form of entertainment.

Also included in the collection is this slightly eccentric letter to Fraser from William Thompson, the Archbishop of York. Although it may look to the untrained eye as if Thompson may have been having trouble with his caps lock, he was in fact likely to have been typing on one of the earliest commercially produced typewriters, which wrote only in capital letters.


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