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Part II Antiquarian book collection
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists is fortunate to have acquired a collection of 160 antiquarian ophthalmological books to add to the existing library. For students of history these books provide a fascinating insight into how ophthalmology and the diagnosis of eye disease evolved.
Before the invention of the ophthalmoscope in 1850 the structure of the eye beyond the pupil aperture was to all intents and purposes a closed book. The physician had to reason by inference rather than by direct observation and the profession attracted its share of quackery. However, it is humbling to read and see from fundus atlases how so much was achieved a century and a half ago using such primitive methods as a lighted candle and belladonna to observe the eye.
The oldest and most valuable book in the library (Fig 1) is one with the wonderful title of Seabrooke's Caveat, or his warning piece to all his loving country men, to beware how they meddle with the Eyes, by Richard Seabrooke, practitioner in the Art of the occulist, 1620.
Another book of great interest is by Richard Banister whose portrait can be seen in the reception room of the college, holding an unidentified surgical instrument.
Banister's book of 1622 is in two parts, the first with the title A treatise of one hundred and thirteen diseases of the eyes and eye liddes. Much of the initial part is in verse and is plagiarised from William Guilemeau's 1585 earlier work of the same title. The second part is named Banister's Breviary which is his own work.
Banister was an English physician, describing himself on the title page of his treatise as a master in surgery, an oculist, and a practitioner in "physicke."
Garrison and Morton state that "he noted the hardness of the eyeball in glaucoma," …