Cole, Francis – Library and Papers
In 1894, he left Edinburgh when he was appointed as lecturer in zoology at Liverpool University College, later called the University of Liverpool. He stayed there for twelve years and, in 1901, was able to combine work during term time at Liverpool with research during vacation at Jesus College, Oxford. In this way, he obtained a B.Sc. degree at Oxford by research in 1905.
In 1898, he married Annie Clow Menzies. Their only son became a farmer in Ontario, Canada.
In 1906, Cole took up an appointment as lecturer in zoology at University College, Reading, and in the following year became the first occupant of the chair of zoology, which he held until his retirement in 1939. In these thirty-two years, he built up a flourishing department, founded a Museum of Comparative Anatomy that now bears his name, pursued his research, worked actively for the foundation of the University of Reading, and collected a magnificent library of early works on medicine and comparative anatomy. He became an expert on ecclesiastical architecture and wrote a book on the Church of St. Mary, Cholsey, Berkshire, applying scientific methods to the solution of an architectural problem.
He was awarded the Rolleston Prize at Oxford in 1902 for his researches on the cranial nerves of fishes, Chimaera. Later, he published a series of papers on the myxinoid fish and received the Neill Gold Medal and Prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1908. His D. Sc., Oxford, followed in 1910.
During World War I, he was commissioned in the 4th Territorial Battalion of the Essex Regiment and was stationed on the east coast in charge of a coastal gun emplacement. Returning to Reading after the war, he turned more and more to the history of biology. In 1925, he delivered two lectures at King’s College, London, on the history of protozoology, and these lectures were published in the following year. In 1926, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. The year 1930 saw the publication of his Early Theories of Sexual Generation.
His interest in protozoology led him to the works of the early microscopists. In 1937, he published two papers on the zoological researches of Leeuwenhoek, and in the following year, his lecture to the Quekett Microscopical Club on “Microscopical Science in Holland in the Seventeenth Century” was printed. In 1951, he gave the Wilkins Lecture before the Royal Society, his subject being “The History of Microdissection.” His major work, A History of Comparative Anatomy from Aristotle to the Eighteenth Century, appeared in 1944 and was based substantially on his own library collection.
During his retirement, he wrote many essay reviews, as well as papers on historical subjects, such as “The History of Albrecht Dürer’s Rhinoceros in Zoological Literature” (1953). His last publication, written at the age of 85, was entitled “Obiter dicta bibliographica” (1958) and described his activities as a book collector. He suffered a fatal stroke on 27th January 1959.
Taken from an article written by N.B. Eales in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 1959, Vol. XIV, No. 1.
Reference: COLE Date: c. 1472-2018 Extent: about 8,000 volumes
Cole was a book collector and bibliophile from his schooldays until his death. He amassed a library of around 8,000 volumes of books and scientific papers. The collection covers the history of early medicine and zoology in general and, more particularly, comparative anatomy and reproductive physiology, from earliest times to the present day. There are an estimated 1,700 or more pre-1851 works, including many continental books.
Many seminal works in the history of the biological sciences are present. Authors represented include Galen, Fabricius, Belon, Wotton, Gesner, Bartholin, Swammerdam, Harvey, Ray, Haller, Leeuwenhoek, Linnaeus, the Hunters and Darwin. Notable individual works include:
- Pliny’s Natural history, Venice : Jenson, 1472, with illuminations
- Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica 1st ed., Basle, 1543, and 2nd ed. 1555, in a contemporary Swiss binding
- a substantial run of the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, from 1665
The collection also includes 15 books by Sophie Cole (1862-1947), the sister of Professor Cole. As an adolescent, Miss Cole suffered from a long illness, and to pass the time she wrote a romance novel, Arrows from the dark in 1909, the first book to be published by Mills and Boon, who later became major publishers of romance novels. The book was well-received, and by 1914, 1,394 women had bought a copy. During her lifetime she wrote 65 books, and earned her living from them for many years. Miss Cole knew London very well, and wrote a non-fiction book on literary London, which is held in the collection. She lived in Brighton, but in her later years came to live with Professor Cole and his wife at Eldon Road in Reading. A number of the books are presentation copies from Miss Cole.
- See our online exhibition: Treasures of Special Collections
- Read Featured Item articles on items from this collection: on revolution in microscopy in Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), on fantastic beasts in Topsell’s History of four-footed beasts and serpents (1658) and Pliny’s encyclopedic work Historia Naturalis (1472).
- Around a third of the collection is searchable via the catalogue. The rest can be searched via: The Cole Library of early medicine and zoology: a catalogue by Nellie B. Eales, part 1, 1472-1800; part 2, 1800 to the present day, and supplement; The Library, University of Reading, 1969-1975 (available at Special Collections).
- J. Franklin, ‘Francis Joseph Cole, 1872-1959’ in Biographical memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 5 (1960), p. 37-47
- B. Eales, ‘Francis Joseph Cole, 1872-1959’ in Journal of the history of medicine 14 (1959), p. 267-72
- J. Cole, ‘Obiter dicta bibliographica’ in Journal of the history of medicine, 14 (1959), p. 2-9
- J. Cole, ‘Bibliographical reflections of a biologist’ in Proceedings of the Oxford Bibliographical Society, 5 (1939), p. 169-86
Reference: MS 5315 Date: c. 1890-1958 Extent: 26 boxes
The papers in the Cole collection include research for Professor Cole’s academic writings and many of the publications mentioned above, bibliographies and indexes relating to his library and bibliographic studies, and some personal papers and photographic material.
- A full description of the archive collection is available on our online database.
- A handlist for the whole archive collection is available here