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Professor Cole

Professor Cole

Francis Joseph Cole was born in London on 3 February 1872.

On leaving school, Cole became a journalist and for a time worked on local newspapers in Surrey, Sussex and then in Fleet Street. However, this work didn’t satisfy Cole’s thirst for knowledge. He then went to Oxford to read zoology.

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.

Credit line - MS 5315/2/2

Cole the collector

Cole the collector

Over his thirty-two years at Reading, Cole built up a flourishing zoology department, founded a Museum of Comparative Anatomy that now bears his name, pursued his research and worked actively for the foundation of the University of Reading.

All the while, he was developing his magnificent library of early works on medicine and comparative anatomy.

The papers in the Cole archive collection include research for Professor Cole’s academic writings, bibliographies and indexes relating to his library and bibliographic studies, alongside some personal papers and photographic material.

The Cole Museum is moving to a new building in 2021.

From out of the blue

From out of the blue

Cole loved everything about books. His passion was his collection and he spent his life adding to his astonishing library.

It is a common belief amongst the well-affected that a rare book will mysteriously appear out of the blue if only you wait long enough for it.  And since that has happened more than once in my lifetime I am still hopeful that this rarest of books will be duly recorded in my catalogues before out little play is played out.

Cole writing in 1958 on his pursuit of two editions of seventeenth century anatomy published in Amsterdam.

Credit line - Estienne, La dissection (1546)

Treasures

Treasures

Cole’s library is truly amazing, containing many of our most prized treasures.

Cole owned a first edition of Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), which marked a huge development in the history of science, as for the first time what could be seen under the microscope (germs, fleas, ants!) was published in print.

 

New discoveries: Tyson's Orang-outang (1699)

New discoveries: Tyson's Orang-outang (1699)

Many great works have come to light during a recent cataloguing project, funded by the Heritage & Creativity Institute for Collections (HCIC), at the University of Reading.

Here are a few of our favourite examples.

Orang-outangsive homo sylvestris, or, The anatomy of a pygmie compared with that of a monkey, an ape, and a man (1699) by Edward Tyson.

This work actually described the anatomy of a young chimpanzee and was the first work to demonstrate the structural relationships between man and the anthropoid ape.

Tyson was a scientist and physician, thought of as one of the founders of comparative anatomy.

New discoveries: Haller's Elementa (1768-75)

New discoveries: Haller's Elementa (1768-75)

Elementa physiologiae corporis humani (10 volumes, 1768-1775), by Albrecht von Haller.

Albrecht van Haller was a Swiss anatomist, physiologist and poet. He is often referred to as “the father of modern physiology.”

This image is from volume 7, with plates showing the spleen, liver and intestines at the back.

New discoveries: Perrault's Memoires (1671-76)

New discoveries: Perrault's Memoires (1671-76)

Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux (1671-1676) by Claude Perrault.

Fantastic illustrations feature throughout this huge two volume work (each volume is 57cm high!).

This illustration shows a lion in the wilderness, with diagrams of some of its bones and internal organs above. An important early work on comparative anatomy.

Guardian angel of the Cole Library: Dr Nellie B. Eales

Guardian angel of the Cole Library: Dr Nellie B. Eales

Dr Nellie B. Eales acted as a kind of guardian angel over all Cole’s work.

Dr Nellie B. Eales (1889-1989) was a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Reading and Cole’s colleague. When the University was newly chartered in the late 1920s, it was not unusual for major faculties to be run by one Professor with a Lecturer for support. This was the case with Cole and Eales.

Upon his death, Eales arranged for Cole’s library to be transferred to the University of Reading. Eales painstakingly created a two volume catalogue of the collection, based on Cole’s card index (retained at Special Collections).

Eales’ catalogue remains indispensable to any user of the Cole Library. The catalogues are an incredible piece of research in their own right, including fascinating provenance information.

(Holt, 1977, p. 214)

Arrows from the dark

Arrows from the dark

Professor Cole was not the only gifted writer in his family.

The Cole Library also contains around 15 works by Sophie Cole (F. J. Cole’s sister), who after a long period of illness as an adolescent, began writing romance novels to pass the time. Arrows from the dark (1909) was Sophie’s first published novel and interestingly was also the first book to be published by Mills & Boon, who became (and remain) a momentous publisher of romance fiction. We also hold an extensive Mills & Boon archive and library.

Sophie Cole went onto write many more romance novels (65 over her lifetime, including Autumn’s wooing1929) which were popular and provided her with an income for life.

My life as a collector

My life as a collector

The result was that during a considerable part of my life as a collector, books were plentiful and costs within my means … All book collectors have their ups and downs.  I have been exceptionally fortunate, and my downs are few in number and have rarely disturbed a nights’ rest.

Cole, writing on his life as a collector in 1958.

You can read more about Cole and his collection, search our catalogue for his works and visit our reading room to access books and papers from his collection.

 

Explore Exhibition Explore the Exhibition
  • Professor Cole in his library
    Professor Cole
  • The Cole Museum
    Cole the collector
  • Estienne, La dissection (1546)
    From out of the blue
  • Hooke, Micrographia (1665)
    Treasures
  • Tyson, Orang-outang (1699)
    New discoveries: Tyson's Orang-outang (1699)
  • Haller, Elementa (1768-75)
    New discoveries: Haller's Elementa (1768-75)
  • Perrault, Mémoires (1671-76)
    New discoveries: Perrault's Memoires (1671-76)
  • Eales in 1979, MS 5305
    Guardian angel of the Cole Library: Dr Nellie B. Eales
  • Cole, Winter jasmine (1936)
    Arrows from the dark
  • Book from the Cole Library
    My life as a collector