Article ID: CBB917614120

John Kay’s The craft in danger (1817): Graphic satire and natural history in nineteenth-century Edinburgh (2022)


In the early nineteenth century, the pre-eminence of lecturers at the University of Edinburgh medical school faced challenge from successful extra-mural teachers, like the anatomist John Barclay (1758–1826). Wishing to maintain the University’s reputation, in 1816 Edinburgh Town Council proposed the institution of a new chair in Comparative Anatomy and Veterinary Surgery: a proposal which the University chose to reject. These events provided the subject to John Kay’s (1742–1826) satirical print The craft in danger (1817), which accused Alexander Monro tertius (1773–1859), Thomas Charles Hope (1766–1844) and Robert Jameson (1774–1854) of attempting to hold back the progress of knowledge in the interest of personal profit. Kay staged a mock battle in which Barclay charges the entrance of the University mounted upon an elephant skeleton; Hope attempts to topple him using an insecurely anchored rope; Monro tries to fend him off with a bone, while Jameson, seated astride a walrus, brandishes a narwhal tusk. The animal specimens pictured represent identifiable objects, then in the museum collections of Barclay and Jameson – the depiction of which reflects the colonial networks of natural history collecting that brought them to Edinburgh. Kay’s satirical print thus maintains a valuable record of the culture of natural history in the city, being facilitated to do so by periodicals like The Scots Magazine, and Edinburgh Literary Miscellany through which new knowledge was actively transmitted.

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Authors & Contributors
Jenkins, Bill
Matteo Ruzzon
Di Meo, Alessandro
Marta Coloberti
Rayner-Canham, Geoff
Luca Ghiraldi
Journal for the History of Knowledge
Archives of Natural History
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Science in Context
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Journal of the History of Biology
Yale Center for British Art
University of Hawai'i Press
University of Georgia Press
Science History Publications
Manchester University Press
Brepols Publishers
Natural history
Collectors and collecting
Science and art
Jameson, Robert
Pechey, Mary Edith
Ainsworth, William
Kessel, Jan van
Brown, Alexander Crum
Cerruti, Giovanni Emilio
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
20th century
Early modern
Edinburgh (Scotland)
Great Britain
New Guinea
University of Edinburgh
Museo di Scienze Naturali di Torino
Museo Calderini
Edinburgh Physiological Society

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