Cornelius Stewart, Surgeon in Dunblane

‘One of the prominent men in Dunblane at this time [1800-1842] was Cornelius Stewart, who carried on a medical practice in Dunblane and district during the early portion of the 19th century […] He was known locally as “Corney”. In his later years he is said to have been of round, stoutish build, with long grey hair and side whiskers’

Barty History of Dunblane p.233

Cornelius Stewart, who became a prominent figure in Dunblane, borrows from the library from 1800 to 1804, in the very early portion of his career. He seems to have arrived in Dunblane immediately after gaining a C.M. degree from the University of Glasgow in 1800 (Medical Dictionary for Scotland, 1852), though the University of Glasgow has no record of his graduation. We know at least that he attended Dr Jeffray’s anatomy classes 1798/99 and 1799/1800, giving his town at the time as ‘Newmills’. Though he only borrows for only four years, it is on a very regular basis (usually monthly) from December 1800 to November 1804.

Leighton’s original collection in the library held a reasonable number of medical books thanks to the pursuits of his father, yet Stewart seeks out works published (and acquired by the library) within his own lifetime. Of note is Biggs’ Vanity of Physick, a work violently opposed to dissection as a means of teaching anatomy, especially when we consider just how recently Stewart was himself a student in Anatomy classes. He borrows the most current Transactions of the Royal Society (vol 3 1794 and vol 4 1798. Vol 5 is not published until 1805). Spallanzani’s Dissertations relative to the natural history of animals and vegetables (1789) a ground-breaking work on digestion, also makes an appearance in an English translation.

Despite the medical leanings of many of his early borrowings, Stewart’s most borrowed title is Encyclopedia Britannica. In combination with his penchant for the Annual Register, it shows an interest in reading extensively, rather than intensely, following a trend which is evident in readers elsewhere. An interest in literature is present, but limited only to the most famous (Burns, Ossian, Shakespeare). Many Scottish Enlightenment works appear on Stewart’s list, alongside theological works (Buxtorf, Calvin) and works on practical divinity (Pictet, which the library only holds in French). He reads, therefore, extensively and widely, across the full spectrum of the collection.

Given his lengthy association with the town, it is perhaps surprising that Stewart ceases to use the library from 1804 onwards. He does gets married during his period as a borrower, to Helen Gordon 23 August 1801, but this is three years before he stops borrowing. The couple do not have children in the first decade of their marriage, so family life provides no explanation either. Leighton MS 25 gives another possible explanation. Stewart’s first subscription charge is five shillings for the year, and his name appears alongside many others paying that amount  in the same period. After 1805, the usual charge of 10s6d is applied. Perhaps this doubling in cost prevents Stewart from renewing his membership. As we have seen from his borrowing record, in the quantity and type of books borrowed, Stewart seems to be the type of borrower to ensure he got value for money.

With thanks to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow


Alexander B. Barty, (1994) The history of Dunblane. New edition. Stirling: Stirling District Libraries

Peter Gordon Stewart (1839) Essay on the Dunblane Mineral Springs

The Medical Directory for Scotland, 1852. London: John Churchill

Transcription of Borrowings

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