It has often been commented that Fairbairn, in Edinburgh, was working a long way from the main centres of development in psychoanalysis. This must have made keeping abreast of the literature of his subject more difficult, as libraries and bookshops were unlikely to stock much of such a specialised subject. While cataloguing the books we have found some fascinating clues as to where some of them came from.
Of course it was possible to order through local bookshops, as an invoice from the Edinburgh bookseller James Thin, found between the pages of a 1940s issue of The Yearbook of Psychoanalysis, shows Fairbairn sometimes did.
Our attention was caught by a bookseller’s ticket on the inside of the binding of a dozen or so of the books in the collection “H.K. Lewis & Co. Ltd., 136 Gower Street, London, W.c.1”. Lewis’s turn out to have been a specialist medical and scientific booksellers, publishers and commercial circulating library, who operated a huge, international mail-order business. Their catalogues contained exactly the books Fairbairn needed to know about.
It would be fascinating to know whether Fairbairn also used Lewis’s library. This part of the business was founded in 1852, and was still functioning in the 1940s. There were reading rooms in the company’s premises in Gower Street, for students and professionals living in or visiting London, but there was also a postal service, designed originally to meet the needs of provincial doctors, working without other access to a library of professional literature. By the 1940s the catalogue, sent out to subscribers, was 900 pages long, and covered every medical speciality.
One of the consequences of professional eminence is being asked to write book reviews. There are a number of volumes in the collection stamped ‘Review Copy’, or, as with Clifford Allen’s Modern discoveries in medical psychology, 1936, with the publisher’s slip requesting a review and Fairbairn’s notes for the review still inside it. Fairbairn’s papers at the National Library include his reviews for many other titles which are in the collection, although his copies have nothing in them to show this.
There are presentation inscriptions inside a few of the books, not usually from their authors, but instead marking professional collaborations or visits. One of these has proved tantalising: Lewis Brown Hill’s Psychotherapeutic Intervention in Schizophrenia, 1955, is inscribed to Fairbairn by someone with a totally illegible name. If anyone can identify them we would be very grateful to know.
Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence
Edinburgh University Library