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Whipple Library

Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The Library holds around 350 items on the subject of phrenology – the belief derived from the theories of Franz Josef Gall (1758–1828) that the mental faculties are located in various parts or 'organs' of the brain, and investigable by feeling the surface of the skull, with the size of an organ being an indication of its power.The life story and experiences of a phrenologist / by J. Millott Severn (Brighton: Published by J.M. Severn, 1929) PH:823

The core of the collection was donated in the 1970s by Miss Frances Hedderly, former President of the British Phrenological Society (founded in 1887 by the American phrenologist L.N. Fower), following the disbanding of the Society in 1967. Many of the books carry the stamp of the British Phrenological Society, as well as bookplates outlining the library rules and recording dates of issue.

A number of the items were previously owned by the Brighton phrenologist Joseph Millott Severn (b. 1860), a former president of the Society, and include his notes on their provenance and bibliographical history. A selection of items associated with Severn were displayed in the exhibition, illustrating the continued popular appeal of phrenology in the early part of the twentieth century.

The Whipple's copy of Severn's autobiography (right) was presented by Severn to a David Walker in 1937, and also contains various ephemera including the letter from Severn to Walker and the pink flier both shown below.


Letter from J. Millott Severn to David Walker Dedication by Severn in the Whipple Library's copy of his autobiography


Tickets to phrenological lectures at the Brighton and Hove Phrenological Association. The upper ticket was for a lecture chaired by Prof. Severn.

















 Prof. Severn in his office during a consultation, from a painting by Flora White. Phrenological and physiological chart / by J. Millott Severn and Mrs. J. Millott Severn (Brighton: Brighton Phrenological Institution, [192-?]), 10th ed., 60th thousand. PH:     




From a flier advertising 'The Brighton Phrenological Institution, Professor and Mrs. J. Millott Severn, advisers in careers, professions, businesses, trades, marriage'