I am ‘digitising’ – speaking loosely – the William Cullen (1710-1790) Papers, held at Special Collections in the University of Glasgow Library (GUL). This includes correspondence, lectures, drafts, and unpublished essays by William Cullen, and a lot of material used by John Thomson (1765-1846) in the early- to mid-nineteenth century to write his biography of Cullen. To be more precise, here is the description of the overall Cullen collection from the GUL catalogue:
Papers of William Cullen (1710-1790), lecturer in Chemistry and Professor of Medicine at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, including drafts of lectures, medical notes, and letters sent and received by him, used by John Thomson, MD, (1765-1846), in preparation of his ‘An account of the life, lectures, and writings of William Cullen, MD’ (first published 1832). The collection includes some of Thomson’s own papers gathered during his preparation of this book.
The collection has recently been professionally catalogued and placed online, thanks to a generous grant from the Wellcome Trust (in 2009/2010, I believe). As a result of this, it has been further divided and organised as follows:
MS Cullen/A: Correspondence of William Cullen
MS Cullen/B: Lectures and teaching material of William Cullen
MS Cullen/C: Papers and Publications of William Cullen
MS Cullen/D: Drafts and research for ‘Life of Cullen’
MS Cullen/E: Handlists for MS Cullen [*now obsolete, for most purposes]
MS Cullen/F: Illustrations
MS Cullen/G: David Craigie Correspondence regarding ‘Life of Cullen’
How much material is this? It’s hard to be sure, but if you do a search in the GUL Special Collections online catalogue for all the documents that contain the call number MS Cullen, 1489 distinct archival items are listed (but, we can exclude all 6 items contained in MS Cullen/E, which are obsolete, bringing us to 1483). Yet there are also other items that have to do with Cullen (and Thomson’s work on him) that are held in Special Collections, and those ought to be included as well. I’ve identified them as follows (with the number of items listed in brackets):
MS Gen 149 
MS Gen 501/1-2 
MS Gen 505/11 
MS Gen 505/33 
MS Gen 510/1-5 
MS Gen 531/18 
MS Gen 531/5 
MS Gen 526/53 
MS Gen 684-694 
MS Gen 800 
MS Ferguson 51 
MS Hunter H299 
MS Gen 1476/A/Series 6 
MS Gen 1476/C/1 
MS Gen 1476/C/3 
SUBTOTAL: 173 items
GRAND TOTAL: 1656 items
There may be occasion to add a few more items that are relevant to William Cullen as the project goes along, but there is certainly enough material here to keep a grad student busy. The situation is actually more challenging than it at first appears because I have only listed Catalogue items above. While many of these are letters, fragments or short essays, some of them contain full volumes or multiple volumes of material. So the actual page number count (and thus digital image count) is considerably higher. As a conservative estimate, if we imagine that, on average over the whole collection, the mean number of pages per item is 10, the page count is 16,560. That’s a lot of photos. And each photo I take (as a RAW file) is about 18-20MB in size. So I need roughly 325GB of hard drive space for the photos alone, and if one adds the alternate photos I usually take to allow for mistakes and detailed views (and one image for each folder that contains catalogue items), then 400 GB is probably closer to the mark.
When I first dreamt up this project, I estimated that I could photograph about 50 catalogue items a day (roughly 4-5 hours of shooting per day), four days a week. If we round up the number of items to 1700, then the project should take 34 days or 8.5 weeks…which is just about the amount of time I have before heading south to the beautiful city on the Isar. This is the second week I have been working in Glasgow and I am actually managing closer to 75-100 items per day, which will be very helpful, if that kind of progress continues.
(Un)fortunately for scholars interested in Cullen, the Cullen Papers at Special Collections in Glasgow are not even the vast majority of his extant works and correspondence. The library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (of which Cullen was at one time the President) also contains hundreds – actually thousands – of letters and quite a few notes and lecture outlines as well. Cullen’s consultation letters (back then, physicians would often consult via post), for instance, fill 21 folio volumes and there are an additional 17 volumes of miscellaneous letters that were received by Cullen. For my PhD, I won’t get to all this material. In fact, there is a well-funded digitisation project ongoing that will eventually produce a fully-searchable, indexed digital edition of all 21 volumes of Cullen’s clinical correspondence. But there is certainly much left to do, and I hope to review as much of it as I can, given the limits of time.