“E libris Dris Kellerman”: On the library of Doctor Kellerman

by Ted Simonds, Project Cataloguer (Sion College Library)


From the 1620s onwards, Sion College Library received donations from a broad swathe of the London citizenry. Aristocrats, merchants, clergy, stationers, parishioners, donors who chose anonymity, and donors otherwise unknown to us constitute Sion College Library’s earliest benefactors. Sion College Library is special in this regard: both as a library of rare and notable books, and as a record of the people who helped create it. What they donated still fills the shelves of the Sion College Library collection today.

As I have hinted above, some donors are more mysterious to us than others. The problem of provenance research is the problem of knowing or not knowing the behaviours and actions of people in the past. As with all such research, observation is accompanied with uncertainty, and you have to let yourself be led by what is in front of you. A series of books has recently emerged, carrying the name of a “D[octo]ris Kellerman”, who I have found to be a German doctor working in Russia at the close of the 17th century. While handling and cataloguing his books, an interesting picture emerges of a medical practitioner, his small collection of books, and the hands they passed through before arriving at Sion College Library.

It is unknown whether Doctor Hendrik Kellerman (also known as Andrei Kelderman) ever visited London or if he knew of or visited Sion College. Nevertheless, an inscription reading: “Ex libris D[octor]ris Kellerman” (or a variation on this) exists in eight books from Sion College Library that we have now catalogued. As a cataloguer of this collection, when such patterns emerge, I turn to the Sion Benefactor’s Book as a place where more information about a donation may be found. The following can be found under the year 1720 regarding Doctor Kellerman’s bequest:

Sion L40.2/E64, p.227
Sion L40.2/E64, p.227

“About this time Mrs. Snow, who had accompanied the lady of Dr. Kellerman, a German physician, to Muscovy, and returned to England after they were dead, gave 18 of the Drs. books to the Library. They are in the Closet next Philip lane.”

From this information, certain assumptions can be made. Kellerman was German. In fact, his father Thomas was Livonian (originating from an area in modern-day Latvia). Kellerman had a wife, who was accompanied by a woman, presumably English, who called herself Mrs Snow. Mrs Snow, a woman working in domestic service overseas, carried at least 18 books (if not more) back to London with her from Russia.

Importantly to us, he also owned books, and 18 of them were given to Sion College Library. Of these 18 so far 9 have been identified. The most recent book, Christoph Besold’s Synopsis Politicae Doctrinae (Ingolstadt, 1643), was found last week. In the course of my normal cataloguing duties interesting books and their provenances are always emerging, testifying to the importance of Sion College Library as a collection, and the importance of the work of cataloguing these books. Doctor Kellerman’s books are as follows:

  • Psalterium Latinum Dauidis prophetae et Regis, Leipzig, 1578. (A26.16/C81 01): bound with: Cantica selecta veteris novique testamenti, Leipzig, 1581. (A26.16/C81 02)
  • Johannes Posselius, Evangelia et epistolae…, Strasbourg, 1592. (A33.9/EV1(1))
  • B.T., Preghiere e meditatione Christiane, Geneva, 1623. (A62.2E/T11)
  • Ludolphus Lithocomus, Vocabulorum et exemplorum, quae per etymologiam Ludolffi Lithocomi, The Hague, 1643. (H15.2/V93)
  • Christoph Besold, Christophori Besoldi I.C. Synopsis Politicae Doctrinae, Ingolstadt, 1643. (D50.4/B46)
  • Johann Michael Fehr, Anchora vel Scorzonera, Jena, 1666. (No longer at Sion)
  • Philipp Kegel, Zwölff geistliche Andachten, Lüneburg, 1669. (A62.2G/K25)
  • Anton Reiser, Sabbathisch- und Sonntägliches Liecht und Recht, Frankfurt am Main, 1677. (A30.3a/R27)
  • Caspar Hermann Sandhagen, Lüneburgisches Gesangbuch, Lüneburg, 1695. (A38.6/L96)

The types of books listed here and what they can tell us about Doctor Kellerman should be regarded with some caution. The nine books represent only half of the total amount deposited with Sion in 1720. While we are hopeful more might emerge, this is not a given. At least one book listed is assumed to have been in Sion College Library, and been given by Doctor Kellerman. In the London Metropolitan Archives collection of Sion College material, a note refers to:

“lists of flowers taken from books of Dr Kellerman (‘e libris Dris Kellerman’) with some accompanying notes. The only book named is Johann Michael Fehr’s “Anchora vel scorzonera”, 1666.” (LMA: CLC/198/SICE/013/MS33531)

The book mentioned is a work of medical botany written by Doctor Fehr about the healing properties of moorland plants found in Schweinfurt, Bavaria. We can say that the book no longer exists in Sion College Library, as there is no entry for it in the card catalogue, neither has it been located in another library carrying Kellerman’s provenance. It is known that Sion College did withdraw a number of medical and scientific texts throughout the 20th century. Doctor Kellerman’s profession leads us reasonably to assume he was in possession of some medical books. Given the scientific subject of this one book, assumed withdrawn, hopes of recovering the remaining 9 (possibly 10) books belonging to Kellerman remain slim.

Scholarly writing on early modern medicine in Russia, which draws on the archive of the Apothecary Chancery in Rusia, offers a picture of Kellerman’s background and professional life. His father was a merchant, an arms dealer and eventually an envoy who was influential at the Muscovite court. Thomas Kellerman had invested financially in his son’s career, taking on debts to fund his son’s education as a medical doctor. Doctor Kellerman studied at the elite centres of medical learning in 17th century Europe: Padua, Paris, Strasbourg, Leipzig and Oxford. It is tantalising to think of the Doctor having had to pass through London, and thus potentially Sion, on his way to Oxford. Indeed, Leipzig and Strasbourg imprints do survive among his books, possibly linking him to these cities. Doctor Kellerman is evidenced as buying books on his travels across Europe, and the signs of use extant in his books show this.

On the verso of the front flyleaf of his copy of Psalterium Latinum Dauidis prophetae et Regis (Leipzig, 1578) is a particularly interesting note. It reads:

A26.16/C81 01
A26.16/C81 01

“Hunc librum ex praedâ Suecici belli solutâ pecuniâ, mihi comperari Plestoviae Ao. 1704. Henricus Kellerman eques divi marci Ph. & Med. Doctor.”

Roughly translated, this reads: “This book was sold after being liberated from the spoils of the Swedish war, I have learned”, and is followed by his location “Plestoviae”, possibly Pleszew (Poland), the year 1704, and his name with what appears to be an honorary title for the order of St Mark, and his credentials as a Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine. We can therefore locate Doctor Kellerman as having been in Poland in 1704, and in the market of buying second-hand books. The ink on the flyleaf is a pink colour found elsewhere in his books. Doctor Kellerman was not the type of person to buy books and not read them, in fact he was a heavy annotator. The characteristic pink ink often used with a range of other inks ranging from a weak brown to a stronger black, enabling us to speculate that he came to his books, ready to annotate, at multiple occasions. His father’s debts were not taken in vain, as Kellerman was clearly a learned man. He was a polyglot, seemingly a bibliophile, and read and annotated his books many times over, adding in his own running titles, verse and line numbers, and bibliographic references. His notes are written in Latin, Greek and other languages in a variety of styles depending on his purpose.

Eve Levin’s 2003 doctoral thesis gives an account of the life of Doctor Kellerman (including the above biography); she summarises Kellerman’s situation as being a foreigner in Muscovite service sent to Europe to train in medicine with the expectation that he would return to serve in Muscovy. Levin describes Kellerman’s return as traumatic. He had forgotten the language and was disappointed at the status his role had, and at his pay being 170 roubles (some physicians earned as much as 1114 roubles) per year. The Latin-Dutch dictionary in his library (H15.2/V93) offers an insight into the Doctor’s internal life, as well as the way he used books and moved through the world. The printed pages are interleaved with blanks, on which Kellerman has made manuscript notes and translations into various other eastern European languages (interestingly in Latin script).

H15.2/V93 and A26.16/C81 02
H15.2/V93 and A26.16/C81 02

Doctor Kellerman worked at the Apothecary Chancery in Moscow from 1673, where he treated the upper classes of society. There are several moments of his career which add colour to his career as a physician. In 1682 he became involved in a murder case in the hospital when his colleague Arnold van Hulst was accused of killing Fedor Neledinskii (a patient). Kellerman performed an autopsy and investigation, the conclusions of which resulted in van Hulst’s exoneration. By 1690 he was working in the ‘Old Pharmacy’, when he was called upon to inspect the medicine production in the ‘New Pharmacy’ (where ordinary Muscovites were treated). It would appear that Kellerman was a well-regarded physician, whose expertise could be called upon to settle disputes and adjudicate medical errors.

This biographical sketch of Kellerman’s life necessarily focuses on his professional life, relying as it does on studies of, and the archives of the Apothecary Chancery in Moscow. We can all agree that our professional lives are but a sliver of our lived lives. What his books tell us is a different kind of history. Kellerman’s books are a case study for how a small collection of books with a common origin and signs of use can enrich, and be enriched by, what is already known from institutional archives. While records survive which tell us what Kellerman (and others like him) did professionally, archives of a person’s interior, linguistic, spiritual, and personal life are less common, especially early modern middle and working classes.

Thanks to the evidence left to us, and the generations of Librarians, archivists, porters and book movers who have transported and kept the books well cared for, we are able to know not only what types of books he read, but how he read them. In addition, thanks to the kinds of records Sion College kept, from early in their life, we are able to know about Mrs. Snow, and her role in preserving this collection. The types of questions we are able to ask of these books are wide-ranging and illuminating. What does it mean that maybe the Doctor collected flowers, sang from a hymn book, seemed curious about the provenance of his books, added page numbers and references to other works in the margins of his Psalter, and that he made his own working dictionary of the Dutch language to suit his own linguistic abilities?

Kellerman’s life story is fascinating, as is the social world that these 18 books have lived in, and continue to live in here at Lambeth Palace Library. We don’t know what the Doctor’s wishes were, if he knew of Sion College, or if he knew his wife’s maid would take his books to London. What we do have is 8 books, with Kellerman’s name in them, which can show us today how someone from 300 years ago read, wrote in, and lived with his books.


We look forward to uncovering more books owned by Doctor Kellerman and donated by Mrs. Snow as the cataloguing of Sion College continues.

For more about Sion College and the provenance of books found there, view the Sion College Library Provenance Project.

To consult one of Doctor Kellerman’s books (or indeed other books in Sion College Library) please email archives@churchofengland.org

Works and items consulted in the writing of this post:

Kees Boterbloem, Moderniser of Russia: Andrei Vinius, 1641-1716. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Claire Louise Griffin, The production and consumption of medical knowledge in seventeenth-century Russia: the Apothecary Chancery. PhD Thesis. UCL, 2012.

Eve Levin, “The administration of Western medicine in seventeenth century Russia”. In Modernizing Moscovy: Reform and Social Change in Seventeenth Century Russia. Jarmo Kotilaine, and Marshall Poe (eds.) Routledge, 2003.

London Metropolitan Archives, Sion College. CLC/198. [Handlist available: https://search.lma.gov.uk/LMA_DOC/CLC_198.PDF]

Philip Longworth, “Russian-Venetian relations in the reign of Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich”, The Slavonic and East European Review. Vol. 64. No.3 (Jul. 1986)

Sion College Library, Benefactor’s Book. (Sion L40.2/E64).