The Egyptian, Buddhist and Japanese collections of Chiddingstone Castle are well known and eagerly borrowed by museums such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Texas so it was rather a surprise to learn what Maria Esain, the castle’s curator, had chosen for her favourite object.
‘With nearly 4,000 objects it is extremely difficult to have only one favourite! Everybody will probably expect me to choose a beautiful Japanese lacquer box, a samurai sword or a 3,000 year old Ancient Egyptian necklace, all in the castle’s collection. However, I am going to choose one of my latest discoveries: a first edition of Florence Nightingale’s: ‘Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it’s not’, from the castle’s library.’
Published in 1859, the book is bound in pebble black cloth with gilt lettering and Maria explains that ‘at the time when it was published, the rules of health and cleanliness were only beginning to be known. This book was the very first of its kind. Florence stressed that it was not meant to be a comprehensive guide from which to teach one’s self to be a nurse but to help women in the practice of treating others. It is a very good read and I strongly recommend it. Her section on ‘chattering hopes and advices’ will bring more than one smile!’
On the subject of advising the sick, Florence writes: “I have been advised […] to take every kind of exercise by every kind of cart, carriage, swing and dumb-bell! In existence; to imbibe every different kind of stimulus that ever has been invented.
This Victorian gem is currently in the castle’s library, which is open to the public by request, and was bought from a private bookshop by Denys in 1974 along with a series of letters sent by, and to, Florence Nightingale. Sadly, the letters are no longer in the castle’s collection.
Although now closed for the winter, Chiddingstone Castle is hosting a series of special Christmas events and you can find further details on their What’s On Page.
Thanks so much, Maria, I greatly appreciate you sharing your favourite object with us. I also appreciate the help of Ali Ditzel, the Director of Chiddingstone Castle, for allowing me to use the above images and for telling me all about the best cream teas in Kent – which are, of course, served at the castle!