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A potato shaking hands with Edward Jenner, claiming him as a fellow vaccinator. Watercolour by John Leech.

  • Leech, John, 1817-1864.
Date
[between 1800 and 1899]
Reference
29573i
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  • Online

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view A potato shaking hands with Edward Jenner, claiming him as a fellow vaccinator. Watercolour by John Leech.

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Credit: A potato shaking hands with Edward Jenner, claiming him as a fellow vaccinator. Watercolour by John Leech. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

Selected images from this work


About this work

Description

The potato is called Paddy Fluke because Paddy was a nickname given to Irishmen and Ireland was associated with potatoes, and because a fluke was a variety of kidney potato

The potato has arms and legs and wears a blue jacket. The figure supposed to be Edward Jenner looks nothing like Jenner's portraits, being thin and bespectacled, wearing a black suit and a broad black hat. He may stand for vaccinators in general

The potato has a (by British standards) unhealthy complexion, yellow and lumpy, described in the lettering below the drawing as "waxy". According to the Oxford English dictionary, 1989, s.v. waxy 3.a, "waxy" was a word often used in a pejorative sense of "boiled potatoes that have not become mèaly'", citing Thomas Hood, Tale of a trumpet, "ears as dull as waxy potatoes!". Potatoes which were mèaly', by contrast, were dry and flaky, which was considered good (OED, s.v. mealy)

The OED, loc. cit., also cites two pathological senses of "waxy": referring to "chlorosis", quoting R.B. Todd's Cyclopaedia of anatomy, 1835-1836, vol. 1, p. 428, "The waxy appearance which those who are the subjects of this disease [i.e. chlorosis] generally exhibit", and (sense 3.b) referring to amyloidosis, citing William Budd, Diseases of the liver, 1845, "These characters are well expressed by the epithet 'waxy', which has been applied to livers in this state by Dr Home and Rokitansky"

Publication/Creation

[between 1800 and 1899]

Physical description

1 drawing : watercolour, with pen and brown ink ; image and lettering 9.5 x 10 cm

Lettering

Dr. Jenner and the potato. Paddy Fluke. Give us your hand old boy we're both waxy-naters.

Notes

Exhibited: Appleby Bros., Ryder Street, St James's, summer exhibition 1965, no. 9

Lettering note

The word "waxy-naters" in the lettering represents a mispronunciation of the word "vaccinators", which is also found in an aquatint by G. Hunt, 1831: see record no 11806i in this catalogue. The OED does not record a word "naters" meaning potatoes; "taters" is a long-used abbreviation for potatoes, but does not fit the pun. Perhaps "natures", pronounced with an Irish accent, was intended
A poster on the wall in the right background reads: smallpox vaccin[ation]

Reference

Wellcome Library no. 29573i

Reproduction note

Perhaps connected with the Irish potato blight of 1846; perhaps intended to be engraved in Punch for that year (investigated but not found, September 1996)

Languages

  • English


Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores
    OpenOnline request

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