‘An excrescency upon the head of a deer’

This curio – an abnormal outgrowth from an antler – was given to the Library in 1682 by William Mainstone (d. 1683). A list of his donations, including the ‘excrescency upon the head of a deer’, can be found in one of the library’s registers. The list includes a number of other remarkable items including a rhinoceros horn, poisoned arrows, antidotes and a sheet of Malay papyrus.

Add.Ms.a.106, f.26r

Mainstone worked for the English East India Company at the English station established at Bantam (Indonesia) and complied one of the first Malay grammars. The manuscript of the grammar (Bodleian Ashmole 1808) was partially transcribed in the 19th century and is now included in the Digital Library of the British Library [Add ms 7043].

By the time of his donation, Mainstone was living at Woodberry Hall in Gamlingay, south Cambridgeshire. His gifts came into the library during the period of construction of the Wren library building which was financed, in part, following a public appeal for funds. Mainstone’s donation (amongst others) reveals that this was also a period in which the Library’s collection was enriched not only by books, but also by objects of interest.