A Selection of Letters Written by Florence Nightingale

About the Exhibit

The effort to digitize the Florence Nightingale letters held by the Clendening History of Medicine Library involved several steps. Initially, each letter was deacidified (if necessary), encapsulated in mylar, and transcribed, if this had not previously been completed. Several letters were transcribed and published by the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1962 (Fourteen Nightingale Letters) and in 1984 (Nine Nightingale Letters). All letters were then scanned and saved at 72dpi either as gif images or jpeg images.

The next step involved merging the image with the transcription to create an HTML document. Here, we encountered a problem with images overlapping the text if the document was viewed on a monitor with a 640X480 resolution. This problem was solved by creating a table with the text and the image. However, the table creates a minor problem (word wrapping) with those letters which have landscape orientations. These will eventually be reformatted but for the time being, the word wrap remains.

The text was formatted in the following manner:

Research on the recipients and topics of the letters is an ongoing process. Miss Nightingale's life is well documented and many resources are available. The results of the research are presented as footnotes. These are not exhaustive on any subject and are intended only to clarify or to provide a starting point for further examination. The footnotes represent the only present day addition to the transcription.

No attempts were made to correct Miss Nightingale's spelling or writing style which is not as unique as it may appear today. According to Vicinus and Nergaard, "Nightingale, like most Victorians, used the dash as an all-purpose punctuation mark. Her spelling, especially of personal names, was erratic (e.g., Affghan and Afghan, Paulet and Paulett). For emphasis, she began many paragraphs at the left edge of the page or halfway across the page" (p. 11).

We hope that Miss Nightingale's letters will enlighten and even entertain those who visit the exhibit. We also hope that, if you can further enlighten us about Miss Nightingale's letters or if you simply want to comment on the exhibit, you'll send us e-mail.

Go to the chronological listing of letters.

Go to the alphabetical listing of letters.