The Library of Carl Curman

Carl Curman (1833-1913) was a prominent profile in Swedish medical circles, and beyond, in the 19th century. And not only that, he was also a Professor at the Academy of Art, an excellent artist in his own right, and a pioneer photographer. Locally in Stockholm he is today mainly remembered as the founder of Sturebadet (1885), a popular indoor bath and swimming pool in the center of the city. Before this he had his hand in the creation of other spas in Stockholm, but also on the west coast of Sweden, in the old community of Lysekil. Balneology (defined as “the study of medicinal springs and the therapeutic effects of bathing in them”) may arguably be considered his main interest. In Lysekil he and his wife Calla had two houses erected in a national romantic “viking” style that was fairly popular in some affluent circles at the time. There are several examples preserved and it may be noted that the house “Sagatun”, erected in 1880 in the vicinity of Stockholm, and owned by Gustaf and Anna Retzius is almost identical to Curman’s “Storstugan II”. As by chance, across the Gullmarsfjord from Lysekil, in Kristineberg, the Retziuses had a summer residence and the two couples were friends but also competitors in giving cultural soirées in the capital.

This was the short-short version of the Carl Curman biography… More detailed information can be easily found elsewhere.

Earlier this spring, Ms. Britta Wadman turned to the Hagströmer Library with a question; would we possibly be interested in a medical library that once belonged to Carl Curman? Ms. Wadman is the first female medical doctor in the family and the daughter of Dr. Hans Curman, son of Sigurd Curman (1897-1966, former head of National Heritage) who in his turn was the son of Carl and Calla Curman. The library has been inherited through the generations and has been kept in different locations over the years. When the famous Roman-inspired Curman Villa on Floragatan was built in 1880 it had a beautiful library specially designed for the book collection. In 1935 the collection was moved to Sigurd Curman’s home in the Haga Park, actually not very far from the Hagströmer Library’s present location. In 1950 it was housed in Rotsunda gård, whence it was moved to Svartmangatan in Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla stan) in 1991. A large part of the library has since been donated to the Royal Library, including letters, manuscripts, photographs etcetera, where it is labeled the Carl and Calla Curman Collection (Carl och Calla Curmans samling). Source material can also be found in Nordiska museet, the archives of the National Heritage (Riksantikvarieämbetet, RAÄ) and Tekniska museet. However, the lion’s share of medical books remained on Svartmangatan, and was now offered to the Hagströmer Library.

We were of course delighted to accept such an outstanding gift! Late in February 2018 Hjalmar Fors, Gertie Johansson and myself arranged the moving of the books to their worthy new home in Haga tingshus. When we collected the books a few other interesting objects were added to the donation; some copies of old photographs, a bronzed plaster bust of Carl Curman made by John Börjeson, a white plaster relief of Curman made by himself in the 1850s, another bronzed plaster relief (almost in the round) by Curman, depicting the botanist Sextus Otto Lindberg (1835-1889). However, the strangest, and most unnerving, object is a framed piece of human skin! It has been saved because of the tattoo it carries. There are pictures of two ladies in long sedate dresses beneath a flowering wreath each. They flank the common symbols for Faith, Hope and Love, a heart over a crossed anchor and cross and for emphasis it is written “Trohet” (faithfulness) across the heart. The two ladies have letters written below their feet; “I A E W” and “I E W” respectively. If you turn the object around you find written in pencil on the wooden back board, “Serafimerlasarettet 1851. En sjömans (afliden 1851) tatuerade bröst” (“The Serafimer Hospital 1851. A sailor’s (diseased 1851) tattooed chest”). The Hagströmer Library has with this donation had the opportunity to further enhance our already exceptional collections!

In a letter dated 9 May 2018 Ms Wadman states “My feeling is that Carl Curman finally has found a place among his peers and is in safe hands”.

Dan Jibréus, 30 August 2018

Photos (by the author):
Two editions of works by Hippocrates.
1. Opera omnia, qvæ extant, in VIII sectiones ex Erotiani mente distributa. Frankfurt, Daniel & David Aubry & Clemens Schleich, 1624. Contemporary blind-pressed pigskin, 380 x 45 mm. With Carl Curman’s round red owner’s stamp on title page. Also, in ink, “Gåfva till Lars Curman af Professor Per Wising 1890”, and on free front end paper “Ex libris Aug. Th. Broman Holmiæ MDCCCXLV”.
2. Aphorismi. Hos edi accuravit, interpretationem novam adjecit, loca parellela plurima ex ipso Hippocrate collegit… Lucas Verhoofd. Leiden, Daniel van Gaesbeek, [1675]. Contemporary full leather, 100 x 47 mm. With Carl Curman’s round red owner’s stamp on front free end paper.
Britta Wadman in front of some of the former Curman library shelves in the process of being emptied. Note the bust of Carl Curman. There are two bronze copies of this work, one in Sturebadet, and one in Havsbadsparken, Lysekil.

A great help in putting down these few notes is a document of pertinent facts compiled by Britta Wadman. Besides my own observations, other parts of this text is based on interviews with Britta Wadman, Thomas Lindblad, Lars Helin and others.