Before we start.

I doubt if this list is complete so if you know of any other medical publications by Westcott, do contact me. My email address is at the bottom of this file.


THE EXTRA PHARMACOPOEIA, published throughout that time, in London by H K Lewis of 136 Gower Street in Bloomsbury.

This publication deserves its own separate section as the most long-running of all those that Westcott had any part in. Its first edition was published in 1883 as a private venture, in the continuing absence of an up-to-date government-sponsored British Pharmacopoeia. In the following years it became so important to medical and pharmaceutical practice that a new edition was issued in 1915 despite Government restrictions on the use of paper. It became an official publication of the Pharmaceutical Society in the 1930s; and by 2008 was on its 35th edition – all 3300 pages of it. Westcott worked on every edition from 1883 to 1925.

Its full Victorian title was The Extra Pharmacopoeia of Unofficial Drugs...With References to their Use but it was usually referred to as The Extra Pharmacopoeia or even just as ‘martindale’, after the man whose idea it was. It was a joint enterprise from the start. William Martindale had taught materia medica at UCL while Westcott was an undergraduate there, before leaving to set up his own pharmacy business. He did the analysis, worked out suitable dosages and described how to prepare the substance. Westcott – presumably Martindale’s choice for the role - searched the medical journals for articles on the various substances, to provide the clinical notes. When William Martindale died in 1902 his son William Harrison Martindale took over his father’s role. Westcott’s role continued as before.

Every so often, the two authors would agree a revision of the text for the next edition. One particularly big revision came in 1904 with the 11th edition, the first in which Westcott worked with William Harrison Martindale.

The Extra Pharmacopoeia was not without its critics but its authors were quick to defend it in the medical press:

Lancet 1885 volume 2 of that year issue of 19 September 1885 p954; p558 short letter from Westcott correcting several mistakes made in the Lancet’s review of the recently issued 4th edition of The Extra Pharmacopoeia.

Comment by Sally Davis: four editions in its first three years! How the work of drugs in medicine was changing and expanding.

British Medical Journal 1912 volume 1 of that year issue of 3 February 1912: on p273 was a short riposte from William Harrison Martindale to comments made by Graham Chambers on a particular entry in the most recent edition.

Sources for The Extra Pharmacopoeia:

The Extra Pharmacopoeia announcement of the publication of the 11th edition, in British Medical Journal volume 1 of that year issue of 7 May 1904.

British Medical Journal 1915 volume 1 of that year issue of 20 February 1915: on p338 there was a short review of the latest edition, the 16th.. It was now so large it was printed in two volumes. The new edition had been printed despite the shortage of paper in wartime. Martindale and Westcott as joint authors.

Facsimile of the 1883 edition issued 2008 by Pharmaceutical Press for the Pharmaceutical Society.

There’s more on the Martindales, father and son, in my file on Westcott’s professional contacts.


When he was a GP:

1872 Rupture of the Heart. British Medical Journal volume 1 of that year issue of 25 May 1872: 554.

1874 Notes on a Case of Exophthalmic Goitre. British Medical Journal volume 2 of that year issue of 26 December 1874: 811-812.

1881 A Curious Case of Suffocation. British Medical Journal volume 1 of that year issue of 12 March 1881: 386.

After he became a coroner:

1883 Lancet volume 2 of that year issue of 17 November 1883 pp851-852: A Medico-Legal Mystery by W Wynn Westcott MB London, deputy coroner for central Mddx; and Samuel Lloyd, surgeon for E Division Metropolitan Police.

This deserves notice on two counts: it was Westcott’s first publication after he started work as a coroner; and is a rare – I think it might be unique – example of an item written by Westcott with a co-author.

3rd edition 1884

A Therapeutic Index of Diseases and Symptoms. This was a 16-page pamphlet published in London. Apparently this was the 3rd edition. The British Library has a copy of it but doesn’t have copies of the two previous editions.


ON SUICIDE is the publication most mentioned in summings-up of Westcott’s career as a coroner.

At 191 pages it was also the largest single volume Westcott published on his own. To kill yourself – or even attempt to do so – was a crime throughout Westcott’s life; but it was a sad fact that Westcott was able to collect all the data published in the book during his first two years presiding over inquests.

Full title: Suicide. Its History, Literature, Jurisprudence, Causation and Prevention by W Wynn Westcott MB London. Deputy Coroner for Central Middlesex. Joint Author of the Extra Pharmacopoeia. Published 1885 London: H K Lewis.

Westcott dedicated the work to his boss in the Central Middlesex coroner’s office, Dr George Danford Thomas. He also thanked his friend Dr Duncan MacLarty for reading the manuscript, making many helpful suggestions, and editing it for the printers.

In his introduction to the book Westcott apologised for not having more time to spend on its “grave” and important subject. He had intended to write a short essay, but decided to extend it when he realised how few books had been written on suicide. Amongst the works he had consulted were publications in French, Italian and German.

On Suicide was reviewed in the Times, which was already familiar with Westcott’s name, covering some of his inquests in its pages. The anonymous reviewer commented on the need for society to give the subject “earnest consideration”. He or she was impressed by the depth of Westcott’s work, and the width of his reading, and described it as “a comprehensive view of the subject...[without] superfluous matter”.

Sources: On Suicide introduction pv, pvii. Seen online.

Times Tue 22 September 1885 p13 The Book World column.

On Suicide was soon being cited in other works. This one, from October 1892, was an early one but probably not the first: BMJ 1892 volume 2 of that year issue of 22 October 1892 pp909-10: ‘Unsound Mind’ Verdicts on Suicide.


Lancet volume 2 of that year issue of 21 July 1888 p132: Deaths from Alcoholic Excess in London. Westcott had carried out this analysis at the suggestion of his “friend” Dr Norman Kerr, using data from 1220 consecutive inquests he had presided over.

Norman Shanks Kerr (1834-99) was a doctor and medical officer, born and qualified in Glasgow but practising in London from 1874. He had been an active temperance campaigner since his student days. In 1884 he was the main mover in the founding of the Society for the Study of Inebriety; the forerunner of the modern Society for the Study of Addiction. I’ve found it difficult to come by contemporary sources for the Society in the 1880s and 1890s but Westcott was very active in the Society at that time and became its second President on Kerr’s death.

Sources for Kerr:

British Journal of Inebriety volume 3 1905/06 pubd 1906. Volume 3 number 1 July 1905 p2

ODNB volume 31 p415


British Medical Journal 1890 volume 1 of that year issue of 15 March 1890: 620-21 article by Westcott on The Mandrake. This had originally been a talk Westcott had given at a meeting of the British Medical Association’s North London District; the date of the talk wasn’t stated in the article.

Westcott had also spoken about the mandrake plant at a meeting of SRIA’s Metropolitan College on 9 January 1890. This was published with a slightly different title for his very different audience: The Mandrake Plant in Genesis. It was published in the SRIA Metropolitan College’s Transactions for 1889-90: 15-18 for the text and drawings; 9 for the date of the talk.

Comment by Sally Davis: I was delighted to find William Westcott taking an interest in the plant whose botanical name is the basis of my email address. Thanks to the film Pan’s Labyrinth; and even more to J K Rowling’s Chamber of Secrets, the mandrake plant is now familiar to people with no interest in botany, magic or poisons.


Lancet volume 1 of that year issue of 5 April 1890 p748: The Arsenio-Ferric Water of Levico. Perhaps Westcott was sampling this as part of his work for The Extra Pharmacopoeia. The water came from Trient in the Tyrol but was being sold all over Europe. It had gone on sale in the UK recently. The short article discussed the water’s possible health benefits. Westcott recommended a dose of 1 tablespoon at a time.


British Medical Journal volume 2 of that year issue of 17 October 1891 pp841-842: A Coroner’s Notes on Sudden Death. This had started out as a talk given by Westcott at the BMA’s annual conference, held that year in July at Bournemouth. It was published as part of the BMJ’s coverage of the conference.


Journal of Mental Science volume 46 September 1900 p669: Inebriety. This was an abstract, not a full article.

The existence of the abstract was mentioned in the Proceedings of the Society for the Study of Inebriety number 66 December 1900 p1, but neither the abstract nor Westcott’s full talk were published by the Society. Westcott had given the talk at a meeting of the Medico-Psychological Association on 26 July 1900.


British Medical Journal volume 2 of that year issue of 6 December 1902 pp 1756-59: The Coroner and His Relations with the Medical Practitioner, and Death Certification. This had been a talk, given by Westcott at a meeting of the North London District of the BMA’s Metropolitan Counties Branch.


Westcott gave three talks, to slightly different audiences, all called some variation on The Overlaying of Infants – that is, infants smothered by other people sleeping in the same bed. The subject was considered so important and so relevant to the times that the three talks were published in three different journals. Westcott’s first talk was at the Medico-Legal Society’s meeting of 9 June 1903. A few weeks later, on 14 July 1903, he gave a similar talk at a meeting of the Society for the Study of Inebriety. Lastly, few months later Westcott, spoke on the subject again at a meeting of the St Pancras Division of the BMA, noting that England had the worst statistics for such deaths in all Europe.

FIRST publication: Medico-Legal Society’s Transactions: volume 1 covering 1902, 1903 and 1904: pp44-48. Published for the Society by Baillière Tindall and Cox of Henrietta St. A note on page 48 said that the talk had had the outcome Westcott had probably been hoping for: the BMA had approached the Home Office about the problem, and there was now a Government enquiry going on.

SECOND: British Journal of Inebriety volume 1 1903/04: pp65-68 Westcott’s Inebriety of Women and the Overlaying of Infants.

THIRD publication: British Medical Journal 1903 volume 2 of that year issue of 7 November 1903 pp1208-1209: The Overlaying of Infants.


Medico-Legal Society Transactions volume 2 1904/05 pp85-98: Notes Upon Suicide. Westcott gave this talk at the Medico-Legal Society meeting of 6 June 1905. Published for the Society by Baillière Tindall and Cox of Henrietta St; and then issued as a 13-page booklet, confusingly called On Suicide.


Medico-Legal Society Transactions volume 4 1906/07 pp15-32: Westcott’s Twelve Years’ Experience of a Coroner, a talk given at the Society on 20 November 1906. Westcott covered 1894-1906, his years so far as coroner for North East London. As many in his audience were barristers, medical academics and GP’s rather than coroners, the majority of the talk was about the daily nuts and bolts of doing the job.

British Medical Journal volume 2 of that year issue of 17 November 1906 p 271: a short report on the article.


British Medical Journal 1908 volume 1 of that year issue of 29 February 1908 pp490-493: An Address on Sudden and Unexpected Deaths. Speech made by Westcott to a meeting of the St Pancras and Islington Division of the BMA, after two years in which his own family had experienced two such deaths.

There is a copy of the published talk at the Freemasons’ Library, bound into the Transactions of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA)’s Metropolitan College 1905-08. For more on SRIA see my file on Westcott’s esoteric involvement.


Medico-Legal Society Transactions volume 7 1909/10 pp91-97: Westcott’s A Note Upon Deodands, given as a talk at the Society’s meeting on 22 March 1910.

For anyone wondering what on earth deodands are, they indicate Westcott had been investigating the historical office of the coroner. The talk also tells the modern reader something about the changes in procedure between Westcott’s time and now, about objects that would be evidence in a legal case. The practice of ‘deodand’ was the forfeiture of an object or objects that had caused someone’s death, whether by accident or design. Though the practice had been long discontinued Westcott thought it might have been forerunner of the contemporary habit of many coroners including himself of “detaining the means by which men have killed themselves”. He had to explain to his audience that weapons of murder or suicide were evidence.

Medico-Legal Society Transactions volume volume 8 1910/11 pp15-26: Westcott’s The Coroner and His Medical Neighbours, given as a talk at the Society’s meeting on 25 October 1910. He’d been rather surprised to be asked to give a follow-up to his ‘12 years a coroner’ talk, as he had felt that no more would need to be said on the subject for a few years at least. But the Society requested more information on the coroner’s daily round, giving Westcott another chance to raise several of his major bugbears.

1910 [1911]

Salvarsan” or “606”. Dioxy-Diamino-Arsenobenzol: its Chemistry, Pharmacy and Therapeutics

by William Harrison Martindale and William Wynn Westcott. London: H K Lewis; 5 shillings per copy. This was a stand-alone volume by the team that published The Extra Pharmacopoeia.

British Medical Journal 1910 volume 2 of that year issue of 3 December 1910 p436 announced its publication. There was a review of it in British Medical Journal 1911 volume 1 of that year issue of 25 March 1911: 712-13.

Salvarsan, or 606, was a preparation toxic to the bacillus that caused syphilis. It was put on the market with the trade name Salvarsan by Hoechst AG in 1910. In its first two years Salvarsan was sold as crystals and that was how W H Martindale and Westcott assessed it; but the crystals were very unstable in air and a soluble version went on sale in 1912.

Source for Salvarsan as a medicine: wikipedia.


Medico-Legal Society Transactions volume 10 1911/12 pp69-70 Westcott’s A Note on a Curious Result of Burning a New-Born Child, a short talk given at the Society’s meeting of 21 May 1912.


30 March 2022

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