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Richard Phillips', a blood letter, document wallet, England, 1800-1813

Richard Phillips', a blood letter, document wallet, England, 1800-1813

Credits: National Railway Museum

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The writing inside this document wallet advertises the services of Mr Richard Phillips. He was a ‘cupper’, based at Three Crown Street, in Southwark, London. A ‘cupper’ was also known as a blood letter. They were so called because they used cupping glasses to draw blood from the skin. The handwritten inscription inside this leather wallet also shows Phillips used it on board HMS Eclipse in 1813. This suggests he was on the voyage to the Leeward Islands in the West Indies which the ship undertook that year. Bloodletting treated a range of diseases and conditions. During cupping, warm glass cups placed on the skin drew blood to the surface of the skin. In wet cupping, the blood was released from the body using a lancet or scarificator (spring-operated lancets) to cut an area of the skin, which was then cupped.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: bloodletting

Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.

Glossary: wallet

Flat container, which is large enough to hold money, credit cards, driver's license, or similar: sometimes with a compartment for coins.