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Chaston Chapman: strange brew

Published 17 August 2012

Illustration from "The complete distiller" by A Cooper, published in 1757

An intriguing collection of concoctions

Analytical and consulting chemist Alfred Chaston Chapman worked primarily in relation to brewing, and was the UK's chief authority on the subject. Born in 1869, he attended Leeds Grammar School and then University College London, where his interest in the fermentation industries began.

His name is all too familiar to Chemistry students at the University of Leeds. The Chaston Chapman Library in the School of Chemistry houses his working collection, donated to the University on his death in 1932. Perhaps not so familiar to students - save, possibly, members of the University's Real Ale Society - is his private collection, presented by his wife in 1939.

Chaston Chapman's private library contains, along with the scientific books of the Chaston Chapman Royal Society collection, the Brewing collection. The title of the latter gives no indication of its breadth: subjects covered include wine and winemaking, distillation and the distilling industry, drinking customs, liquors, ciders and whiskey, and legal issues surrounding alcohol.

The Brewing collection makes for fascinating reading, containing some rather entertaining and amusing titles. Of note are The Anatomy of Drunkenness, a Glaswegian publication from 1840, and The History and Science of Drunkenness, an illustrated volume published in 1883.

The collection is relevant to student social life both past and present, containing an 1835 edition of Oxford Night Caps: Being a collection of receipts for making various beverages used in the University. An intriguing collection of concoctions, it contains a recipe for Oxford Punch. Among the required ingredients are six glasses of calves-feet jelly, the juice of four oranges and ten lemons, half a pint of white wine, a pint of French brandy and a pint of Jamaica rum.

Today's students may prefer something more refreshing, not to mention palatable. When left agonising over the choice of an evening studying or a drink with friends, a quick read of The History and Virtues of Cider, a 1982 publication and the most recent addition to the Brewing collection, should be enough to convince them that a Magners amongst friends is indeed the virtuous thing to do.

Browse the Chaston Chapman Brewing and Chaston Chapman Royal Society collections in our Library Catalogue, or visit Special Collections to look at the materials first hand.