Joseph Thomas Clover’s apprenticeship contract (1841)



The Sir Robert Reynolds Macintosh Collection concerns the indenture of apprenticeship between Joseph Thomas Clover and Charles Mends Gibson (and Joseph’s father John Wright Clover as benefactor). An apprenticeship was a way to secure a social and economic future for those talented in a craft, and given the longevity of apprenticeship schemes this only goes to show the significance of this collection to our history and understanding our present. The collection itself is a gathering of original documents focused on the life and works of Joseph Thomas Clover and Charles Mends Gibson between September 1841, when the indenture was written and signed and 1882 the year of Joseph Thomas Clover’s death. The collection includes the article of agreement itself in its original and outlines the details of the contract drawn up in the presence of James Winters. This document on its own is of rare and exceptional condition and far surpasses the modern day system of passing on knowledge through employment. The commitment of such an employment which now only lasts 2 years on average took an average of 7 years in its origin and was often more of a handing over of your child than a farewell to college or first job. This collection gives us a first-hand insight into, not only the legality and expectations of such an arrangement, but also into the personal journey of a young apprentice through the sharing of lecture notes and journal entries. It also includes a number of documents not of Joseph or Charles’ hand such as magazines and articles the two studied in their development of profession.


The article of indenture between John Wright Clover, Joseph Thomas Clover and Charles Mend Gibson was drawn up and signed September 18, 1841 in the County of Norfolk.  The contract outlines a five-year term where Gibson would provide education and living necessities for Joseph.  Payment of £80 was to be made each year on September 18th to Gibson, until the total indenture fee of £240 was formally paid off.  According to the contract, Gibson was expected to provide “comfortable and convenient lodging”, “sufficient meal and drink suitable to his station in life” as well as “medicines and attendance in case of sickness.”  It goes on to outline details of contingencies, such as the death of Charles Mend Gibson, in which case a third party would repay an appropriate amount to John Wright Clover dependent on the length of study that young Joseph might have completed.  Later in the contract, he is also obliged to “provide … suitable and sufficient wearing apparel and clothing-washing” and “surgical and other instruments and books necessary for a medical student, pocket money and all other necessaries”.  Joseph Thomas Clover would live with Charles Mend Gibson, completely reliant on him as a provider while he completed his medical studies.  A term imposed upon Clover himself, however, was that he was to take his studies seriously as a “diligent pupil and faithful apprentice” who “should behave himself towards” Gibson and his family and patients.  This article of indenture was saved along with other personal documents of Clover, including personal diaries, case notes, and condolences sent to his wife following his passing, among other ephemera, and passed along to Sir Robert Reynolds Macintosh, a professor of anesthetics in Oxford.  In the early 1970s, Macintosh donated the collection of documents, which also included a few notes by Clover’s predecessor, anesthetist John Snow, to the University of British Columbia’s Woodward Library.  K. Bryn Thomas briefly outlines the contents and the acquisition of the collection here.


Now that we have a bit of background on the document we feel we would be remiss to not provide access to the text contained within. As far as we can tell, apart from actually visiting the Rare Books and Special Collections Branch of the University of British Columbia in person and viewing the item itself, there is no way to read the terms of the indenture. We’ve provided photographs and this website, dedicated to the life and works of Joseph Thomas Clover, contains photocopied images but both reproductions leave the text itself illegible. When presenting a document of such singularity, the manner in which it is reproduced becomes paramount. Thus far, any attempt at conveying the substance of this particular item to a broad audience has been in the form of an image, or images, with an accompanying abridgement of its content. This practise invariably creates a fissure between the physical document and the viewer because the text has gone through an interpretative filter. What we’ve attempted here is to remediate this gap as much as possible through digitization of the entire text. This process too, however, is not devoid of problems. The transcription from manuscript to digital text also requires interpretation. In this instance we’ve opted to add indentation and line spacing where we felt was appropriate but also tried to retain the original punctuation, or lack thereof. We hope that by offering a complete digitization of the text, as close to the letter as possible, we are able to expand the accessibility of a rare document, as well as highlight some of the naturally occurring limitations of transferral of information across mediums. The full text can be read here: Indenture of Apprenticeship

In conjunction with the Apprenticeship Indentures by UCB


Shelby Shukaliak, Anqi Suo, Corey Thorpe


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