St John Archive

Explore Your Archive and the theme of #EYAArt

Museum of the Order of St John Sophie Denman (Archivist)

This week is Explore Your Archive week, an annual celebration of all things archive-y, organised by the Archives & Records Association (UK & Ireland) to encourage everyone to visit, use, celebrate, and be inspired by archives across the UK & Ireland. On today’s theme of #EYAArt, let’s explore the illustrative work in one of St John Ambulance’s early publications: First Aid to the Injured.

The St John Ambulance Association was founded in 1877 to provide practical first aid training, and it opened training centres across the length and breadth of the country. The Association’s training lectures on ‘First Aid to the Injured’ were developed into its first aid manuals, first published in 1878. The manuals were initially titled ‘Handbook Describing Aids for Cases of Injuries or Sudden Illness’, but moved to adopt the same title as the Association’s key training lectures in 1885, becoming known as ‘First Aid to the Injured’.

The manuals were one of the first pocket-sized practical guides for dealing with first aid scenarios and life-threatening injuries, designed for quick and easy access, and including detailed accompanying illustrations. They are small and slim, measuring 111mm x 140mm when closed, and 220mm x 140mm when open. They have an average of 203 pages, and most copies have a fold-out illustration of the human anatomy tucked neatly into the front cover.

The image shows a small and slim black leather-bound book being held by a hand. In the centre of the cover is the St John Ambulance Association logo of an eight-pointed cross and the words ‘St John Ambulance Association’ embossed in silver.
A copy of First Aid to the Injured.

First Aid to the Injured was intended for non-professionals, to ‘enable any one to act in cases of injury or sudden illness, pending the arrival of professional help’, and was initially created for use by the Association during their first aid classes for the public and for use by the Metropolitan Police. Within eight months, 20,000 copies were sold, demonstrating the real appetite for access to lifesaving skills and information. They are a unique record of the Associations developing training and guidance in the decades before Health & Safety legislation and the National Health Service.

This image is of a double-page spread from the publication. The left-hand page shows an illustration of a skeleton, with some of the key bones identified with their scientific term. The right-hand page is titled ‘First aid to the injured’ and ‘Chapter 1 Anatomy and Physiology’, and begins to explain the framework of the body. It is accompanied by a full-length illustration of a clothed man, facing left.
An example of some of the pages of First Aid to the Injured.

They are also home to detailed illustrative examples of bandaging, first aid treatments, and methods of resuscitation, which we’re sharing today. Although you might not see these illustrations hanging up in an art gallery, they are certainly worthy of some admiration for their artistry.

The illustration shows a side-on head and neck of a man looking to the left. The man has a moustache. He has a bandage tied around his head. The illustration has the words ‘Fig 14’ underneath.
An illustrative example of the correct way to bandage a wound to the temporal artery, which runs up the side of the forehead.
This illustration shows a man lying on the floor sideways. The man has something underneath his head to cushion it. He has a long wooden splint bandaged to his body at the leg and waist. The illustration has the words ‘Fig 19’ underneath.
An illustration of the treatment for a fracture of the thigh, using a ‘long splint on the outside of the body, extending from the arm-pit to the foot’.
This illustration shows a man lying on the floor, with three men (one behind his head, one behind his torso, one behind his feed) who are trying to resuscitate him through movement.
An illustration of a method of resuscitation.

Please note that these are historical illustrations and should therefore not be considered as current recommended methods of first aid.