Thanks to the author for sharing her comments from the discussion on Victoria about the nineteenth-century use of late attached to a person’s name. — George P. Landow

Occasionally the word late when preceding someone’s name is used with deliberate ambiguity, and this is a characteristic of the term itself. The best example I have found of this aspect of its employment appears on the published titlepage of the first edition of Gray's Anatomy, where the illustrator of that textbook, Henry V. Carter was described as 'Late Demonstrator of Anatomy'. The surviving proof sheets show that on the original typeset titlepage Carter's status had been described correctly, in a preceding line of type under his name, as Professor of Anatomy at Government (Grant) Medical College, Bombay. Carter's newly attained status of Professor was obliterated at the proof stage by a heavily inked manuscript deletion. At the time, Henry Gray was only a Senior Lecturer at St George's Hospital Medical School, so it seems that - despite his priority on the page and his own FRS - he did not want to be upstaged by Carter. The reverse of the page shows that Gray had dipped his pen in the inkwell to make the slashing deletion, as a pooling of ink shows through to the reverse, unlike other revisions he had made to the same sheet. He also emphasised the importance of the deletion by directing the professorship line 'To be omitted' and placing his own initials right alongside the demand, which customarily elsewhere had been used for authorial signing off a sheet to go to press. The deletion allowed Gray to downplay Carter's crucial importance to the success of the book: to diminish his standing vis-a-vis the book's originality, to freeze him forever as a low subordinate with regard to himself.

As if this were not enough, Gray also ordered that the typeface the printers had used for Carter's name be reduced down to insignificance. Gray seems to have been greatly irked that the socially inferior Carter had evaded his patronage for the future by leaving the country for employment in the Indian Medical Service, and that, moreover, he had been appointed a professor on his own merits, without reference to Gray, or pulling strings of patronage. Gray demanded that a revise sheet be sent to him before publication, presumably so he could be sure the deletion and cutting down to size had been done to his own satisfaction. The visual evidence of Gray's actions is reproduced in my book on Gray's Anatomy (OUP 2008) - where I observe that the deletion of Carter's professorship and the simultaneous preservation of the descriptor LATE made it appear that Carter might actually be dead.

The revise sheet Gray had asked for is not among the surviving proofs. In the event, the printers or the publishers of Gray's Anatomy - quite possibly both - evidently declined to adopt Gray's demanded changes in full, and instead redesigned the titlepage to give Carter fairer recognition than Gray had intended. They were aware how splendid and how original Carter's illustrations were, and how much assiduous labour had gone into them, though it is less likely that they realised until later how derivative was Gray's text (after publication, an important reviewer accused Gray of ablating the pre-existing textbook by Quain, providing parallel texts as evidence). Carter's professorship, which had been gazetted before the book's initial publication, was however removed from the titlepage, and was never restored to the volume in any subsequent edition, so he remained 'Late' in the original and in many subsequent editions. Gray's status was also preserved in aspic: despite his early death from confluent smallpox at age 34 in 1861, he was never referred to as 'Late' in any edition.


Richardson, Ruth. The making of Mr. Gray's anatomy. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, c2008.

Last modified 1 October 2019