Smellie, one of the greatest figures in British obstetrics, began his professional career as apprentice to John Gordon of Glasgow, before moving in 1741 to London, where he became famous as a practitioner and teacher of obstetrics. As a teacher he attracted a large number of students from all over Britain and the Continent, including Pieter Camper and William Hunter. Between 1741 and 1751 he is said to have trained over nine hundred students. On his death, Smellie's library was bequeathed to the school of Lanark where he had been a pupil. It remained there, largely neglected until 1934, when it was moved to the Lindsay Institute in Lanark. In 1752 he published the first volume of his A treatise on the theory and practice of midwifery, a summary of his experience in obstetrics. It describes, among other things, the mechanical aspects of parturition, in both regular and irregular births, and details improvements to obstetrical forceps with clinical indications for their proper use. Two volumes, describing 531 case histories, followed in 1754 and, posthumously, in 1764, edited by his friend and one time pupil Tobias Smollett, who began a medical career, only to abandon it for literature. A sett of anatomical tables was published by subscription in 1754 in an edition of one hundred copies at a cost of two guineas a set. A second edition appeared in 1764, with the spelling of 'set' in the title corrected. Other editions appeared in 1785 and 1792. The original edition contains thirty-nine life-size plates comparable in excellence to those in Anatomia uteri humani gravidi by Smellie's pupil, William Hunter. Twenty-five of the plates were drawn by Jan van Rymsdyk, who also executed the drawings for Hunter's great obstetrical atlas. At the sale of Smellie's effects in 1770, following the death of John Harvie, Smellie's successor as teacher of midwifery, William Hunter purchased Rymsdyk's original drawings for Smellie; they are now part of the Hunterian Collection at the University of Glasgow. Another eleven plates were drawn by another of Smellie's pupils, Pieter Camper, subsequent Professor of Anatomy and Botany at the University of Amsterdam; Camper's original drawings were discoverd in 1948 in the library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The two remaining plates were probably drawn by Smellie himself. The engraver was G. Grignion. Several plates illustrate the use of forceps in delivery. A fortieth plate was added to the 1785 edition, edited by Thomas Young, illustrating improvements in obstetrical instruments. The plates were also used (reversed) for the article on midwifery in the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, but without acknowledgment to Rymsdyk.