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History of Medicine / Dentistry rare books (17th-20th C.)


A historical collection from the library of the University of Wales College of Medicine (now The Cardiff University School of Medicine). The collection comprises around 2,500 items published from 1542 to the early 20th C., which illustrate the history of professional medicine throughout the centuries. Held in the collection are British, continental, and American works depicting debates and discoveries in the field of general medicine and within the various medical specialities. Anatomy, physiology, surgery, and pharmacology works are to be found, as well as works on health, dietetics, obstetrics and gynaecology, and herbal remedies.

Amongst the most represented authors are: John Abernethy, Herman Boerhaave, George Cheyne, Jonathon Hutchinson, William Lawrence, William Osler, and William Smellie. Examples of the work of other key figures in the history of medicine include: William Harvey’s Movement of the Heart and Blood in Animals; John Snow, On the mode of communication of cholera; and James Simpson, Anasthesia, hospitalism, hermaphroditism.

Although the majority of the volumes date from the 18th century to the 20th century, some 16th and 17th century items are to be found (c. 70). They convey first-hand information about contemporaneous beliefs and advances in the medical field, and provide a variety of popular remedies to a wide range of illness and diseases. The classic books on ancient medicine are also represented in the Collection: for example, several editions of Celsus’ De Medicina are held. A number of early printed works are enhanced by woodcuts and engravings, which reflect the developments in the anatomical conception of the body.

Also included is a sub-collection of around 500 historical works on Dentistry, from Sir Brian Cooke, first Head of the School of Dentistry.

Another strand relates to 19th pharmacy, while 20th century anaesthetics is also covered.

Date range: 16th-20th centuries.

Significance: Of significance in the United Kingdom.

Strengths: Anatomy, Gynaecology, Herbals, Pharmacy, Anaesthetics.

Size: C. 3,000 items.

Languages: English, French, Latin, Italian, and German.

Keywords: History of medicine, medical illustrations, British medicine, herbals, pharmacy, anaesthetics, dentistry.

Notes: Associated with the History of Medicine Collection, is the Human and Medical Genetics Historical Library Collection, also held in SCOLAR. Various early Welsh medical works are also to be found in the Salisbury Library.