American Civil War Surgical Antiques

Research and Identification

Civil War Era Surgical Sets, Surgeon's Images

Civil War Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

Established 1995    .     Dr. Michael Echols Collection


As seen in:  Warman's Civil War Collectibles, Antique Week, Northeast Antiques, Antiques & Collecting publications, and various TV programs

American Medical Libraries in the Nineteenth Century

Research notes of Dr. Michael  Echols

(The following are the personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)

Godfrey S. Belleh, M.S.L.S.
Head of Technical Services
Eric v.d. Luft, Ph.D., M.L.S.
Curator of Historical Collections
Health Sciences Library
SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY 13210
 (Edited version for research of Civil War libraries)

Changes in nineteenth century North American physicians' attitudes toward the support of medical libraries are discernible in three eras: 1. the antebellum medical world; 2. the beginnings of modern medical attitudes; and 3. "The Medical Library Movement."

1. The Antebellum Medical World

Prior to the 1840s it was commonly held among medical educators in America that hands-on learning was not necessary, that medical students could learn anatomy and even clinical practice chiefly from books. The post-Vesalian, post-Harveian tradition of medicine was venerated. Physicians generally respected theoretical speculation alongside empirical science as a method of achieving medical knowledge. Books, the wisdom of the elders, were regarded on medical matters as an authority at least equal to, and perhaps greater than, clinical experience and direct observation. To be sure, the early nineteenth century produced some of the keenest observers of anatomical and pathological fact the world has ever known,(1) but even the best of these observers would defer to the written record of generations past.

Thus the progress of medical knowledge was slow, even plodding, until the revolutionary implementations of anesthesia in the 1840s and antisepsis in the late 1860s. In the aftermath of these developments, as well as with the significant increase in surgical knowledge gained during the Civil War, the attitude grew among physicians that medical libraries were merely repositories of quaint curiosities and outdated information, that they had little clinical importance, and that current literature was disposable almost as soon as the next article or book appeared on the subject.(2) This attitude stands in sharp contrast to that which prevailed for the first half of the nineteenth century, whereby physicians generally held medical libraries in great esteem. In that era, medical education was chiefly by lecture rather than demonstration, by reading rather than doing, by memorizing the wisdom of one's predecessors rather than direct clinical experience.(3)

The nineteenth century was an era of widespread interest in curiosities for their own sake, not only those intended for popular exhibit by the likes of P.T. Barnum, but also those collected by physicians such as Isaac Parrish, Thomas Dent Mütter, Frank Hastings Hamilton, and Joseph Leidy for their own pleasure and that of their professional colleagues. Private "pathological cabinets" were quite common at the time. Yet these curiosities, from tumors in jars to bullet-shattered bones to Chang and Eng Bunker's conjoined liver to anthropodermic bookbindings, which may seem bizarre, irreverent, or even criminal to us nowadays, were not intended merely to entertain ghoulish physicians, but to instruct. As such, they were intended to be protected and preserved alongside the medical books and journals themselves. In antebellum America, medical libraries almost always existed in tandem with anatomical/pathological museums, and they were thought to go hand-in-hand as teaching tools.

Given the antebellum physicians' propensity toward "book-larnin," early in the nineteenth century it was not difficult for medical schools to secure large donations of both money and books for their libraries. For example, in 1820 a relatively obscure backwoods American medical school received a donation of $17,000 for the purchase of books.(4) That amount would be approximately $180,000 in 1994 dollars.(5) In 1839 the same library received a gift of another $11,000. These two gifts resulted in the purchase of over 10,000 books.

In the United States before the Civil War almost all medical libraries were in the private sector, owned by either hospitals, medical schools, pharmaceutical schools, medical societies, or individual physicians. The societies, hospitals, and educational institutions relied mainly upon donations for collection development and upon volunteers for labor. Cataloging was minimal. Books and journals would -- usually -- just be set in plain sight on shelves in a small, dark, uncomfortable room, uncataloged but readily available to authorized persons; or -- at best -- they would be arranged in a gentleman's smoking room as a browsing collection, perhaps in alphabetical order or loosely grouped by subject, accession date, or size. Thus the overhead for the upkeep of antebellum institutional medical libraries was small. A librarian was not necessary, but only a clerk or a servant to record accessions in a ledger and to reshelve volumes. Since little effort was expended to facilitate access and retrievability, the books were in effect just "warehoused."

With the possible exception of the library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (whose collection was built mainly on donations),(6) the greatest medical libraries in nineteenth century America (especially in the antebellum period) were owned by individuals. These great private medical libraries came into existence as physicians such as Hugh Lenox Hodge (1796-1873), Samuel D. Gross (1805-1884), Anson Colman (fl. 1836), Samuel Lewis (1813-1890), Stephen Smith (1823-1922), and William Osler (1849-1919) recognized the need to protect, preserve, and publicize the rich heritage of what, since the 1840s, had become a very rapidly changing field.(7) Many such private libraries, when bequeathed, came to be either the foundations or significant components of major institutional medical libraries. Colman's went to Geneva Medical College and Smith's went to its successor, the Syracuse University College of Medicine (both now the SUNY Upstate Medical University); Lewis's and Gross's went to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; Osler's to McGill University; and Hodge's to several locations through the agency of his son, Hugh Hodge, and George Milbry Gould. It is inconceivable that any of these libraries could have become substantial repositories of medical knowledge without the foresight and generosity of such collectors.

Yet for many such personal medical libraries, especially after the Civil War, the death of the owner entailed the dispersal or destruction of the collection at the hands of an ignorant or apathetic heir.

2. The Beginnings of Modern Medical Attitudes

A typical physician of 1820 was likely to a regard a seventeenth century medical text as of clinical importance; but a typical physician of 1880 was very unlikely to so regard it. Inspired by the incredible success of antisepsis and anesthesia in surgery, and by the leap in medical and surgical knowledge which almost always follows a major war, many physicians born between about 1820 and 1845 saw by the 1870s little practical need to preserve the pre-antisepsis, pre-anesthesia literature, let alone enshrine it, in institutional libraries. To be sure, they did not neglect reading in the furtherance of their clinical practice, but while their fathers preferred the venerable old medical books supplemented with case reports in the journal literature, they tended to limit their reading to current state-of-the-art breakthroughs in their particular fields, as recorded in the journal literature. At first they were able to fill their professional reading needs with private journal subscriptions and book purchases, but as topics became more diverse, more narrowly circumscribed, and as the literature on these topics became more vast, the next generation of physicians (George Milbry Gould's generation) came to discover that as individuals they could not each keep up with all the current literature relevant to their respective clinical practices, and thus had to rely upon libraries whether they wanted to or not. The last third of the nineteenth century was beginning of the complex specialization in medicine which we all recognize today -- and the literature of the time, both in quantity and in orientation, accurately reflected that. The standard bibliography of nineteenth century American medicine shows only 1406 medical titles published in the 1840s, but 10378 in the 1890s.(8) Individual finances simply could not keep up with that explosion. As Charles Perry Fisher noted during his tenure as Librarian of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, individual physicians practicing prior to 1879, when Index Medicus first appeared, were obliged to acquire and maintain private collections of medical journals, often at great expense, only to have these gatherings of a lifetime scattered and wasted after their deaths.(9) The increasing difficulty for physicians to maintain current professional literature collections on their own was even more pronounced in the outlying areas.(10)

Medical books tend to be more expensive than most books. This has always been the case. Medical libraries have always been hard-pressed financially to keep their holdings comprehensive (or at least adequate) with regard to the current state of the clinical art. For example, in the July 1866 catalog of prominent Philadelphia medical publisher Henry C. Lea, prices ranged from $1.00 for small duodecimos such as a popular work on skin care to $14.00 for Joseph Maclise's Surgical Anatomy and $15.00 for the four-volume Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine, with most of the standard texts costing in the vicinity of $4.00 to $6.00.(11) A modern medical text may seem cheap at these prices, but not in the days when most trade books sold for less than a dollar, medical journal subscriptions typically ran between $5.00 and $10.00 per annum, and postage was figured in half-cents. Nowadays a typical medical title will cost in the hundreds and a typical medical journal subscription could cost in the thousands per annum. Unlike individual physicians, medical libraries cannot pass these costs on to their patients, but rather must simply do without or else go begging. In this regard, institutional medical library management today is no different from what it was in the nineteenth century.

There seems to have been a generation of physicians and surgeons who came of age during the Civil War or shortly thereafter, who had no interest in the preservation of the records of bygone medical eras, and who believed that the typical contents of institutional medical libraries were of little or no clinical importance. This group dominated American medical culture in the 1880s. Their attitude that medical progress did not require libraries but only modern clinical and experimental results was gradually supplanted in the 1890s under the leadership of Gould, Charles D. Spivak, and Osler, among others.

Yet medicine is a conservative profession. For example, in the nineteenth century it was a frequent conceit among the Fellows of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia that theirs was the most conservative organization in America, not necessarily in the political sense, but certainly in the cultural sense. Such conservativism can be detected in the kind of support given in the 1870s to the most prestigious medical libraries, such as the New York Academy of Medicine and the Army Medical Library (now the National Library of Medicine). These white men, mostly rich and highborn, seem to have been motivated, over against the remarkable medical and surgical progress of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath (progress in which many of them indeed participated), to protect and preserve "the way we did things," i.e., the methods, results, and curiosities of their own bygone era, the antebellum American medical world. To illustrate this point, when the new library building of the New York Academy of Medicine was dedicated in October 1879, the average age of the sixteen participants on the podium was 61 (average birth year 1818),(12) which means that most of them were already established professionals when the Civil War broke out. The entire cost of this project was paid by subscriptions and donations, so that at the time of dedication "not a single cent of debt remained."(13)

In contrast to this prestigious societal medical library of the 1870s strongly supported by the "Old Guard," consider a medical library which was severely neglected from the 1870s to the mid-1890s, when it was under the governance of much younger physicians, about half of whom had little or no antebellum medical or surgical experience. In 1872 the average age of the eighteen physicians on the original faculty of the Syracuse University College of Medicine was only 47 (average birth year 1825).(14) The older faculty such as Towler and Frederick Hyde supported the library, but, with the notable exception of John Van Duyn, most of the younger faculty gave little notice to it, and even Van Duyn's interest in the library was not manifest until much later in his career.

These younger physicians were mostly of the generation that provided such breakthroughs as first allowing women into the profession. They regarded themselves as progressive and perhaps even radical, both culturally and clinically, while the older generation would offer such laments as this, in 1879: "We regret to be obliged to announce that at a meeting of a councilors held on October 1, it was voted to admit women to the Massachusetts Medical Society."(15)

Despite the financial hardship on individual physicians who tried to maintain their own respective collections of medical literature, institutional medical libraries were generally neglected, even scorned, for much of the second half of the nineteenth century, except by a few sagacious physicians such as John Shaw Billings,(16) Samuel Smith Purple,(17) Joseph Meredith Toner, Charles D. Spivak,(18) and James R. Chadwick. Throughout the nineteenth century the institutional medical library remained a low budget item. Institutional acquisition of medical books was almost entirely by gift, by swapping duplicates, or by bulk purchase of used books, almost never by deliberate purchase of specific new titles.

Some of the slack in medical acquisitions was taken up by public libraries and other non-medical institutional libraries. In the nineteenth century, many public libraries, even free libraries, had substantial medical collections. Gould, for one, vigorously advocated that public libraries should acquire medical titles.(19) But these collections eventually dwindled, mainly because public librarians could not meet the demands of physicians in either collection development or reference service. For example, in 1875 an anonymous physician (perhaps Chadwick) argued for the creation of an easily consulted medical library in Boston, because: "Admirable as the Boston Public Library is (in some respects), it must be confessed that so far as its medical department is concerned a liberal expenditure of both time and patience is often required before the seeker can obtain, if he obtains at all, a sight of the book or journal required."(20) This same article announced the organization of the Boston Medical Library Association in response to this perceived need.

With a few notable exceptions, e.g., the libraries of Transylvania University, Harvard University, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the Boston Medical Library Association, private institutional medical libraries in the mid- to late nineteenth century tended not to have firm financial foundations. Although libraries had grown in size, funds for acquisition tended to be inadequate, and standards of service were almost nonexistent. In 1876 Chadwick reported on the situation of medical libraries in Boston. Harvard relied upon donations of volumes and money, and was extremely well off. The Boston City Library's medical collection consisted mostly of donated volumes from Boston's sizeable community of physicians, and was quite fortunate in both the variety and completeness of its journal runs. Four other medical libraries in Boston were funded by dues or by subscription, with varying degrees of success.(21) In 1890 E. D. Ferguson reported that the Library of the New York State Medical Association was supported entirely by members' gifts of books, journals, and money.(22)

Demand increased for the federal government to become involved, not in financing medical libraries, but in financing a single gigantic medical library. Should such a library be an outgrowth of the Army Medical Library which Surgeon General Joseph Lovell (1788-1836) had begun, and thus be a separate entity? or should it be just a department of the Library of Congress? This debate resounded through medical circles in the late 1870s and early 1880s.(23)

Leading the political fight for the establishment and firm Congressional support of a national medical library were not the younger physicians, readers of the current literature, but the "Old Guard," whose main agenda was the preservation of old medical literature and the honoring of the pantheon of physicians. For example, Frederick Horner, who may have had ulterior motives insofar as he lived just across the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia, gave lip service to the "original research" favored by young physicians, but his motivation was really that of the "Old Guard": "We need a safe repository [independent of the Library of Congress] for the invaluable writings of the fathers of American medicine and surgery ... and of the glorious galaxy of living men ... [and this proposed facility should include a] hall for statuary and a gallery for portraits of eminent members of the profession ..."(24)

Considering options of involvement of the American Medical Association, the Library of Congress, and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, Toner was in favor of venerating the entire medical tradition, but especially the American medical tradition: "The value of books to the medical man cannot be over estimated. They are the inexhaustible fount of knoweldge from which the discoveries of the day, and the accumulated experience of ages may be drawn. The physician whose studies lead him to consult early American medical literature must be painfully struck with the perishable character of our professional literature, and the meagre or fragmentary collections which have been made."(25) In 1882 Toner announced his gift of 20000 volumes to the Library of Congress.(26)

Billings is the real hero of this era. The federal government became heavily involved in medical librarianship only during the Civil War when Billings began to pursue his vision of making the Surgeon General's library the greatest medical reference collection in the world. As early as the mid-1890s the worldwide health care community generally acknowledged that he had achieved this goal,(27) not only through developing the collection, but also through his founding of Index Medicus in 1879 and Index Catalogue in 1880. Billings denied reports that he was the founder of the Army Medical Library, naming Lovell and Hammond as his predecessors, but acknowledged that between 1865, when he assumed office, and 1880, the holdings of that library grew from 1800 to 50000 volumes.(28) Even as early as 1878, one physician visiting the Army Medical Library expressed sheer amazement at the breadth and depth of the collection (e.g., bound volumes of pamphlets which had belonged to Claude Bernard). He praised Billings, the administration, and ambiance of the library, which was then housed in the old Ford's Theatre, scene of the Lincoln assassination, and which was well on its way toward outgrowing these walls.(29)

In 1876 George F. Shrady applauded one of Billings' pet projects, Index Catalogue, claiming that it would place the world's medical literature in front of those who could not travel to Washington.(30) In 1878 Shrady expressed the strong support of the medical community for Billings' plan to create this "index, as it were, of the medical literature of the world," even at the then huge cost to the taxpayers of $25000 for 3000 copies each of the first two volumes.(31) The medical community's praises of Congress for its creation of a national medical library and for its funding of Index Catalogue were not in short supply.(32) By 1883 a groundswell of support for Billings' program had arisen in state medical societies and other professional medical organizations. Gross successfully offered a strongly worded resolution at the annual meeting of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania urging Congress to appropriate money for "the erection of a fire-proof building to contain the library and museum of the Surgeon-General's Office," noting with regret that such a bill had already once failed to be passed.(33) James Reeves offered a similar resolution to the Medical Society of West Virginia, which passed it unanimously.(34)

3. "The Medical Library Movement"

Not until the 1890s did American medical schools realize that their own well stocked and well maintained medical libraries would be essential components of the rapid modernizing of medical pedagogy which had begun in the 1870s with the shift from proprietary schools to graded instruction.(35) The lack of attention to medical libraries which had been the prevailing attitude not only in medical schools but throughout the entire medical community gradually evolved into a "medical library movement," a unity of the aims of both the "Old Guard" and the younger physicians in a third generation of physicians who saw the need both to protect and venerate the tradition, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to make readily and freely available to all practitioners the widest possible sampling of the published results of current research. Gould (b. 1848), Osler (b. 1849), Frank William Marlow (b. 1858), and Spivak (b. 1861) were among this third generation that rediscovered and reinvented the medical library. They resembled their grandfathers rather than their fathers insofar as they attached importance to the contents of medical libraries; but unlike their grandfathers, and indeed more like their fathers, they regarded these contents not as curiosities, historical documents, or the hallmarks of medical tradition, but as fundamental tools of current clinical practice. The ultimate impetus for the rebirth and growth of medical libraries in the 1890s was not the veneration of tradition, as Purple, Horner, and their cohorts had imagined, but rather the discovery that libraries are excellent means for current research. This latter view is what predominates in the medical world today. The attitude that medical libraries are research libraries rather than repositories has proved fundamental in the design, construction, and funding of medical libraries in the twentieth century.(36)

Although there had been some pockets of American medical culture from as early as the 1870s which were enlightened about the proper role and importance of modern medical libraries, one analyst who surveyed 120 American medical schools in 1898 received reports of only 24 libraries affiliated with those schools.(41) Clearly a crusade was needed. Directly addressing this perceived need, Gould, Osler, and a few others in the 1890s launched a vigorous effort to encourage physicians to take seriously the published heritage of medicine as useful, not only for purposes of learning history, but even for current clinical practice, and in that spirit to bequeath their personal collections of books to medical schools and other health care institutions, especially since these institutions had few other means of acquiring books.(42) They and, even as early as the late 1890s, most other advocates of institutional medical libraries were making similar claims for the current practical value of "old books" and encouraging the private owners of these medical journals and books not to throw them away when they retired from clinical practice, and not to let their heirs decide what to do with them, but rather to donate them to institutions which would preserve them, not only for the use of current practitioners, but also for posterity.


* This version is from April 2000. An earlier version was presented at the 13th Annual Meeting of Interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies (INCS), Loyola University, New Orleans, April 18, 1998. Another earlier version won the 1999 Murray Gottlieb Prize, awarded annually by the Medical Library Association (MLA). We are grateful to Gretchen Worden, Director of the Mütter Museum, for her critical reading of that version. A subsequent and slightly abridged version was published in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 89, 4 (October 2001): 386-394.


1. Physicians of the twentieth century, primarily dependent upon their plethora of diagnostic instruments rather than their own five senses, would marvel at the accuracy and detail of, for example, William Wood Gerhard's intricate description of bronchitis in Lectures on the Diagnosis, Pathology, and Treatment of the Diseases of the Chest (Philadelphia: Haswell & Barrington, 1842).

2. In 1875 at least one medical school bulletin took a quite condescending view toward antebellum medical literature, referring to its own institutional library as "especially rich in the medical literature of an earlier day," thus insinuating that there was no practical need for the library to maintain a collection of current medical literature (The Fourth Annual Catalogue of the Syracuse University College of Medicine, p. 9). Indeed, after about 1870, that library made no effort until the late 1890s to keep its collection current. Cf. Eric v.d. Luft and Diane K. Hawkins, "Elizabeth Latimer Shrimpton, M.D. (1875-1955): Unsung Heroine of Medical Librarianship," The Watermark, 19, 3 (Summer 1996): 85-87; and erratum, 19, 4 (Fall 1996): 129; here p. 86.

3. William Frederick Norwood, Medical Education in the United States Before the Civil War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944), Ch. 38, "The Curriculum, Textbooks, and Teaching Problems," pp. 396-402.

4. Charles A. Vance, "The Transylvania Medical Library," Kentucky Medical Journal, 44, 11 (November 1946): 365-384, here pp. 366-367; reprinted from Annals of Surgery, 123, 4 (April 1946): 481-509, here p. 484. Apparently Transylvania University had little trouble financing its medical library before the Civil War; cf. Roemol Henry, "Introduction," Catalogue of the Transylvania University Medical Library (Lexington, Ky.: Transylvania University Press, 1987), pp. vi-x.

5. With the 1967 U.S. consumer price index of 100 as a benchmark, the 1820 cpi is 42 and the 1994 cpi is 444.6.

6. Personal e-mails to Eric v.d. Luft from Charles B. Greifenstein, Historical Reference Librarian, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, April 9, 1997; and from Kevin Crawford, <>, Curator of Archives and Manuscripts, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, April 21, 1997.

7. SUNY Upstate Medical University Library, Thirty-Five Treasures of Special Collections, designed and edited, ... introduction ... written, and ... items ... selected, described, and photographed by Eric v.d. Luft (Kennett Square, Pa.: KNA Press, 1993), pp. 21, 24-25. Cf. also Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler, 2 v. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1925), passim.

8. Francesco Cordasco, American Medical Imprints, 1820-1910, 2 v. (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1985).

9. Charles Perry Fisher, "Medical Libraries, Medical Publishers, and the Medical Profession," Medical Library and Historical Journal, 2 (1904): 192-195; here p. 192.

10. Violet M. Baird, "Books and the Doctor in Nineteenth-Century Texas: Some Early Attempts to Establish Medical Libraries," Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 56 (1968): 428-434; here p. 428. Reuben Peterson, "The Need of More Medical Reference Libraries and the Way in Which They Can Be Established," Bulletin of the American Academy of Medicine, 2 (1895-1897): 129-137; esp. pp. 129-130.

11. Caption title: Henry C. Lea's (Late Lea & Blanchard's) Classified Catalogue of Medical and Surgical Instruments; 32 pages, with index, listing 160 titles, bound with publisher's cloth-bound edition of: Austin Flint, A Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Medicine, Designed for the Use of Practitioners and Students of Medicine (Philadelphia: Henry C. Lea, 1866).

12. "Dedication of the New Library Hall of the New York Academy of Medicine, October 2, 1879," Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 101 (1879): 525-527, 550-556; here p. 526. These participants were: Henry W. Acland (b. 1815), James Anderson (b. 1798), Fordyce Barker (b. 1818), John Shaw Billings (b. 1838), Freeman J. Bumstead (b. 1826), William L. Detmold (b. 1808), Austin Flint (b. 1812), Samuel D. Gross (b. 1805), James R. Leaming (b. 1820), Willard Parker (b. 1800), Alfred C. Post (b. 1806), Samuel Smith Purple (b. 1822), George C. Shattuck, Jr. (b. 1813), T. Gaillard Thomas (b. 1831), Robert F. Weir (b. 1838), and William T. White (b. 1829).

13. "Dedication of the New Library Hall of the New York Academy of Medicine," p. 527.

14. According to the Annual Announcement of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Syracuse University for the Session of 1872-73, p. [5], these faculty members were: J. Otis Burt (b. 1835), Henry Darwin Didama (b. 1823), Joseph P. Dunlap (b. 1814), Hiram N. Eastman (b. 1810), Frederick Hyde (b. 1809), Miles Goodyear Hyde (b. 1841), John W. Lawton (b. ca. 1835?), Alfred Mercer (b. 1820), Nelson Nivison (b. 1816), Roger W. Pease (b. 1828), William Tomlinson Plant (b. 1836), Wilfred W. Porter (b. 1826), John Van Pelt Quackenbush (b. 1819), Charles E. Rider (b. 1839), Edward B. Stevens (b. 1823), John Towler (b. 1811), John Van Duyn (b. 1843), and Hervey Backus Wilbur (b. 1820).

15. "The Admission of Women to the State Society," Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 101 (1879): 527.

16. John B. Blake, "From Surgeon General's Bookshelf to National Library of Medicine: A Brief History" Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 74, 4 (Oct. 1986): 318-324.

17. Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., "Private Physicians and Public Collections: Medical Libraries in the United States Before 1900," in A Celebration of Medical History, ed. by Lloyd G. Stevenson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1982), pp. 85-102; here pp. 91-92. Cf. Samuel Smith Purple, Medical Libraries: An Address Delivered Before the New York Academy of Medicine, January 18, 1877, on Taking the Chair as President a Second Term (New York: 1877).

18. Genevieve Miller, "Charles David Spivak's Role in the Development of Medical Libraries," Transactions and Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 42, 1 (July 1974): 81-87.

19. George Milbry Gould, "The Union of Medical and Public Libraries," Philadelphia Medical Journal, 2 (1898): 237-240.

20. "A Medical Library Association," Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 93 (1875): 252.

21. James R. Chadwick, "The Medical Libraries of Boston," Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 95 (1876): 543-549.

22. E. D. Ferguson, "Sixth Annual Report of the Library Committee of the New York State Medical Association," Transactions of the New York State Medical Association, 7 (1890): [568]-583.

23. "The National Medical Library and the Library of Congress," Medical News (Philadelphia), 42 (1883): 428-430, explained the nature of the dispute. "The National Medical Library," Medical News (Philadelphia), 42 (1883): 419-420. urged that any national medical library remain separate from the Library of Congress, and noted the tendency of Congress to obey the wishes of physicians when these wishes are "tolerably unanimous and clearly expressed."

24. Frederick Horner, "A Plea for an American Medical Library," Medical and Surgical Reporter (Philadelphia), 38 (1878): 449-450.

25. J. M. Toner, "Report on the Practicability of Establishing a Library of American Medical Works," Transactions of the American Medical Association, 20 (1869): [117]-124; here p. [117].

26. "The Toner Library," Medical News (Philadelphia), 40 (1882): 561.

27. Charles D. Spivak, "The Medical Libraries of the United States," Philadelphia Medical Journal, 2 (1898): 851-858; here p. 852.

28. John Shaw Billings, "Who Founded the National Medical Library?", Medical Record (New York), 17 (1880): 298-299.

29. W. L[ee], "Letter from Washington: Medical Matters in Washington: National Medical Library," Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 99 (1878): 705-709.

30. [George F. Shrady], "The National Medical Library," Medical Record (New York), 11 (1876): 447-448.

31. [George F. Shrady], "The National Medical Library," Medical Record (New York), 13 (1878): 211-212.

32. For example: Committee of the Medical Society of the County of New York, "The National Medical Library," Medical Record (New York), 13 (1878): 220.

33. S.D. Gross, "Appropriation for the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office and Medical Museum," Medical News (Philadelphia), 42 (1883): 563.

34. James S. Reeves, "The Army Medical Museum and Library," Medical Record (New York), 23 (1883): 544-545.

35. Albert T. Huntington, "The Medical Library Movement in the United States," Medical Library and Historical Journal, 2 (1904): 119-128, esp. p. 120: "... it is ... only within the last decade that the medical library movement has become active and widespread." In 1904 Huntington could write about the establishment of medical libraries as a fait accompli, while just a decade earlier he would have had to be more polemical, to persuade his readers of the need for such institutions. Even as late as 1899, articles such as William Browning's "Medical Libraries" (Philadelphia Medical Journal, 3 [1899]: 1124-1125) were mainly polemical.

36. J. K. Lucker, "The Evolution of Research Library Buildings," Computer Methods & Progress in Biomedicine, 44, 3-4 (Sept. 1994): 155-160.

37. Bayard Holmes, "The Medical Library for the Medical School or the Small Community," Bulletin of the American Academy of Medicine, 2 (1895-1897): 247-301.

38. Charles D. Spivak, "How Every Town May Secure a Medical Library," Medical News (New York), 71 (1897): 443-444.


Historical Collections at Other Medical Libraries (From: Charles S. Bryan History of Medicine Room)

Duke University Medical Center Library, History of Medicine Collections


Medical Historical Library, Yale University

UTHSCSA Library, Special Collections

UAB Historical Collections, The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Ruth Lilly Medical Library, Special Collections

Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine

Bernard Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine

Clendening History of Medicine Library & Museum

Countway Library of Medicine, Rare Books and Special Collections, Harvard University


Lloyd Library and Museum

Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, History & Special Collections, UCLA


Moody Medical Library, Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections, University of Texas Medical Branch

Rare Book and History Collection, New York Academy of Medicine

Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University

Other History of Medicine Resources

National Library of Medicine History of Medicine Division

History of the Health Sciences Section of the MLA

History of the Health Sciences WWW Links

American Association for the History of Medicine

Historical Medical Digital Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia




The Reynolds Historical Library is fortunate to have an extensive collection of primary and secondary resource material relating to Civil War medicine.  To get a sense of the titles in the collection, please visit our online bibliography, which has been divided into three tables.  Entries in the tables are sorted alphabetically by author or, where no author is given, by title.

Please note: This bibliography was last updated in June, 2009. For additional information regarding holdings, search Horizon, Lister Hill Library's online catalog at (The Reynolds is part of Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences). 

An excellent web-based resource for Civil War medicine can be found at Virginia Commonwealth University's Special Collections.

Also, Cornell University has contributed the following important Civil War resources to the Making of America digital library:

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (Washington: GPO, 1894-1922)

The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: GPO, 1880-1901)


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Home page  |  1800's & Civil War Surgery Set Displays  |  Article Indexes  |  Researching Civil War Surgeons

Medical Faculty & Authors  |  Civil War Medical Books  |  Medicine Containers

Medical College Index - Lecture Cards  |  Civil War Medical Book Author-Title Index


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We are preservers, not dealers, of American Medical History


Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865

Medical Lecture Cards:

Medical Faculty and Authors:

1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

Army: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8    INDEX

Navy: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   

Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

U.S. Army Pannier:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Alphabetical index of all research and study pages:

Index Page One  |  Index Page Two  |  ARTICLES INDEXES

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques