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Rare Books and Serials

Notice: The History of Medicine Reading Room is closed while it undergoes renovation. We are not hosting in-person researchers at this time. Our apologies for the inconvenience.

The origin of the rare book collections of the Edward G. Miner Library dates from the very beginnings of the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry (established 1925) when George W. Corner (1889-1981), chair of the Department of Anatomy and chair of the Library Committee, coaxed a local surgeon to establish a fund for the acquisition of historically important books for the new Medical Library.

Over the next 14 years, Corner personally selected titles for the history of medicine collection. During the economic crisis of the 1930s, Corner took advantage of the depressed antiquarian book market to acquire more than 1,000 titles, laying the foundation of a collection that the Miner Library has continued to support for more than 85 years. Presently, our print collection consists of more than 50,000 volumes published between 1481 and 1960. This collection is supported by some 5,000 secondary works on the history of the biomedical sciences.

For questions regarding the rare books and serials, contact the History of Medicine Section.


General Rare Book Collection

Rare books that are not part of one of our special subject collections are part of the General Rare Book Collection, which is comprised of some 12,000 titles in all fields of medicine, dentistry and nursing published between the late 15th- and the mid-20th centuries. Researchers will find the basic works in almost every medical specialty represented in the collection, which does, however, include specific subject strengths. The collection is especially strong in 17th-19th century obstetrics and gynecology, and includes an important anatomical component. George W. Corner, M.D., the first chairman of the Dept. of Anatomy, was an historian of anatomy and was avid in acquiring for the Medical Library early printed anatomies. As a result, the Miner Library has an outstanding collection of early printed anatomical books and atlases that includes works by such authors as Mondino dei Luzzi, Berengario da Carpi, Johannes Dryander, Charles Estienne, Andreas Vesalius, Realdo Colombo, Giulio Casseri, Fabricius ab Aquapendente, Govard Bidloo, B.S. Albinus, Jan L'Admiral, Antonio Scarpa, Felix Vicq-d'Azyr, Paolo Mascagni, S.T. Soemmerring, etc.

Yellow Fever Collection

Although there was probably never an incidence of yellow fever in Rochester or the Genesee Valley, the Miner Library is the repository for one of the nation's finest collections on this subject. The Yellow Fever Collection consists of more than 500 titles published between 1741 and 1915 that fully represent the development of medical thought on the disease, i.e., the confusion of 18th-century physicians confronted with a new and deadly malady; the debates between contagionists and non-contagionists during the 19th century; early attempts to identify a bacterial pathogen; and the consequences of Reed's discovery of a mosquito vector. The occurrence of yellow fever in the Caribbean, the Middle Atlantic States, the Mississippi Valley and several European ports is abundantly documented.

In 1990 the Miner Library published An Annotated Catalog of the Miner Yellow Fever Collection, describing the 415 titles then in the collection. Copies of this ninety-five page catalog are available (gratis) from the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section.

New York Heritage digital collections logoThe Yellow Fever Collection was digitized and uploaded to New York Heritage digital collections in 2018. The digitization of the Yellow Fever Collection was made possible through a generous gift from Ranlet and Beth Miner.

Cholera Collection

The Cholera Collection consists of more than 800 titles published during the 19th century. Given the global range of cholera's many outbreaks, it is not surprising that the collection is strong not only in English language materials, but also in French, German, Dutch and Italian literature on cholera. The collection is particularly strong in the pamphlet literature, a genre that represents the medical profession's immediate and often perplexed response to a devastating epidemic disease.

Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine

In the autumn of 1994, Edward C. Atwater, M.D. made the Miner Library the repository for his personal collection of books, periodicals, pamphlets, almanacs, trade cards, printed ephemera and manuscript material pertaining to American "popular medicine." Materials in the Atwater Collection represent the full range of medical self-help among Americans before the First World War. It includes materials on the self-diagnosis and treatment of disease; manuals of advice on personal hygiene (i.e., diet, exercise, rest, bathing, etc.); instruction on sexual physiology, hygiene and behavior; advice on contraceptive practice; explanations of eugenics for a lay audience; advice on the management of pregnancy, labor and infant care; warnings about the consumption of alcohol and tobacco; manuals of medical botany; an extensive collection of juvenile textbooks on physiology and hygiene; first aid manuals, etc. Much of this literature was written by physicians for the lay public, and much of it by authors vehemently opposed to the medical profession. The collection also reflects the popularization of health and healing by members of alternative medical sects such as Thomsonians and other botanics, eclectics, homeopaths, hydropaths, naturopaths, and mental healers. In addition, the Atwater Collection includes thousands of pamphlets, almanacs and printed ephemera advertising the proprietary medicines, therapies and devices marketed to the American public throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Atwater Collection numbers more than 10,000 titles in all formats. This collection is fully cataloged and is accessible through OCLC's WorldCat and through Alma, the University of Rochester's bibliographic database. The collection is also described in An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform, published in three volumes by the University of Rochester Press. The first volume of this alphabetically arranged catalog (Authors A-L) was published in 2001; the second volume (Authors M-Z) in 2004; and the third volume (Authors A-Z supplement) in 2008. Some Recent Acquisitions: A Supplement to 'An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform'  was published in 2019.

We are currently scanning the approximately 3,500 patent medicine trade cards in the Atwater Collection. These may be accessed through the UR Research database, and are searchable by name of the patent medicine manufacturer, the product name, or subject heading. More than 1,200 pieces of patent medicine letterhead and billhead have recently been added to the Atwater Collection from the collection of the late Dan Cowman, M.D. Hundreds more pieces of letterhead previously in the Atwater Collection have been integrated into this collection. The letterhead and billhead are arranged alphabetically by manufacturers’ names.

Schwartz Collection in Orthopedics

R. Plato Schwartz, M.D. (1892-1965) spent the greater part of his career as an orthopod and researcher on the mechanisms and problems of human gait at the University of Rochester Medical Center. During this period Dr. Schwartz also collected historically significant books on orthopedics. Upon his death, the Schwartz Collection was left as a bequest to the Dept. of Orthopaedics, which in turn presented it to the Miner Library. Since then the collection has continued to grow through gifts and purchases. The Schwartz Collection presently numbers some 500 titles and includes classic texts by such authors as Wm. Adams, F.H. Albee, N. Andry de Bois-Regard, H.J. Bigelow, H.R.H. Bigg, A. Bonnet, A. Boyer, E.H. Bradford, B.E. Brodhurst, G. Duchenne, J.R. Guérin, A. Hoffa, R. Jones, W.J. Little, A. Lorenz, R.W. Lovett, E.J. Marey, L. Ombrédanne, H.W. Orr, P. Pott, V. Putti, L.A. Sayre, A. Steindler, H.O. Thomas, etc.

Basil G. Bibby Collection in Dentistry & Oral Surgery

Basil Glover Bibby (1904-1998) was director of the Eastman Dental Center (EDC) from 1947 to 1970. During the course of two decades, Dr. Bibby actively acquired historically significant books in the field of dentistry, oral medicine and oral surgery for the EDC library. When the EDC merged with the University of Rochester Medical Center in 1997, the Basil G. Bibby Library became part of the Edward G. Miner Library, and its rare books holdings were transferred to the latter’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Section for improved security and bibliographic control.

The Basil G. Bibby Collection in Dentistry includes many of the classics of dental literature, from Eustachi’s 1563 Libellus de dentibus to the works of Pierre Fauchard, A.L.B. Jourdain, Joseph Fox, Samuel Sheldon Fitch, Thomas Bell, Richard Owen, A.M. Desirabode, C.A. Harris, Robert Arthur, J.E. Garretson, Jonathan Taft, etc. In addition to some 500 monographic titles, the Bibby Collection includes more than twenty 19th- and early 20th-century dental periodicals.

American Medical Addresses

In 2008 the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section acquired a collection of some 1,300 addresses delivered by American physicians during the 19th and early 20th centuries. These addresses take the form of introductories, valedictories, eulogies, presidential addresses, talks given to various medical societies, etc. Some of these addresses are reprinted from medical periodicals, but most were published in no other form. The topics addressed in this collection are quite broad. The medical school introductories and valedictories, however, which comprise almost half the collection, more often provide newly entered medical students insights into the state of medical education and advice on the conduct of their studies; or to recent graduates, advice on medical practice, professional conduct, continuing professional development, etc. This part of the collection provides insights into physicians' opinions on medical education, professional conduct, etc. unavailable in any other genre of the medical literature.

American Medical Addresses is still in the process of being cataloged. Titles that have been cataloged are accessible in the UR Libraries' catalog by author or MeSH subject headings.

Medical School Catalog Collection

In 2004 The Rare Books & Manuscripts Section acquired a collection of 1,000 19th-century American medical school annual catalogs. The catalogs describe curricula, fees, etc., and often include lists of recent graduates and matriculants. The collection is particularly strong in schools that operated in New England, New York City, New York State and Philadelphia, but also Baltimore, Cleveland, and other cities. The Medical School Catalog Collection is completely cataloged and is accessible on the UR Libraries' Alma database by the institution's name or by entering the subject heading: Schools, Medical + city or state name + catalogs.

Rare Medical Periodical Collection

There are more than 800 titles in the Rare Medical Periodicals Collection, numbering 27,000 volumes. When the Medical Library was established in 1925, the faculty committee that directed the Library went to great lengths to obtain as many 19th- and early 20th-century foreign language periodicals as could be obtained on the European market. The result was the formation of an outstanding collection of German, French and Italian medical periodicals, most of which began publication in the 19th century, but some as early as the 18th century. To these titles have been added English and American periodicals of the same period to form a thoroughly representative collection of this genre of medical literature.

Antiquarian Medical Booksellers Catalogs

The Miner Library's collection of medical booksellers’ catalogs consists of catalogs and book lists issued by seventy-eight used and antiquarian medical booksellers from the last quarter of the 20th century through the first decade of the 21st century. These catalogs provide a composite portrait of the antiquarian medical book trade at century’s end, provide still useful data on book values, and often contain bibliographic information of enduring value. View the Antiquarian Medical Booksellers Catalogs.