The Monuments of Medicine Collection

Frontispiece to Wooster Beach’s An improved system of midwifery adapted to the reformed practice of medicine; illustrated by numerous plates. New York: Jas. McAlister, 1847.

The Monuments of Medicine Collection comprises medical literature published after 1820. It reflects both the unfolding of mass book production and the fundamental advances of 19th and early 20th century American and European medicine. Mass book production was fast, employed inexpensive materials, and resulted in high number of copies. Hence, in Monuments of Medicine frequently there are several editions of a particular book (showing development of a work) and the volumes are mostly in weak physical condition (showing frequent use). However, the collection is vigorous in its content – representing radically new ideas, techniques, and instruments; new medical disciplines, fascinating discoveries, and ardent debates. This is Becker Library’s most heavily used rare book collection. It provides resources primarily from the most energetic time period of history of medicine writing, the 19th century, offering most of the material in the English language.

Due to the immense volume of medical publishing in the post-1820 era, it is impossible to collect in all areas of modern medicine in a library the size of Becker. Thus, we generally collect literature in research and clinical disciplines in which the Medical School and its affiliated hospitals have traditionally played, and presently play, a leading role. These specialties include: gross anatomy, neurology, psychiatry, ophthalmology, surgery, otolaryngology, obstetrics and gynecology, and biomedical sciences. These fields of medicine constitute the strengths of the Monuments Collection as well.

If you would like more information about the collection, please visit the digital exhibit Rare Books at Becker.