The Central Institute for the Deaf was founded in 1914 by Max Aaron Goldstein, renowned for his work on hearing and deafness.
Born in 1870, Goldstein was one of the first Americans who traveled to Europe to study otology, the study of diseases and the anatomy of the ear. While studying under Dr. Adam Pollitzer and Victor Urbantschitsch, Goldstein became interested in deaf education – this interest shaped his career and led to the founding of the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis.
Goldstein was also an avid traveler and collector, having made more than eighteen trips to Europe. Described as having “collection mania,” he purportedly bought paintings, snuff bottles, glass paperweights, and hearing devices in addition to the rare medical texts. His interests were reflected by his books, which he collected from 1922 through 1939. The texts were donated to Washington University in 1977.
The Central Institute for the Deaf collection is made up of around nine hundred works, which date as early as 1496 and were mostly published between the 16th and mid-20th centuries. In addition to anatomy, physiology, and other topics directly relating to Goldstein’s work in hearing and deafness, the collection also included works on subjects such as phrenology (the pseudoscience of determining a person’s characteristics and personality based on the shape of their head), chiromancy (palmistry), and zoology. Other notable topics include sign language and philology (the study of oral and written historical sources).
Notable works from the collection include:
Musurgia Universalis, sive Ars Magna Consoni et Dissoni
Call No: CID K58m 1650
Considered one of the first encyclopedias on music, Musurgia Universalis is a comprehensive work on the study of music history and sound theory. Content includes depictions of various musical instruments from around the world, anatomical drawings of sound-producing and listening organs in humans and animals, and various experiments with acoustics.
Jean Baptiste Antoine Recoing
Call No: CID R311 1823
An illustrated French manual on sign language, with signs for both single letters and combinations of letters.
An Illustrated vocabulary for the use of the deaf & dumb
Asylum for the Support and Education of Indigent Deaf and Dumb Children
Call No: CID A861 1857
An illustrated book depicting various labeled images, some grouped by topic and others by alphabetical order.
Today, the Central Institute for the Deaf is affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis. You can find Goldstein’s collection in the Becker Library’s Archives and Rare Books department on the seventh floor. The books are available to view in person in the ARB reading room with a scheduled appointment, and highlights of the collection are viewable online here.