The New York Academy of Medicine Digital Archive

Collection Highlights

The Library of The New York Academy of Medicine

The Library of The New York Academy of Medicine was founded in 1847, with the creation of the Academy, and in 1878 opened its doors to the public. It holds one of the nation’s most significant collections of medical history, containing extensive and, in some cases, unique holdings of historical primary source materials relating to clinical medicine, disease, and public health. Today, the Library is part of the Academy’s Center for History of Medicine and Public Health and remains free of charge to all who wish to use its collections, one of the few specialist research libraries in the United States to do so. Its collections have grown to over 550,000 volumes. The Library’s rare book room and special collections contain some 32,000 printed volumes of European and American imprints, mostly dating from before 1801, as well as periodicals, pamphlets, broadsides, diplomas, posters, maps, ephemera, manuscripts, and archives that chronicle the development of medicine and medical practice.

A major strength of the collection is Americana, including about 85 percent of the books, pamphlets, periodicals, and broadsides of medical interest printed in the Americas between the late 16th and the early 19th centuries.

Other collecting strengths are works about epidemic diseases; anatomy, including works by and about Andreas Vesalius; works by and about William Harvey and other classics in the history of cardiology; obstetrics and gynecology; diseases of the skin; folk remedies, medical receipt books, popular medicine and healing; and public health documents.

Among the manuscript highlights are a copy of De Re Culinaria, a 9th-century copy of an imperial Roman original and the oldest surviving cookbook in the West, and a 14th-century Middle English manuscript copy of de Chauliac’s book on surgery.

In addition to the rare book collection, many 19th- and early 20th-century materials in the general collection are now also rare, if not uniquely found at the Academy.

Archival collections include the Academy’s own archives as well as the records of a number of New York medical organizations that document the professionalization of medicine and changes in medical practice over time.

Together, these materials are an extraordinary resource, providing insights into the formative texts and medical thinking in which contemporary practice is rooted, and demonstrating our attempts to understand our bodies, minds, and health across time and culture. The richness of our collections is reflected by the diversity of our users, from scholars and clinicians to high school students, artists, writers, and the general public.

The Center for History of Medicine and Public Health is dedicated to providing broad access to its collections through outreach, programming and digitization.

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