About nyamhistory

The Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health, which includes the Library, promotes the scholarly and public understanding of the history of medicine and public health and the history of the book. Established in 2012, the Center aims to build bridges among an interdisciplinary community of scholars, educators, clinicians, curatorial and conservation professionals, and the general public. The Center’s Library is one of the largest medical collections in the United States open to the general public, to whom it has been available since 1878.

Met by Accident: A Beaten Book

Today’s guest post is written by Julia Miller, a book conservator who studies, writes, lectures, and instructs about historical binding structures. In collaboration with the Guild of Bookworkers New York Chapter, Ms. Miller will speak at The New York Academy of Medicine on June 27th at 6pm, “Meeting by Accident,” about types of bookbinding and delve into the what, why, and how questions concerning historical bindings. 

When I wrote my second book Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical Bindings, I drew on interesting bookbindings encountered in recent years. I wish my book had been published a bit later than it was, just so I could include the book I describe to you here.

Fig. 1

Spine, upper cover, and lower text edge of the Guthrie book. All photographs courtesy of Randel Stegmeyer.

Not long after Meeting by Accident was published, I found a book that immediately intrigued me because it carried an interesting, and to me, unusual direction to the binder: “The Binder is desired to beat the Book before he places the Maps.” It appears on page 10 following the Preface in William Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar; and Present State of the Several Kingdoms of the World. (The Thirteenth Edition, Corrected. London, Printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry; and G.G.J. and J. Robinson, in Pater-noster Row. 1792.)[1]. Beating book sections to flatten them prior to sewing was a common binding practice at one time but fell out of use and out of our collective memory; the mention of this old practice in the binders’ direction reminds us. The flatness of the text leaves (and the near-absence of “bite” to the printed text) indicates the binder of this volume followed the direction to beat the book.

Fig. 4

Detail director to binder in William Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar; and Present State of the Several Kingdoms of the World.

 

The book measures 22 H x 13.8 W x 8 T in centimeters. It is worn, with losses to the brown sheepskin cover, and much repaired. The detached boards were oversewn to reattach them to the text block, and the spine rebacked with a strip of tawed skin. There is evidence of sewing in two- or three-on style [for a primer on three-on sewing click here] and later oversewing to secure loosened sections. The text block shows heavy use and damage: finger dirt, stains, and damaged edges.

Why is this book of reference interesting to the history of hand bookbinding? In 2013, conservator and bookbinder Jeffrey S. Peachey published his ground-breaking examination of beating books, “Beating, Rolling, and Pressing: The Compression of Signatures in Bookbinding Prior to Sewing” in Volume I of Suave Mechanicals – Essays on the History of Bookbinding.[2] His essay is an exercise in detection and is fascinating to read. Jeff discusses the history, tools, and methods of flattening book leaves, noting that it is sometimes impossible to tell if sections of a given book were beaten in the traditional way, or if sections were rolled or pressed instead. Guthrie’s book, at least the thirteenth edition, carries the type of evidence we need, in the wording of the direction to the binder, to establish that this is probably a beaten book. Peachey mentioned in a recent email that he has seen similar directions in other 17th and 18th century books.

Fig. 5

Fore edge of Guthrie book.

A comparison study of other copies from this thirteenth edition of Guthrie, and earlier/later editions, looking for the same binders’ direction and evidence of beating, plus searching out other imprints carrying similar directions to the binder, would be a valuable and interesting research project; and I hope one of you reading this post will undertake it!

References
[1] The Academy Library has the 1794 edition.
[2] Ed. Julia Miller. 317-382. Ann Arbor, MI: The Legacy Press, 2013.

 

Facendo Il Libro: The Making of the Book (and a digital collection and exhibit)

By Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

The Academy Library is thrilled to announce “Facendo Il Libro: The Making of Fasciculus Medicinae, an Early Printed Anatomy.”  This online exhibit, focused on an astonishing and influential medical book first published in Italy in 1491, was made possible through the generous support of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Originally collected in manuscript form, the Fasciculus Medicinae (the “little bundle of medicine”) is a richly illustrated collection of medical treatises on uroscopy, phlebotomy, anatomy, surgery, and gynecology.  The Fasciculus Medicinae was first published in 1491, but demand for it made it a favorite text for printers. By 1522, it had been issued more than twenty times.  Variations in the text and the illustrations through time show the early modern tension between medieval medical ideas and advances in medical understanding forged at the beginning of the 16th century.  The exhibit allows visitors to browse full-text scans of all five editions (1495–1522) in The New York Academy of Medicine’s collections; to investigate each edition’s exquisitely illustrated woodcuts and to explore their cultural and medical meanings; and to compare the books’ illustrations in different editions over time.  The site includes contributed essays from Dr. Taylor McCall, art historian of material culture and medieval medicine at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and from Dr. Natalie Lussey Seale of the University of Edinburgh, whose work focuses on early modern Venetian print culture.  Dr. McCall’s essay looks at the creation of the text and its accompanying illustrations, while Dr. Seale’s essay offers a window into Venetian printing processes in the 16th century and describes the making of a book in early modern Italy.

frontispiece_1495_watermarked

Frontispiece, 1495.

The illustrations of the Fasciculus Medicinae offer an intriguing glimpse of medical practice in the 16th century.  The book’s woodcuts include narrative scenes depicting the earliest Western depiction of dissection in print, an early illustration of a diagnostic consultation showing a professor analyzing a urine flask, and a physician, holding an aromatic sponge to his nose to avoid infection, attending a sick plague patient confined to his bed.  Other woodcuts help us to understand early modern conceptions of health and illness.  The Fasciculus Medicinae’s female anatomical figure captures late medieval ideas about women’s bodies, reproduction, and pregnancy.  A “Wound Figure” graphically depicts the various threats to the body, from blows to the head down to the prick of a thorn on the feet.  Perhaps most surprising of all, the Fasciculus Medicinae’s “Zodiac Figure,” who balances all twelve zodiac signs on his body, conveys the powerful role the stars and planets played in health in the medieval imagination.  This figure, who dates to earlier manuscripts from the medieval period, survives well into the twentieth century, appearing alongside horoscopes in a modified form in print in American almanacs produced by pharmaceutical companies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Delmas Homepage imageThe Facendo Il Libro website has a simple design, but a complex structure.  It is both a standalone digital collection and an online exhibit built using Islandora, an open-source digital repository framework.  Representing the first full-text internal digitization project for the Academy Library, the five editions of the Fasciculus Medicinae were digitized in the Library’s Digital Lab. The online exhibit was built using an Islandora multi-site to leverage the digital collection repository (Fedora), Drupal Book module, and the current Library branding theme.

The ability to draw from the common repository made it possible to store content once and use it in multiple ways.  Thus, the five digitized editions are available in two different places using a single source.  The built-in navigational structure for the exhibit makes it easy for users to explore the collection in a linear fashion or by sections.

First images of the 1500 edition

Replicating the physical experience of touching the text is still a challenge for digital projects.  Thus, it was important to create a digital experience that provides the user with some sense of the materiality of the object. For example, the 1500 edition was bound with another text (Savonarola’s Practica medicinae), which is evident from the first digital image of the book. The image shows the thickness of the text and the fact that the 1500 edition begins in middle of the physical object. It shows the user exactly what will be encountered when using the physical item.  It also highlights a significant piece of information that could have been lost due to cropping.

Another important aspect of the online exhibit is the illustrations page, where users can see all the illustrations from all editions in one place.  When a user clicks on an illustration, the user is immediately taken to a page with descriptions of each illustration as it appears in each edition.  To explore the images, users can click on an image and zoom in to see the intricate details.

Facendo Il Libro: The Making of Fasciculus Medicinae, an Early Printed Anatomy” offers a great opportunity for users to learn and explore the Library’s five editions of Fasciculus Medicinae in context.

Explore Facendo Il Libro Online Exhibit.

Delmas Post Shop Ad

Voyage to the Other Side

By Emily Miranker, Events & Project Manager

Tomorrow is the 159th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birth. Best known as the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, he was a prolific writer beyond his detective fiction writing fantasy-science fiction, humor, plays, poetry, historical novels, and non-fiction. Doyle was trained as a doctor, at the renowned University of Edinburgh Medical School in the late 1870s, so it was not a surprise to me to spot his name on the spine of one of our books here in the library stacks. The title was a bit of a surprise.

Conan Doyle_History of Spiritualism spine_1926

A favorite author’s name on a book’s spine catches my eye in the stacks.

Spiritualism was the belief that the spirits of the dead exist and are able to communicate with the living. Spiritualism came to Britain in October 1852 when American Maria Hayden visited London to work as a medium conducting séances and spreading the Spiritualist message.[ii] Along with the technological and scientific innovations of the period, Victorians were also fascinated by the supernatural, paranormal, and occult.

Conan Doyle had a longstanding interest in mystical subjects; he was a Freemason, a founding member of the Hampshire Society for Physical Research in 1889, and he joined the London Society for Psychical Research in 1893.[iii] His Spiritualist beliefs deepened at the height of World War One when war-related deaths abounded, particularly the death of his son Arthur Alleyne “Kingsley” Doyle at the Battle of Somme in 1916. Kingsley was 25.

In The Wanderings of a Spiritualist, Conan Doyle evocatively describes his experiences of a séance held in Merthyr, Wales.

For two hours my wife and I had sat within listening to the whispering voices of the dead, voices which are so full of earnest life, and of desperate endeavours [sic] to pierce the barrier of our dull senses. They had quivered and wavered around us, giving us pet names, sweet sacred things, the intimate talk of the olden time. Graceful lights, signs of spirit power had hovered over us in the darkness. It was a different and a wonderful world. Now with those voices still haunting our memories we had slipped out into the material world—a world of glaring iron works and of twinkling cottage windows. As I looked down on it all I grasped my wife’s hand in the darkness and I cried aloud, “My God, if they only knew—if they could only know!” Perhaps in that cry, wrung from my very soul, lay the inception of my voyage to the other side of the world.[iv]

Many criticized Spiritualist mediums as frauds. Others attributed these other worldly experiences not to chicanery but as hallucinations or the products of mental illness.[v] To 21st century minds it may seem odd that Doyle, a doctor and creator of the supremely logical Sherlock Holmes, was so fervent a believer. Dr. Andrzej Diniejko considers the paradox of Victorian Spiritualism as the “child of rationalism and loss of religious faith; a strange hybrid of science and evolutionary metaphysics which attracted the minds of many people at the turn of the nineteenth century.”[vi] Other notable Victorian Spiritualists included biologist Alfred Russell Wallace, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, eventual Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, scientists William Crooks and Oliver Lodge, and novelist Charles Dickens.  Even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attended séances; and in Paris physicists Pierre and Marie Curie did as well (though Marie with far less enthusiasm than her husband).

In an article Doyle wrote for the London spiritualist weekly, Light, in 1917 he stated that “the weight of disproof lies upon those who deny.” He continues, “These phenomena have passed through the stage of being a parlor game; they are now emerging from that of a debatable scientific novelty; and they are, or should be, taking shape as the foundations of a definite system of religious thought, in some ways confirmatory of ancient systems, in some ways entirely new.” Conan Doyle’s belief was such that even risking some tarnish to his reputation he went “on public record as a student of these matters.”[vii]

Conan Doyle died of a heart attack –or passed to the Other Side‑ on July 7, 1930. His son Adrian Doyle informed the New York Times for its obituary that “my father fully believed that when he passed over he would continue to keep in touch with us. All his family believe so, too.”[viii]

That being the case, Happy Birthday Sir Arthur!

References:
[i] Henry Maudsley. Body and mind: An inquiry into their connection and mutual influence.  New York: Appleton and Co., 1884.
[ii] History of Spiritualism: Spiritualism Comes to Britain. https://www.apsychicspace.co.uk/?p=821 A Psychic Space. Published June 1, 2016. Accessed April 27, 2018.
[iii] Hesketh Pearson. Conan Doyle, his life and art. London: Methuen, 1943.
[iv] Arthur Conan Doyle. The Wanderings of A Spiritualist. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1921.
[v] J. Barry “The Nineteenth Century: Medicine, Spiritualism and Christianity.” Raising Spirits: How a Conjuror’s Tale Was Transmitted across the Enlightenment. London: Palgrave Pivot, 2013.
[vi]  Andrzej Diniejko. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Interest in Spiritualism. The Victorian Web. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/doyle/spiritualism.html Updated November 14, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2018.
[vii] Arthur Conan Doyle. Memories and adventures. London: John Murray, 1930.
[viii] Conan Doyle Dead From Heart Attack. The New York Times Learning Network. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0522.html Published July 8, 1930. Updated 2010. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Maker’s Mark: A Look at Early Modern Printers’ Devices

By Emily Miranker, Events & Project Manager

Did you know that required trademarks go back to 1266? In England, bakers were required by parliament to use a distinctive mark on the bread they sold.[i] Fun design/history/bibliographic fact, the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room here at the Library features trademarks in its décor. More specifically, the room’s chandelier have printers’ marks. As an homage to book history and the art of the book, the chandeliers of our reading room are decorated with printers’ marks.

RBR chandelier

I got to know these marks beyond “those pretty design bits on the lights” when we created special bookplates (another age old way to ‘mark’ your stuff) for Adopt-a-Book donors. The virtual bookplates that donors receive features four of these marks keeping them connected with the legacy and art of the book.

TIna's first demo of bookplate sketches

Our incredibly talented graphic designer sharing sample sketches for the adoption bookplates; artistic inspiration courtesy of early modern printers, the architecture of the rare book room and the Academy building.

As the name suggests, printers’ marks are a device or emblem, like a logo, that early printers used to make clear the source of the item. According to Printer’s Marks, the first of these is Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer’s Mainz Psalter of 1457. Among the best well-known of these old printers’ marks is one that you will find on our library’s custom designed chandeliers and on our adoption bookplates (upper righthand corner) the device of Aldus Manutius: the dolphin and anchor.

 

Hippocrates_Omnia Opera_1526-printers mark_watermark

The dolphin twined around an anchor predates Manutius. Going back to Roman times, this pair symbolizes the adage, “Make haste slowly.” (The dolphin is haste, and the anchor is slow.)

Next to Aldus in the upper left corner of the bookplate, the ethereal hand manipulating the compass with the Latin motto Labore et Constantia (Work and Constancy) belongs to Dutch publisher Christophe Plantin (1520-1589). During his life, he used a large number of devices and they could vary in appearance. There are three primary types; the first features a tree and the second a scroll with a Latin motto twined around a grape vine; the third is the hand and compass and first appeared in 1557.[ii] The compass is symbolic of the motto: the leg of the compass turning around is work while the stationary point is constancy.

Below Plantin’s mark on the lower left, is the printer’s mark of Paris printer and bookseller Poncet Le Preux (1508 – 1551). His initials P L P are ‘tethered’ together by a tasseled cord.

Lastly, the monogram in the lower right corner of the bookplate that also adorns our chandeliers belongs to Badius Ascensius or Jodocus Badius (1462 – 1535). Originally from Flemish town of Asche, he set up a print shop in Paris, Prelum Ascensianum, in 1503. The initials in the monogram are I V A B, the A and V intersecting to form the diamond shape at the center, which stand for his Latinate name Iodocus Van Asche Badius.

Your Name Here bookplateWe invite you to come look at these gorgeous marks on the chandeliers and in the books themselves at our First Monday tours. The first Monday of every month at 12 pm we do a free tour of the Rare Book Room. Or adopt a book in our collection and receive a copy of these marks in the custom designed donor bookplate.

Bonus mark! This is the mark used by Badius’ printing house, Prelum Ascensianum (his monogram featuring at the bottom center, the shop’s name visible on the center crossbeam of the press itself) and my personal favorite because it is a printer in action.Beroaldi_Opvscvlvm _1511-tp-ornament_watermark

References:
[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark#History Accessed 4/18/18
[ii] Roberts, William. Printer’s Marks: A Chapter in the History of Typography (New York: George Bell & Sons, 1893).
printermark shop ad

Intern in our Digital Lab this Summer

The New York Academy of Medicine’s Library is looking for a digital intern to work in the Library’s digital program.  The internship will provide hands-on experience with creating and building digital collections, editing metadata for digitization projects, and conducting quality control of scanned images. The Intern will have an opportunity to learn about the digitization process and how to build digital collections.

We are looking for an intern who is imaginative and interested in learning more about developing digital collections and how metadata is used to enhance collections.

The internship is paid or may be taken for course credit.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Create digital collections on Islandora website
  • Collect, edit, create and organize metadata according to standards
  • Conduct quality control on scanned images and digital collections

Qualifications and Experience

  • Familiarity with technology, digital collections, and/or digital humanities projects
  • Experience with metadata schemas (e.g. MODS, Dublin Core, MARC, IPTC etc.)
  • Knowledge of XML, XSLT, and OCLC
  • Coursework in Library and Information Science

Start Date: June 2018.

Hours: Approximately 10 hours a week for 12 weeks.  Intern must be available 2 days per week between the hours of 10:00am-5:00pm, Monday through Thursday.

To Apply

Please forward cover letter and resume with “Digital Intern” in the subject line to library@nyam.org.  Please also outline your academic needs for obtaining course credit, if applicable.  Deadline: May 18, 2018.

Secrets in the Scan

By Emily Miranker, Events & Projects Manager

One of the initiatives I oversee here is our wonderful online Library Shop. It features public domain images from our collection on various products. It’s a way for you to take a piece of the library home. Are these two hundred, four hundred, six hundred-year-old images edited? No.

Mostly no.

We keep our images unedited to preserve their historic integrity. The little warps in the vellum, the darkening on the edges of pages from centuries of fingers turning them, little spots of ink or stains from years of use are all part of the life story of each book.

That said, here’s the “mostly” part.

Many of the images used on the shop come from very old books. Books of any age usually don’t lie flat, and certainly not really old ones with big, beautiful bindings. To scan images, our books lie in a cradle; each side propped up by a wedge. This means an image in the initial scan is often at a slight angle. You don’t see it square on.

 

Cockeyed images aren’t the most visually pleasing, moreover the images sit true on the book pages themselves. Therefor some of our images are rotated after scanning to correct for the angle introduced by that cradle in the scan bed, as in the example below.

Truing Images

Aldrovandi_monstrorumhistoria_1642_p324 watermarkedA real treat came for me when I got to work with this glorious image from the Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605). This is a phoenix from Monstrorum Historia, a volume in a set of encyclopedic works on animals. In Monstrorum, Aldrovandi documented and illustrated anomalous creatures both observed and imagined. The phoenix is a mythological bird that cyclically regenerates or is reborn from the flames and ashes of its previous self.

For the special occasion of the Academy’s 2017 Gala, I was going to edit the background from this image to show just the bird itself. Far more elaborate image editing than I typically get to do. (Part of this was actually done with an editing tool called the “Magic Wand” which struck me as very fitting.) I edited out most of the background and zoomed in to tidy up the image. I started to notice these strips of “fuzz” all over.

re editing

Zooming in even closer –around 200% magnification– I realized, “These aren’t fuzzy strips; I’m seeing the impression of the text from the page behind this!” The text from page underneath the phoenix page wasn’t removed with the layer of background (that tan parchment color), so it was now more starkly visible. The quality of the 17th century printing was so high and the scan was so powerful that not only had the page with the phoenix itself been captured, but the words from the page beneath as well. Not an official palimpsest (a piece of writing material with traces of previous or even removed writing still visible); but a delightful discovery in my scanned image.

Shop Ad for scan secrets post

The British National Health Service and the Fight for Universal Health Insurance in the United States

Today’s guest post is by Andrew Seaton, the 2018 Paul Klemperer Fellow in the History of Medicine. Andrew is a History PhD candidate at New York University. His dissertation explains the survival of the British National Health Service since 1948, and its significance at home and abroad. Andrew will be presenting his Fellowship research on Wednesday, April 18, at 4 p.m. in the Hartwell Room. Please email history@nyam.org if you would like to attend. Space is limited.

Americans have often looked to other countries in their debates about extending health insurance. Health reformers in the Progressive Era held up Germany’s sickness insurance as a model to work toward, only to have this turned against them during the First World War.[1] In the postwar period, the British National Health Service (NHS) became a focal point of discussion. President Truman’s attempts to include “national health insurance” within existing Social Security legislation coincided with the establishment of the NHS in 1948. When Truman’s opponents – foremost among them the American Medical Association (AMA) – depicted the NHS as emblematic of the problems with “socialized medicine,” (see image below) progressives rushed to its defense.

Figure1_watermark

Typical representation of the British National Health Service by the American Medical Association. “The Rebellion of British Doctors,” Editor and Publisher, March 6 1948.

The left-wing health economist, Michael M. Davis – whose papers are housed in the New York Academy of Medicine historical collections – stood as a central advocate for the British model. Davis was one of the most important American health campaigners of the mid-twentieth century. He founded organizations such as the Committee for the Nation’s Health (CNH) in 1946 to promote national health insurance, and worked closely with Truman to achieve legislative reform.[2] Cognizant of attacks in the Progressive Era on the German model, the CNH realized that AMA “misinformation” about the British scheme would seriously harm their chances of securing their goal of comprehensive health coverage for all. Responding to this threat, the CNH rebutted AMA communications on the NHS in their own pamphlets (see image below), provided statistics and details about the British health service to newspaper editors, and reprinted favorable media coverage from the U.K.

Figure2_watermark

Committee for the Nation’s Health, “The Truth About Britain’s Medical Program” (March, 1949).[3]

Trans-Atlantic trips undergirded American battles over the NHS. Dozens of opponents and supporters of extending health insurance in the U.S. undertook field studies in Britain to aid in the battle back home. Davis – by this point nearly eighty years old – undertook such a trip in 1959 with his wife, Alice. They not only met with their extensive contacts in the medical profession and British civil service, but also spoke to ordinary people in public parks across the country to find out how they felt about the NHS. The Britons that Michael and Alice Davis met – from hotel maids to university professors – were “practically unanimous” in saying they “wanted the Health Service,” pointing to the end of anxieties about doctors’ bills as the main cause of satisfaction.[4] The following year, Davis presented these findings as a talk to various American community and labor organizations in an attempt to stimulate interest in national health insurance.

Despite these efforts, Davis and other progressives lost their battle with the AMA. Congress struck down Truman-era health bills, the CNH ended its activities in 1956, and trade unions turned towards securing the best deals for their members through private health insurance rather than advancing a federal health program. The reputation of the NHS played an important part in these events; the AMA’s negative vision of the NHS triumphed over that presented by figures like Davis. This underlines the importance of transnational perspectives when thinking about the history of health care in America – and indeed in Britain – alongside the significance of convincing a wider public when attempting to enact structural change. If Davis’s dream of universal medical coverage in the U.S. is ever to be realized, it will rest in part on shaping popular opinion about America’s place in the wider world of health systems.

References:
[1] Beatrix Hoffman, The Wages of Sickness: The Politics of Health Insurance in Progressive America (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 54-74.
[2] For a biography of Davis, see Alice Taylor Davis, Michael M. Davis: A Tribute (Chicago: Center for Health Administration Studies, 1972).
[3] New York Academy of Medicine, Library of Social and Economic Aspects of Medicine of Michael M. Davis, Box 64, CNH Releases on British N.H.S., “The Truth About Britain’s Medical Program” (March, 1949).
[4] New York Academy of Medicine, Library of Social and Economic Aspects of Medicine of Michael M. Davis, Box 62, Bibliography: England: 2, Michael M. Davis, “My Observations Last Summer of the British National Health Service” (1960).