Time Tested Tips for Spring Cleaning

By Emily Miranker, Projects Manager

Ah, March. That time of year when our fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … spring cleaning!

Whether your style is to pare down to your most joyful possessions à la Marie Kondo, follow the flow charts of decluttering tips that abound online, or grab the latest Martha Stewart Living off the magazine rack: spring cleaning is upon us.

Once upon a time, when spring finally came around after the dark, cold of winter, families would literally pull  everything out of their house and scour the place from top to bottom. After a long winter of heat and light from candles, coal, and oil, the dust, soot, ash, and general grunge must have been oppressive.[1] Cleaning everything off heralded both a figurative and an actual “breath of fresh air,” since it was presumably safe and comfortable to once again open windows and the door without freezing.

Our collections are a trove of tips for daily (and healthful) living, and as I prepare to whip my own home back into shape I pulled out A Collection of Choise Receipts, a beautiful compendium of recipes and how-tos from the culinary and domestic to the medical from 17th century London. I needed to consult it to solve the dilemma of the patina of dinge on my wall art that snuck in through the cracks of the window A/C unit.

Happily, Choise Receipts has just the thing:

cleaning of pictures_watermaked

“Take the Picture out of the frame, lay it flat on the ground, sprincle [sic] it with water, then sift Wood ashes and strew it upon the Picture, then pour more water upon it, then with your hand rub it very well then wash it off.”

Scrubbing ash onto the picture may sound counterintuitive, but wait. Mixing water and wood ashes like this would yield a crude form of lye (mostly potassium carbonate). Lye combined with water and fat (animal or plant) is what makes soap; the key to cleanliness since soap breaks up the chemical bonds of dirt.[2] In fact, this recipe makes a good deal of sense for spring cleaning, since at the end of winter all that burning of wood to keep warm would have yielded plenty of wood ash to be repurposed into lye or soap.

Turning our attention from the walls to the doors, here’s a handy solution to troublesome locks and fixtures:

Cleaning brass locks_watermarked

“For the cleaning of brass locks. Rub them with v[i]n[e]gar and rotten stone.”

Mix vinegar –got that– and rottenstone –what now?! Since when do stones rot? Rottenstone (sometimes called tripoli) turns out to be a finely ground, porous rock. The stone is typically a mixture of limestone and silica.[3] Weathered and softened by the leeching away of its calcium carbonate makes the rock friable – crumbly. This crumbly tendency gives rise to its name, rotten—decomposing, breaking down—stone. It is used as a polishing abrasive for metal and woodworking. Think of it as pumice for for your locks and fixtures. Vinegar is called for in this solution probably because its acidity combats the tarnishing that occurs with time and exposure to air.

Are these old-timey recipes for cleaning really effective, really worthwhile? Here’s Choise’s author’s response to that:

Approved of_watermarked

“This receipt is approved of.”

[1] McNamee, G. “Spring Cleaning: Its History and Importance.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Blog,16 April 2008. Accessed 1/22/17.
[2] Living Naturally. “How to Use Wood Ashes in the Home and Garden.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 30 November 2017. Accessed 1/22/17.
[3] Wikipedia Contributors. “Rotten Stone.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 30 November 2017. Accessed 1/20/2017.

Diagnosing Love:  A Look at Classical Sources

By Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts


Frontispiece from Galeni librorum (1525)

In lyric from the 7th Century BCE, Sappho offers the famous description of the symptoms of lovesickness:

My heart beats (but my blood is gone)
At the sound of your sweet laugh.
I cannot look at you for long,
I cannot speak.

My tongue is wounded, and a light
Flame runs beneath my skin.
In my eyes there is no sight,
But my ears roar.

Dank sweat and trembling pass
Where my body was before.
I am greener than grass,
I am almost dying.

(Sappho fragment 2, translation by Willis Barnstone).[1]

For Sappho, love is an affliction, with all the attendant symptoms of a bad fever: Beset by cold sweat, drumming ears, and shaking, the speaker of Sappho’s poem has also gone green.  Her lines also allude to another physical response to falling  in love, one taken up by Galen, Hippocrates, and other classical writers interested in clinical observation and diagnosis. Sappho’s description of the heart, with fire pulsing under the skin, suggests that love may also cause a spike in pulse rate.

Texts from Greek and Roman medical authorities support the idea that an increase in pulse rate might signal an unrequited love.  Both men and women were susceptible to physical illness as a consequence of desire in stories told by Appian, Plutarch, Valerius Maximus, Galen, and others; later sources in the early modern period, especially Dutch genre paintings like those of Jan Steen (see below), often argue that the malady is largely a female ailment.


Jan Steen’s The Doctor’s Visit (c.1663). Taft Museum of Art (Cincinnati, Ohio).

Many of the earliest Greek prose accounts in classical writing date much later than Sappho.  Lovesickness is not mentioned at all in the core Hippocratic corpus, comprised of approximately seventy collected works by multiple authors in Ionic Greek.  And yet, the Greek physician and writer Soranus (fl. 1st / 2nd century CE) tells a story about the physician Hippocrates of Kos, born around 460 BCE. When Hippocrates visits the sick and lethargic king Perdiccas of Macedonia, he notices that his pulse increases each time Phyle, the wife of Perdicca’s deceased father, is near.  His health improves remarkably once Phyle establishes herself at his bedside (and, we are to infer, in his bed).[2]

The Roman physician Galen (130–210) relates the case of the wife of one Justus, kept awake at night by an ailment that she is reluctant to discuss.  After examining and questioning her, Galen suspects her to suffer from melancholy.  But when a visitor to the woman’s sick bed mentions he’s just seen a performance by the dancer Pylades, Galen writes that the woman’s “facial expression changed, and observing this and putting my hand on her wrist, I found that her pulse had suddenly become irregular in several ways, which indicates that the mind is disturbed.” Galen recounts that when other dancers are mentioned the woman’s pulse remained unchanged.  Pylades, Galen concludes, and her love for him, are at the heart of her illness.[3]

Galen also discusses the case of one Prince Antiochos, the son of the king of Syria (ca. 294 BCE).  Antiochos’ story appears in Appian’s Syrian Wars. King Seleucus the Conqueror, sick with worry over Antiochos’ sudden illness, brings the great physician Erasistratus to his son’s bedside. Erasistratus examines him, but can’t find any signs of disease.  When he questions him, Antiochos is close-lipped.  Erasistratus stations himself near the young man’s bed, and watches his physical symptoms when people enter and leave the room.  As Appian describes it:

He found that when others came the patient was all the time weakening and wasting away at a uniform pace, but when Stratonice [his stepmother] came to visit him his mind was greatly agitated by the struggles of modesty and conscience, and he remained silent. But his body in spite of himself became more vigorous and lively, and when she went away he became weaker again.

Erasistratus persuades the king to give Stratonice to Antiochus to marry, the only possible solution for his incurable disease.[4]


Frontispiece of Ovid’s The Art of Love (1931).

All of these fallen hearts in the writings of Galen and others beg the question: how to treat a lovesick patient? The answer varied, depending on the source. The physicians in stories by Soranus and Galen conclude that relief could be found only in consummation of the relationship.  For others, the answer was more complicated. Ovid, who wrote more than a hundred years before Galen, is emphatic about the necessity of ridding oneself of desire. In his Remedia Amoris (“Remedy of Love”), a poem enumerating the cures for lovesickness, he writes:

I believe in drastic treatments only, for there can be no cure without pain. When you are ill, they deny you all the good things you crave and feed you nothing but bitter physic, and yet you suffer it willingly enough to save the health of your body. You must submit to the same treatment to save your mind, for it certainly is as precious.[5]

So what course does Ovid prescribe?  Ovid seconds Galen’s conclusion that sex with the desired person is a good idea, but makes the suggestion that the desired should be positioned in the most unflattering light possible.  If that doesn’t work, he advises the sufferer to avoid poetry (except presumably, his own), and move to the country.


Philip Ayre’s Emblemata amatoria (c.1690)

[1] Sappho & Barnstone, W. Poems. Los Angeles: Green Integer, 1999.
[2] Jody Rubin Pinault. Hippocratic Lives and Legends. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992; Michael Stolberg. Uroscopy in Early Modern Europe. Surrey: Ashgate, 2015.
[3] Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, V, 8, 1.  Accessed online February 7, 2018. pp.101-103.
[4] Horace White and Appian, Syrian Wars. New York: Macmillan, 1899.
[5] Ovid and Charles D. Young.  “Remedy of Love.” In The Art of Love. New York: Horace Liveright, c 1931.

What Lies Beneath… #ColorOurCollections 2018


The third annual #ColorOurCollections week has officially begun! From February 5th through 9th, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions are showcasing their collections in the form of free coloring sheets. Follow #ColorOurCollections on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms to join in on the fun. Be sure to visit the #ColorOurCollections website for free, downloadable coloring books created for the campaign.

Our 2018 coloring book was inspired by the depths of the sea…as documented in four of our favorite early modern natural histories.

The Alsatian humanist Conrad Lycosthenes’ (1518-1561) sixteenth-century book on signs and marvels includes our cover image, featuring a choppy sea full of terrifying lobsters, scaly serpents, and a retinue of bizarre fish with lolling tongues and vicious fangs.  We’re not exactly dreaming of being airdropped into the water with this motley crew of creatures, but we do think they’ll be awfully fun to color.


Source: Lykosthenes, Konrad. Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon… (1557)

The Historia Animalium, a five-volume, 4500 page diversionary project for the prolific and energetic Swiss bibliographer Conrad Gesner (1516-1565), was published in Zurich between 1551-1558.  Gesner’s volume four, devoted to sea life, includes ethereal cephalopods, a conniving crab, and fish of all sorts, including bishop fish and other strange hybrid forms.


Source: Gesner, Conrad. Fischbuch (1575)

The work of the Italian physician Ulysse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) remains one of our favorite sources for coloring images. Aldrovandi maintained a museum of specimens, and published his findings and those of others in a thirteen volume work on natural history.  More on Aldrovandi’s life can be found here (and don’t miss his adorable giraffe, swoon!)


Source: Aldrovandi, Ulisse. De piscibus libri V et De cetis lib…(1613)

Finally, a contribution from the Jesuit Filippo Bonanni (1638-`1735), once a student of Athanasius Kircher and later curator of Kircher’s museum collection at the Collegio Romano. Our 1709 edition of Bonanni’s catalog of the Collegio Romano is bound with Bonanni’s important work on conchology, the earliest printed book on seashells.

buonanni_musaeumkircherianum_1709 2_watermark

Source: Buonanni, Filippo. Musæum Kircherianum (1709)

Intrigued by the mysteries of the deep? Download, print and color our coloring book!

New York Academy of Medicine_ColorOurCollections_2018

Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature: Medical Botany

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital and Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian
Cross-posted at The Biodiversity Heritage Library blog.

The New York Academy of Medicine Library has contributed nine digitized titles (11 volumes) on medical botany to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) as part of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project.   It is very exciting to share some of the Academy Library’s botanical resources with the wider public.

While the Library’s collections include a large number of printed botanical books dating back to the beginning of the sixteenth century, for this project we were interested in identifying resources that could be sent to the Internet Archive for external digitization, which meant that we concentrated on our holdings from the second half of the 19th century forward through 1922.  After generating lists from our online catalog, we checked to see if any of these resources had already been digitized by the BHL, Internet Archive, or HathiTrust.  For this process, we developed a set of simple guidelines.

  • Resources not available via BHL, Internet Archive or HathiTrust remained on the list.
  • Resources already available via the BHL were eliminated from the list.
  • Resources already available via the Internet Archive were eliminated from the list because BHL harvests content from the Internet Archive, so there would be no need for us to digitize that content.
  • Resources already available via HathiTrust could still potentially be digitized for access via the BHL based on whether our copy provides additional information for the public once digitized. For example, the Indian Medicinal Plants (Kīrtikara & Basu, 1918) has been partially digitized by HathiTrust, but the volume with the images was missing. As such, it became important for us to digitize so that it would be fully available.

We went through multiple lists and rounds of de-duplication to narrow down our potential submission.  Once we finalized the list, Scott Devine, Head of Preservation, conducted a conservation assessment to determine which resources could be sent out for digitization and which were so fragile that they could only be digitized in house.  We separated these into two lists.  The first list was sent to the Internet Archive for digitization and is our contribution to BHL.   The second list will be a project for our new digital lab and we hope to make them available at a future date.


Indian Medicinal Plants (1918), plate #256 showing Leea Sambucina.

The Indian medicinal plants (Kīrtikara & Basu, 1918) stood out as a resource to digitize and share widely.  It documents the medicinal plants found in India.  The authors describe a need to provide a text that reproduces illustrations of Indian medicinal plants from other works since there were few prior to this publication.  Dr. W. Roxburgh’s text, reprinted in 1874, was used as a reference throughout.

Although Indian medicinal plants did not focus on the use of plants in the development of drugs, this theme can be seen throughout the resources submitted to the BHL. Each author grapples with the role of plants in the creation and production of drugs.


A course in botany and pharmacognosy (1902), plate #1 showing organized cell-contents.

In A course in botany and pharmacognosy (1902), Henry Kraemer, Professor of Botany and Pharmacognosy, defines pharmacognosy as the “study of drugs of vegetable origins.” Kraemer devotes the first part of his text to plant morphology and the second part to pharmacognosy.  In addition, he provides illustrations to aid in the study of both parts so that students can connect the descriptions throughout the text to the visual representations.


Pharmaceutical Botany (1918), fig 57 showing leaf bases, species and compound leaves.

Youngken’s Pharmaceutical botany, 2nd edition (1918) was expanded to take advantage of the growing area of botany, including a section on drug-yielding plants.  The text focuses on the morphology and taxonomy of plants used in drug development.

In Pharmacal plants and their culture (1912), Schneider argues that the majority of imported plants used in medicine could already be available in the United States.  He focuses on California and outlines what can be cultivated and grown in the state.  Schneider provides a list of uses and common names.

The medicinal plants of Tennnessee (1894) is an observational inventory of Tennessee’s plants and their descriptions based on a similar project conducted by North Carolina.  Published by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the report emphasizes the importance of documenting and understanding the native plants of Tennessee and how they can help increase usage and revenue.

Overall, readers of this collection can begin to understand the role of plants in the creation, development and economic viability of drugs.  Many of the resources provide some form of inventory, index or list that documents the plants and associated drugs.

All titles submitted by the Academy Library to BHL:

The BHL Expanding Access project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Embroidering Medicine, Re-imagining Embroidery

Today’s guest post is written by Kriota Willberg, New York Academy of Medicine’s Artist-in-Residence researching the history of sutures and ligatures.  Through graphic narratives, teaching, and needlework, Kriota explores the intersection between body sciences and creative practice. This past September, Kriota taught a four-week workshop entitled “Embroidering Medicine,” which explored the relationships between medicine, needlework, and gender.

Historically, needlework has been used to enforce stereotypes of women as docile, obedient, and incapable of creative or original thought.  Embroidery as a skill and a decorative medium was a required part of a woman’s education for centuries.  Across different periods of time, embroidery techniques (stump work, black work, etc.) and themes (religious, botany, etc.) in vogue provided only very narrow focus for creative outlets for women.  From the 16th century onwards, embroidery publications encouraged the use of pre-drawn patterns.  Images generally included geometric stitch motifs, flowers, plants, and animals. Many women, including Mary Queen of Scots translated images from books such as the Icones Animalium (1560) and La Nature et Diversité des Poissoins (1555).[1]


Workshop participants discuss their work.

The cultural pressure to recreate existing patterns and images has been the basis of the argument that a craft such as embroidery is inherently unoriginal. In the 16th century and later, many people considered women incapable of original creative thought, proved by the adherence of women to unimaginative media such as embroidery.

As the Academy’s Artist-in-Residence, I wanted to facilitate an embroidery workshop that connected the histories of women, medicine, and embroidery. In my own work I have done this by looking at the broad scope of health and medical literature available at the Academy Library, exploring feminist histories of medicine and of needlework, and using drawing and needlework to identify and describe intersections of medical and textile arts. In the workshop I encouraged participants to re-imagine the tradition of embroidery pattern translation by using historical medical imagery mostly created by male artists.


Dental anatomy after an image by John Hunter by Stephanie Russell.

The workshop was a great way to explore history on one’s own terms. Cultural forces limiting women’s economic and artistic independence have been at work for centuries in Europe and the United States. The establishment and regulation of craft and medical guilds in Medieval Europe began the limitation of women from the professional practices of medicine and needlework.[2] While working with materials from the historical collection, the status of women as medical professionals during different periods was a topic of conversation as we stitched our embroidery.


An embroidery in progress by Abby Tannenbaum, stitched from an image in the Hortus Sanitatis.

Our group (coincidentally all women) explored the library images, learned about the history of medicine, examined books about home economics and sciences, found images to work with that were interesting or personally relevant, explored historical descriptions of medical needlework (i.e. suturing the body), and practiced embroidery stitches. The products of this workshop embody the stitcher’s process and creative experimentation combining the history of medicine with the histories of feminism and the decorative art of embroidery.


Kriota Willberg (third from left) and embroidery participants in the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room.

There is a lot of creativity that can go in to re-imagining a pre-existing image. In addition to working with line, filling, and color, embroidery can add texture and depth through its use of various types of threads and yarns. The embroiderer studies the image she is recreating. Is it educational? Entertaining? Are certain anatomical structures or pathological states emphasized? The embroiderer interprets the original artist’s intentions, determines her own interests in the image, and re-works the image using color, texture, stitch variety, and fabric, to create a new work. To practice basic stitches, an embroiderer might choose to follow an original pattern closely or experiment and make “mistakes,” as one might when drawing in a sketchbook.


Anatomized genitalia from an anatomy book by Adriaan van de Spiegel (aka Spiegalius) and Giulio Cesare Casseri (aka Casserius) published in the 17th century. Stitched by Susan Shaw.

Embroidery is becoming a popular medium again and still provokes associations with hominess and winsome imagery. I was delighted to see workshop embroiderers re-imaging pictures of dental anatomy and dissected genitalia into images that are simultaneously comforting and disturbing. The embroiderers in this workshop are taking needlework in new and exciting directions!

[1] Swain, Margaret. The Needlework or Mary Queen of Scots. New York, London: Man Nostrand Reinhold Company, Inc., 1973.
[2] I recommend reading The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker and Women and the Practice of Medical Care in Early Modern Europe, 1400-1800 by Leigh Ann Whaley. Reading these books simultaneously has been a revelatory experience!

Historical “Cures” Uncovered During Cataloging of Rare Pamphlets

By Becky Filner, Head of Cataloging

The New York Academy of Medicine Library is currently undertaking the cataloging of a collection of rare pamphlets from the 17th century through the early 20th century. Through this process, we’ve come across many fascinating (and sometimes perplexing) items. Here I will highlight four pamphlets from the 18th and 19th centuries that prescribe surprising cures for ailments.

In 1704, Nicolas Andry de Bois-Regard (1658-1742)[1], a French physician and writer, published a pamphlet in Paris, Le thé de l’Europe, in which he enumerates the health benefits of “Europe tea,” or Veronica officinalis (also known as speedwell or gypsyweed.) Our pamphlet, titled Preservatif contre les Fièvres Malignes, ou Le Thé de l’Europe et les Proprietez de la Veronique, is a 1710 edition of this work printed in Lyon. Andry recommends Veronica officinalis for treating headaches, sore throats, dry coughs, fevers, asthma, dysentery, and many other ailments. Speedwell is still used as a dietary supplement today, however its efficacy in treating any of these conditions is inconclusive.


The title page to Andry’s 1710 Lyon edition of Le Thé de l’Europe.


Engraving of Veronica officinalis from Andry’s Le Thé de l’Europe.

The second pamphlet, by John Andree (1697/8-1785)[2], a physician and co-founder of the London Hospital, recommends against using hemlock to treat cancer. Andree is responding to the Viennese physician Anton von Störck’s 1760 publication on hemlock, An Essay on the Medicinal Nature of Hemlock. In his Observations upon a Treatise on the Virtues of Hemlock, in the Cure of Cancers, Andree warns that when he tried to replicate Störck’s claims about hemlock, he found that “some curable Scirrhuses [tumors] were, during the Use of the Extract of Hemlock, instead of mending, brought to the State of deplorable Cancers.”[3] Not only is hemlock not a cure for cancer, it is “detrimental.”[4] Throughout the pamphlet, Andree provides specific details of the negative side effects his patients encountered while trying hemlock as a treatment. Andree is hopeful that new cures will be found for cancer, but he warns that “we should be cautious not to recommend any Thing before we are well assured of the Certainty of its Effects; nor publish Cases glossed over with a Design, perhaps, to raise our Reputation.”[5]


Title page from John Andree’s 1761 work, Observations upon a Treatise on the Virtues of Hemlock, in the Cure of Cancers.

The third pamphlet, Paul Bolmer’s New Receipts and Cures for Man & Beast (1831), is by far the strangest of the four pamphlets. Printed on cheap paper and apparently self-published (the cover reads, “Published by Paul Bolmer,” and the title page reads, “Printed for the Purchaser” where we would expect to see a printer or publisher’s name), this compilation of folk remedies is strikingly odd.[6] Bolmer’s cures include tea made of catnip for treating morning sickness, pills made of brown sugar and pepper for treating toothache, garlic juice mixed with whiskey and breast milk for treating colic in children, and a concoction of white oak bark, pennyroyal, knotgrass, whortleberries, and French brandy for curing dysentery. Many of the recipes have specific directions involving times of day or phases of the moon: a “certain cure for the tooth-ache” is to:

take a goose quill and cut it off where it begins to be hollow, then scrape off a little from each nail of the hands and feet, put it into the quill & stop it up, after which bore a hole towards the rise of the sun, into a tree that bears no fruit, put the quill with the scrapings of the nails into the hole and with three strokes close up the hole with a bung made of pine wood. It must be done on the first Friday in New moon in the morning.[7]


Paul Bolmer, in his New Receipts and Cures for Man & Beast (1831), compiles folk remedies that seem outlandish today.


Bolmer’s “A cure for the felon” is perhaps the strangest moment in this weird pamphlet.

The most bizarre cure in this pamphlet is Bolmer’s “A cure for the felon, if used directly in the beginning” (see image of the page above.)[8] After writing the word “Javsvsra” (with the J backwards and dots specifically placed between and under the letters) and the phrase, “Now I rely on the name of God, that this word will destroy the seed of the Felon,” Bolmer promises that by “tie[ing] the side of the paper with the writing over the felon and leav[ing] it on for 24 hours . . . the felon will be killed.” It is hard to imagine that anyone ever believed this would work. Someone must have been buying what Bolmer was selling, however, because this book went through three German editions (1831, Philadelphia 1838, and Harrisburg, PA 1842), the 1831 English translation discussed here, and an English reprinting in 1853 in Greencastle, PA.[9]

The fourth pamphlet, The Boston Cooking School, 372 Boylston Street: Invalid Cookery: Nurses’ Course, was published in 1898 to accompany a Boston Cooking School class for nurses.  Divided into six lessons, it covers beverages; beef tea, gruels, and mushes; eggs, toast, sandwiches, etc.; fish, jellies, etc.; soups; and desserts. Many of the recipes are familiar (oatmeal, omelets, toast), but others (Irish moss blanc mange, Junket custard, ivory jelly) use unfamiliar ingredients or simply do not suit our taste. The Library holds many related pamphlets and cookbooks about invalid cookery, a popular topic in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The front cover and the first page of The Boston Cooking School’s Nurses’ Course in Invalid Cookery.


As we continue to catalog our extensive rare pamphlet collection, we expect to uncover many more fascinating, illuminating, and downright weird pamphlets. Stay tuned!

[1] For more information about Andry, see Remi Kohler. “Nicolas Andry de Bois-Regard (Lyon 1658-Paris 1742): the inventor of the word “orthopaedics” and the father of parasitology.” Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics. 2010 Aug.; 4(4): 349-355. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908340/
[2] For more information about Andree, see D.D. Gibbs. “Andree, John (1697/8-1785).“ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press; 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/514, accessed 2 Nov 2017.
[3] John Andree. Observations upon a Treatise on the Virtues of Hemlock, in the Cure of Cancers. London: J. Meres; 1761, p. iv.
[4] Ibid., p. vii.
[5] Ibid., p. vii.
[6] This pamphlet was apparently published in southern Pennsylvania, not Germany (as the title page notes.) This is an English translation of a pamphlet originally printed in German as Eine Sammlung von neuen Rezepten und erprobten Kuren fur Menschen und Thiere (Deustchland [i.e. Pennsylvania]: Gedruct fur den Kaufer, 1831.) Bolmer’s work may be plagiarized from Daniel Ballmer’s Eine Sammlung von neuen Recepten und bewahrten Curen fur Menschen und Vieh (Schellsburg, PA: Friedrich Goeb; 1827.)  For further discussion of these pamphlets, see Christopher Hoolihan. An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform. Volume III. Rochester: University of Rochester Press; 2008, p. 79-80. Available through Google Books.
[7] Paul Bolmer. New Receipts and Cures for Man & Beast. Germany: Paul Bolmer; 1831, p. 12.
[8] Ibid., p. 27.
[9] This information about the various editions of this work is taken from Christopher Hoolihan’s An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform. Volume III. Rochester: University of Rochester Press; 2008, p. 80.

Birds of New York

By Rebecca Pou, Archivist

The Academy sits directly across Fifth Avenue from one of the loveliest areas in Central Park: the Conservatory Garden. It’s a favorite lunchtime spot for Academy librarians, and lately we’ve been enjoying an array of avian visitors. We’re in the midst of fall migration and New York City is on the Atlantic Flyaway bird migration route, with hundreds of species of birds flying through.

Inspired by our feathered friends, I want to highlight a series of reports on New York state wildlife published in the 19th century that also features hundreds of species of birds, along with other animals, plants, minerals, fossils, and more. In 1836, the New York State Legislature approved a plan to conduct a geological and natural history survey of the state. This survey took place from 1836 through 1840 and resulted in an epic 22-volume set of reports on New York’s zoology, botany, mineralogy, geology, agriculture, and paleontology, published from 1842 through 1867.

Left: Plate 81, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, & Great White Heron; Right: Plate 118, Ruddy Duck & Buffle-headed Duck.

The survey was part of a larger trend of state sponsored geological and natural history surveys, beginning with North Carolina’s geological survey in 1823. For the most part, these surveys focused on geological resources. As F. C. Newcombe points out in a 1913 Science article, the earliest surveys were comprehensive, writing “the prevailing idea in these early surveys in the various states seems to have been what we may designate by the word recognizance, including geology, physiography, botany, and zoology.” Over time, the scope of the surveys narrowed. Newcombe laments the decline in zoological and botanical efforts, though he singles out New York as “the only example known to the writer that from the first has continued its natural history studies.”[1]*

Left: Plate 137, Red-throated Loon & Great Loon; Right: Plate 40, Red-bellied Nuthatch & Red-throated Hummingbird.

Economic interests figured highly in New York’s survey, but it was also prompted by a desire for scientific knowledge. Curiously, the work begins with a far-reaching, 178 page introduction by Governor William H. Seward, detailing such varied topics as “a geographical and political description of the state;” “a notice of the theological profession;” “an account of the formation and establishment of the constitution of the United States;” and “notices of the application of the steam engine to navigation.” It is not until page 174 that Seward begins to discuss the survey, writing of geological studies that preceded it and the surveys of other states. Seward briefly describes some of the geological and mineralogical discoveries (including the disappointment of not finding coal) and makes little mention of other kinds of natural resources.

Left: Plate 50, Spotted Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, & Black-throated Green Warbler; Right: Plate 79, American Ring Plover, Black-breasted Snipe, Killdeer.

Still, the survey did include zoology, botany, and even paleontology. The zoological study was led by the zoologist James E. De Kay and the reports were published in 5 parts, covering mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, fish, and mollusks and crustaceans.  All are beautifully illustrated, but the volume on birds is the largest, with 141 hand-colored lithograph plates. As De Kay explains in his preface, the illustrations are by the artist J. W. Hill and most were based on a living animal or mounted specimens. Initially, the illustrations were meant to be engravings and most of the mammals are engraved, but due to the expense and time involved, they switched to lithographs. There was some anxiety over this change, and De Kay writes “We hope that in the lithographies furnished by Mr. G. Endicott, the naturalist will not regret a departure from the original plan.” I can’t claim to be a naturalist, but I don’t think he should have worried; the plates are almost as striking as the birds we see in the park.

Left: Plate 18, Yellow-bellied Woodpecker & Crested Woodpecker; Right: Plate 4, Pigeon Hawk & Cooper’s Hawk.

[1] Newcombe, F. C. “The Scope and Method of State Natural History Surveys.” Science, New Series, No. 956 (Apr. 25, 1913), pp. 615-622. Retrieved 9/21/2017.

* The work of the New York State Natural History Survey continues today in the New York State Museum; the Museum was established as part of the survey in 1836.

Open Access to Your State Medical Society Journals

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

In 2015, The New York Academy of Medicine Library embarked on a mass digitization project with the Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation consortium.  Over the course of two years, the Academy Library along with MHL collaborators digitized state society medical journals from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  The Academy Library contributed state medical journals from 37 states, which accounted for 716 volumes of the digitized content now available.   Today, you can find, 97 titles, 3,816 volumes and almost 3 million pages of digitized journals on the Internet Archive.

Digitizing the medical journals of state societies has been an amazing experience for the Library and it is a significant contribution to preserving our cultural heritage and making it accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  Researchers and the general public now have access to a major resource on medical history that includes journals from the 19th and the 20th centuries that would not otherwise be available to the public.  “One of the great values of having the state medical journals online is the willingness to provide full-text digital content for materials that would normally be available only with limited content because they are still in copyright,” says Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian.

Dr. Daniel Goldberg, Associate Professor at University of Colorado, Denver and 2016 Academy Library Helfand Fellow, agrees:

“As an intellectual historian, medical journals in general are really important for my work because they can reveal much about significant ideas and concepts circulating in medical discourse.  I am working on several projects where the specific local and state histories are crucial to the story I am trying to tell, so having full access to digitized state medical journals will be enormously helpful.  I continue to be so grateful for the important work of the MHL and its partners!”

A quick exploration of the journals can be the catalyst for a deeper research project across many disciplines.  For example, what style and design trends can be identified from the covers of the Illinois Medical Journal?

Illinois Medical Journal through the years.

We invite you to explore the journals, use them, and share with us how they’ve impacted your work: https://archive.org/details/nyamlibrary

Charles Terry Butler and the “War before the War”

By Paul Theerman, Associate Director

The centenary of the United States entry into World War I was this past April. But wars—even those having such sharp cease-fires as this one did, on November 11, 1918—rarely have well-defined beginnings and endings. Even before the official American entry, Americans served in France from the outbreak of the war in 1914. Expats in Paris formed the American Ambulance (the term then meant field hospital), which spun off the American Field Service, charged with transporting wounded soldiers from the front line and providing immediate care. In direct combat, the famed Lafayette Escadrille was founded in 1916, made up of volunteer American air fighters under French command, who battled the Germans up until actual American military deployment two years later. And in the realm of battlefield medicine and surgery, Americans served as volunteers in France from 1914 up to 1917. One of the most noted was Dr. Joseph A. Blake (1864–1937) who, at the outbreak of war, resigned from his prominent surgical positions at Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and went to France. There he successively headed up three volunteer hospitals in Neuilly, Ris-Orangis, and Paris, up until his induction to the American military medical corps in August 1917 where he continued his work.


“Merry Christmas to J.A.B” [Joseph A. Blake, chief surgeon and hospital director], December 1916. Image: Charles Terry Butler papers, New York Academy of Medicine Library.

Blake had an outstanding reputation, so much so that he readily attracted both funds and workers. One such surgeon was Charles Terry Butler (1889–1980) whose memoir, A Civilian in Uniform (1975), and personal papers are held in the Academy Library. Butler was born in Yonkers, New York, to a prominent family. He was the son of lawyer William Allen Butler, Jr., whose father, William Allen Butler, Sr., both lawyer and author, was himself the son of Benjamin Franklin Butler, U.S. attorney general in the Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren administrations. Charles Butler led a life among the New York elite. As one example, he remembers that his family hosted William Howard Taft to dinner during his presidency.[1] Butler went to Princeton University, where he graduated in 1912, and then to medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After his graduation in 1916, he was due to take up an internship at Presbyterian Hospital that July. He postponed it to January in order to serve under Blake, then at the Anglo-French volunteer hospital in Ris-Orangis, France, some 25 miles southeast of Paris. As Butler put it:

My two year internship would be put off six months, but here was the opportunity to learn the treatment of serious war wounds under a great surgeon, perhaps my only chance to have such training, and if the United States were forced into the war, I would be much more useful to the Army.[2]

Blake promised Butler scant remuneration, 400 francs travel expenses each way, and 100 francs a month salary, relying on his “contribution” to aid the cause.[3]


Charles Terry Butler identity card for Ris-Orangis hospital, June 1916. Image: Charles Terry Butler papers, New York Academy of Medicine Library.

Butler left for Liverpool on May 27, and—after a long period of negotiating his credentials to enter France, as authorities were concerned about German infiltrators—he arrived at the Ris-Orangis hospital on June 10. A converted college, long empty before its refitting, the hospital was organized by two English patrons and operated by private donations and support from the French military. The hospital held about 200 beds, with a surgical theater and supporting radiology and bacteriological facilities, as well as, of course, kitchens and laundries.

with patient_watermark

Charles Terry Butler dressing a wound with the aid of two nurses, 1916. Image: Charles Terry Butler papers, New York Academy of Medicine Library.


A recovery ward, 1916. The flags of Britain and France are mounted at the window, as this hospital was a joint effort: operated within the French military hospital system, sponsored by private British philanthropy, and staffed by American surgeons. Image: Charles Terry Butler papers, New York Academy of Medicine Library.

Butler’s letters home trace his awakening to war and medicine. Within a week, he wrote to his uncle Clare:

The hospital has about 200 beds, and on my arrival I was put in charge of two wards with over 90 beds and some 80-odd patients. It was some contract to start with, and for two or three days I hardly knew whether I was coming or going. I did about forty dressings a morning with three nurses to help me, and two getting their patients ready for dressing ahead of me and bandaging up when I was through. It took over three hours of hard, steady work.[4]

After a month, to his mother:

Last Sunday, 65 new blessés arrive—the majority of them frightfully wounded. They come by ambulance from a distributing railroad station some 6–7 kilometers away. Arriving in bunches of four or eight, they are sent immediately to their beds. Most of the orderlies had been given leave that day, so we doctors had to turn to and help carry them to the wards. (It isn’t particularly easy carrying a large man on a heavy stretcher with his trappings up three flights of stairs.) There they are undressed; their clothes put in a bag, tagged, and sent to be sterilized and cleaned; and then bathed. . . . The next thing is food. Many have not had anything for 24 hours or more while en route from the front or the last hospital. Then the surgeon comes along. Dressings, casts, splints, etc. are removed so as to see the condition and nature of the injury. It would be impossible to describe the state of some of the wounds—many not having been dressed for several days, some even for 10 or 14 days. A hasty and rather superficial cleansing must suffice for the time being, until the patient comes back from the X-ray room. … All the wounds are terribly infected, and a large percentage have foreign bodies (balls, pieces of shell, clothing, stones, dirt, etc., etc.) lodged…. [Surgery followed, aided by X-ray and fluoroscopy.] The recoveries are wonderful. Men whom no one would expect to live, ordinarily, in a civil hospital, hang by a hair for days and come around O.K.[5]

Butler noted that the average length of stay at the hospital was almost 50 days.

lg group_watermark

The staff of the Ris-Orangis Hospital, 1916. Dr. Joseph A. Blake, director, is the central figure (second row, seated); Charles Terry Butler is the third man to his left. Image: Charles Terry Butler papers, New York Academy of Medicine Library.

Ris-Orangis was considered one of the most successful hospitals in the war. [One of the founders, Harold J. Reckitt, wrote a detailed history of the hospital, V.R. 76: A French Military Hospital (1921)]. Butler spent most of his time dressing wounds, with little occasion for actual surgery. He returned to New York in January 1917 to take up his internship at Presbyterian. But upon the American entry into the war in April 1917, he was commissioned a first lieutenant with the United States Medical Corps, serving into 1919—the topic of a future blogpost. Butler’s experience at Ris-Orangis was crucial to his surgical accomplishments in this second phase of war service. After the war, he entered private practice, but by 1923 ill health—apparently resulting from wartime conditions—led Butler to retire. Moving to the Ojai Valley of Ventura County, California, he became a prominent civic and cultural leader up to his death in 1980.

[1] Butler, Charles Terry. A Civilian in Uniform. Butler, 1975, p. 28.
[2] A Civilian in Uniform, p. 49.
[3] Blake to Butler, 29 April 1916, A Civilian in Uniform, p. 49.
[4] Butler to “Uncle Clare” [Clarence Lyman Collins (1848–1922)], 17 June 1916, A Civilian in Uniform, p. 57.
[5] Butler to “mother” [Louise Terry Collins (1855–1922)], 7 July 1916, A Civilian in Uniform, p. 62–64.

Charles Terry Butler, “Ris-Orangis, France, 1916,” photographic album. Charles Terry Butler papers. New York Academy of Medicine Library.

So, You Want to Build a Digital Program? (Part 2)

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital and Audrey Sage Lorberfeld, Digital Technical Specialist

This is the second in a two-part series on the creation of the Academy Library’s Digital Collections and Exhibits website. Part 1 is here.

Sometimes opportunities arise that you just can’t pass up. In late May 2017, our Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Anne Garner, suggested a digital exhibit of items from our collection that would showcase the history behind many of the magical elements from J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter series; and suggested its launch coincide with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone‘s 20th anniversary on June 26. While we were a new digital team of two with new digitization equipment, we were up for the challenge. That is how we wound up creating the online exhibit, “From Basilisks to Bezoars: The Surprising History of Harry Potter’s Magical World,” in a mere 6 weeks.

Leo, Astronomicae Veteres_watermark

Leo from Aldus Manutius’ Astronomici veteres (1499).

Our first stop was to Garner, who, within a week and a half, handpicked two objects (including our infamous bezoar) and 34 images from over 20 different books  for us to digitize. While we were hustling to photograph these items in the lab, Garner was busy creating robust image metadata for us to ingest into Islandora. Next, we got to work churning out XML records through the use of OpenRefine and an Apple script, and then we were in the quality assurance phase. Once everything was checked, it was time to launch!

Of course, there were bumps along the road, too. At one point, we realized we had digitized the wrong phoenix! At another point, we had to go into all of our XML records and manually add in a download button. There were also some late Friday and Sunday nights spent working on our laptops to make the collection as perfect as possible. Bumps notwithstanding, we launched on-time, and the collection received a lot of great attention.[1]


Anne Garner takes us through the images she has selected for digitization for our Harry Potter-inspired collection.

So, what did we learn from the launch of our digital program? We quickly discovered that it takes time and skill to create metadata. Both Garner and our Head of Cataloging, Rebecca Filner, expertly provided us with extremely detailed metadata for our current collections. Even in its quickest iteration, metadata-creation takes weeks![2]

We also learned that no digitized image is wasted. As we mentioned in Part 1, many of the digitized rare books with which we launched our Digital Collections were photographed for a separate project the Library had completed a few years earlier. The photographs were impeccable, so why double the work? Instead, we used what the photographer, Ardon Bar-Hama, gave us and co-opted these previously-shot images for our Digital Collection site. (Some notable examples are the Apicius and the Guy de Chauliac.)


Our Head of Digital, Robin Naughton, trying out the new equipment.

And finally, we learned that the easiest part of the digitization process is photographing the items. As long as your equipment works, you are good to go! We received training by our expert Conservation staff in how to handle rare items, and we hit the ground running.

For those wishing to start a digital lab in your library, we have some hard-earned advice, all of which focuses on communication and outreach (the tech is the easy part!):

First, reach out to local colleagues who have been doing this longer than you. We visited many digital labs before our launch, including the beautiful labs at Columbia University, The Frick Art Reference Library, and the Museum of the City of New York. Each lab had a different setup, different workflows, and different amounts of staff with unique backgrounds. Without this exploratory research, we have no doubts our lab would not have done as well as it has.

Second, join listservs. Without the listservs to which we subscribe, we would not have gained nearly as much knowledge as we did before launch. Two great listservs to join are ALA’s digipres listserv and the ImageMuse Yahoo group’s listserv. We even reached out to a wonderful colleague from Coastal Carolina University because we admired how he used OpenRefine and the command line to batch-create and –export XML metadata records. He shared his script with us, and the rest is history. We now use his workflow in our lab for nearly every project.


Now we are even sharing our knowledge with others!

Third: join or create a digitization-related community in your area. By way of using the free, open-source Islandora platform for our digital collections, we became part of a very active and supportive network of Islandora admins, managers, developers, and vendors around the world. While that is incredible, it is also nice to have a support system in your own backyard. So, we co-founded the New York City Islandora Working Group with some colleagues from other institutions. Our group is open to anyone, regardless of whether they currently use Islandora. We meet once per month and share skills, ask each other questions, and, of course, eat pizza and sip wine together. It’s one of the most worthwhile professional endeavors we have been a part of, and our members have been instrumental in getting our lab up and running.

The secret to success really is communication. Talk to people, and you will learn so much!


[1] “Study for your O.W.L.s with Library’s Harry Potter-Themed Online Collection” (DNAInfo); “There’s a New Digital Harry Potter Book Collection from NYC’s New York Academy of Medicine Library” (untapped cities); “Celebrating 20 Years of the Philosopher’s Stone Inside the Mini-Hogwarts in New York City” (The Verge); “Attention Harry Potter Fans: There’s A Mini-Hogwarts In East Harlem” (Gothamist)
[2] For those library-science fans among you, why didn’t we just pull the metadata from our online catalog? We did! But we encountered a lot of library-speak that we did away with for our Digital Collections audience and wanted to add some new metadata.