May brought us flowers and a lot to celebrate on social media!
Throughout the month of May we observed Mental Health Awareness Month. This included sharing information and graphics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. On May 11, we observed National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Kids often imitate adult behavior. Passing down healthy habits, including ones related to mental health, is imperative!
The popularity of Star Wars continues to this day. Just after the movie’s premiere in the late 1970’s, President Carter and the National Immunization Program asked the film’s two droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, to star in a campaign promoting immunization. A television commercial and a poster were made for this, with the latter in our collection.
School nurses are some of the first healthcare workers that children meet. On May 10th we celebrated them. National School Nurses Day invites us to thank these caregivers. This photograph from Health Work in the Schools by Ernest Bryant Hoag and Lewis M. Terman shows a school nurse in action.
Who better than to help us celebrate Mother’s Day and Women’s Health Week than the Roman goddess of women’s health, Juno. She made her appearance in 1950 at the Cleveland Health Museum, helping to explain how the female body worked.
Do you like foraging for your food? Then you probably celebrated National Mushroom Hunting Day on May 17th. The Field Book of Common Gilled Mushrooms by William S. Thomas helps you identify which you can eat and which you cannot!
World Goth Day happened on May 22nd. The macabre is at the forefront of this often-misunderstood subculture. We showed off some of the many skeletons in our collection, including this from The Last Will and Testament of Basil Valentine by Basil Valentine.
One of New York City’s prominent bridges, The Brooklyn Bridge, celebrated its 140th birthday on May 24th. It appears on a card from our William H. Helfand Pharmaceutical Trade Card collection promoting Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.
International Plastic Free Day on May 25th seeks to have at least one day without single-use plastics. The day usually falls around Memorial Day, a long weekend often spent enjoying picnics, the beach, or hiking, all occasions tempting us to be wasteful. To keep on enjoying, we need to squash the usage of these products.
Throughout the month, artists used the hashtag and prompt #MerMay as a creative inspiration signaling mermaids and mermen. Towards the end of the month, we shared another image from the Helfand Trade Card collection, this one featuring the aquatic folk using Ayer’s Hair Vigor to attract sailors.
Finally, we are counting down the days until Museum Mile Festival 2023! On Tuesday, June 13th, cultural institutions along Museum Mile on 5th Avenue will be celebrating with extended hours, giveaways, and a look inside the collections. The NYAM Library will be set up at 103rd and 5th—come visit us!
The New York Academy of Medicine Library posts updates like this throughout the week. We can be found online over at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Check back here or on our social media for more chances for a look inside our collection!
Since 1949, May has been recognized in the United States as Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Association for Mental Health, now Mental Health America, set up the month of educational events to clear up misconceptions about mental health and provide resources to those who need them.
The knowledge of public health is always changing. What may have been taken as fact years ago is not necessarily the truth now. This is true for understanding mental health, or formerly, mental hygiene.
The goal of this conference was what the public could do regarding their own mental health. They came up with six tenets.
While worded harshly in today’s terms, these suggestions try to offer a compassionate understanding of mental illness. The fourth, “Speak and think of insanity as a disease and not as a crime,” stands out as something we continue to struggle with today.
One of the forefathers of the mental health awareness movement would not be considered a traditional mental health expert. Clifford Whittingham Beers was born in 1896. Mental illness ran in his family. He himself served several stints in mental institutions. Upon the cruel treatment inflicted upon him at these hospitals, he went on to write a memoir on the subject. In A Mind That Found Itself, he writes of the degradation that he and his fellow patients were subject to. This memoir was key to providing a voice for those who were afraid to speak of their own illness. In 1909 Beers founded the organization now called Mental Health America.
Since the publication of Beers’ book, several writers have explored their own experience. These mental health memoirs offer both guidance and companionship to those who also suffer. They provide maps for those who care about those who may be suffering and allows a peek inside minds that many cannot comprehend.
Some of these authors bring humor to their reflections. Two funny people wrote about their own struggles. Kevin Breel is a Canadian comedian. He also suffers from depression. His memoir, Boy Meets Depression, allows readers into the mind of someone who experienced the mental illness early on in life. Sara Benincasa is known for being a comical blogger. Her own memoir Agorafabulous! reveals her fight with depression as well as agoraphobia, the fear of leaving one’s house.
Graphic memoirs allow us to see with the author’s vision. In dealing with mental health, we get to experience dark visions or the physical manifestation of anguish.
The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino starts off with a hospitalization. After his illness, Porcellino‘’s health didn’t get better. His brief stint had taken a toll on his mental health. He writes about the experience of his recovery from an obsessive-compulsive episode. Porcellino is candid about his struggles and his fears of his bouts recurring.
Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before her thirteenth birthday. Afraid of stunting her creativity, she seeks treatment that will help her fulfill her potential. She begins to look at other artists who have suffered from mental illness. Finding all minds are different, she wonders what’s going to be best for her. Forney takes us on her personal highs and lows in Marbles.
Towards the end of his work on the epidemic of mental fatigue and pressure, People Under Pressure, Albert M. Barrett, MD, offered a sympathetic take on mental health challenges. For fifteen years prior to his 1960 publication, he worked alongside counselors and therapists. Barrett urges us to consider a different point of view. He writes, “For no man is an island, and the relief we provide other human beings will reflect itself in our own peace of mind.” Compassion is vital towards greater public health.
Barrett, Albert M. People under Pressure. College and University Press, 1960.
Benincasa, Sara. Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2013.
Breel, Kevin. Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Die Live. Harmony Books, 2015.
Clifford, Beers W. A Mind That Found Itself; an Autobiography. Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908.
Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me: A Graphic Memoir. Gotham Books, 2012.
National Committee for Mental Hygiene, and State Charities Aid Association (N.Y.). Committee on Mental Hygiene. Proceedings of the Mental Hygiene Conference and Exhibit at the College of the City of New York…. Committee on Mental Hygiene of the State Charities Aid Association, 1912.
Porcellino, John. The Hospital Suite. Drawn & Quarterly, 2014.
My name is Anthony Murisco. I am the Public Engagement Librarian here at NYAM. A few weeks back, we celebrated Pi Day by baking a couple of pies. I wanted to share my own experience.
For those who may not know or need a refresher, Pi is a mathematical constant. The symbol π, the Greek letter for P, represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. The ratio will always be π. When written out, π is approximately 3.14. π is an irrational number, whose decimal form continues forever, which is why a shorter form is used. Hence March 14, 3/14, is known as Pi Day.
Pi Day is a celebration of all things mathematical as well as that certain baked good. Pi and pie not only share a name but are both circular. While the holiday may have earlier origins, the first recorded celebration was heralded by physicist Larry Shaw in 1988. When discussing the “mysteries of pi” with a colleague, he realized the irrational number has some rationality to it! In an effort to make learning math fun, he conducted the first Pi Day celebration with his class. The event, now celebrated by math enthusiasts all over, includes reciting the value of π to as many decimal places as one can, a real memorization challenge, and of course, pie tasting.
What better way to celebrate than by baking a pie? This year, this was my task. The New York Academy of Medicine Library has a plethora of recipe books, some more than 200 years old. A selection of these books has been shared before, on social media, in this very blog, and even on our digital exhibition. Here was one of the first attempts of our staff making a dish!
After searching through several books and finding only savory recipes, our Historical Collections Reference Librarian, Arlene Shaner, discovered what I was looking for. In the 1824 edition of The Virginia house-wife lay a recipe for simply “Apple Pie.”
Mary Randolph first published The Virginia Housewife in 1824. Its popularity led to several editions and reprints. The Virginia housewife, or Methodical Cook was the first of its kind, a published manual of recipes and housekeeping tips that would later surge and create an industry. This was the perfect book to make a pie from.
The book featured three different recipes. Only one specified that it was a pie. Arlene predicted that the second recipe was for pie filling. She is an experienced baker. She went with that one. I had never baked a pie before. I didn’t want to do anything wrong. I stuck with Randolph’s “Apple Pie.”
I looked at the recipe to make a list of ingredients. Apples. Cloves. It called for “powdered sugar.” And rose water. I stopped by my local pop-up market and got four large red delicious apples. Each looked almost double the size of a single apple. Surely this would be enough! Powdered sugar and whole cloves were easy to get. It wasn’t on my list but, I opted for a pre-made crust. While I know that pre-made is not ideal, I had never made a crust before. I would have needed even further directions! If store-bought is fine for Ina Garten, it would be good enough for me. The rose water ended up being the most elusive ingredient in my neighborhood. After several failed shopping trips, I contemplated looking up replacements. I ended up finding rose water downtown at a hip chain grocery store.
Having never baked like this before, I tried to stick exactly to the recipe. The years of doing mail-in meal services will do that to you! Without the exact measurements, I was left a little confused—how would I know how much to use?
The Virginia House-wife and other older cookbooks are not specific with their instructions. There’s a notion that you have some culinary instinct if you are reading it. The recipes are a supplement to your knowledge. Randolph did not foresee someone like me, a beginner, taking on the challenge.
During the filling of the crust, I noticed, two apples in, that I should have gotten more apples. I’ve seen pies filled before with an arrangement of the fruit, a kind of beautiful Busby Berkeley dance. This was not my case. Still, I used what I had! While the apples didn’t fill the pie completely, it wasn’t as empty as I had feared.
When I discussed my experience with Arlene, she told me that the powdered sugar I used was the wrong ingredient. Powdered sugar today is not the same as it was then. In the past, you would get a loaf of sugar, scrape off what you needed, and “powder” the cake that way. It was more akin to granulated sugar today. Modern-day powdered sugar, or confectioners’ sugar, quickly dissolves and tends to absorb the moisture. Though the pie tasted good, I had given it a different spin. I think that may have been Randolph’s goal. She doesn’t want to tell you exactly how to bake or cook, she just gives you some general directions.
While it may not have looked the best, that didn’t matter. The pie I made was tasty. The powdered sugar dried up some of the apples. I also put too many cloves. This led to quite a spicy taste.
Since 2020, Dr. Rachel Snell, a historian, has been working her way throughThe Virginia house-wife. Using two editions, 1824 and 1838, she created “The Virginia Housewife Project” to explore the recipes while investigating ideas of domesticity and the history of each recipe. I wish I had seen her blog prior to making the pie, so I could have prepared a little more!
I hope to be able to share more of these recipes in the future. In the meantime, please check out our digital collection of cookbooks. Maybe something will inspire a course for your dinner tonight!
Before the written word, we relied on our stories being passed down orally. These tales were meant to explain and justify the mysteries of the world around us. Fables, folksongs, and myths are examples of these. Our common superstitions act as bite-sized versions of this folklore.
While every month has its sayings , March is known specifically for two. “Beware the ides of March,” comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Rome’s dictator hears these words from a mysterious oracle on the day that he was assassinated. Through the years the saying has trickled down into our collective lexicon. It warns of caution towards the middle of March; the Ides fall on the 15th.
The other common saying is “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” It’s included in various compendiums of popular superstitions without any specific origin. It makes sense, though, that after the destruction of crops by killing frost, the fresh fertility of the land brings to mind an innocent animal. Lambs have long had religious symbolism for innocence and these animals were also a sign of luck. The first lamb of Spring meant good fortune, specifically if it faced you. If it was caught looking away, that was thought less lucky . After this yearly demise of crops, “luck” was needed. Previously March had been known as “boisterous” month in the Middle Ages, as well as the “windy” month in the revolutionary calendar of the first French republic.
Academic, teacher, and author Dr. Frank Clyde Brown started to accumulate folklore related to his state of North Carolina. On the advice of the American Folklore Society, he created the North Carolina Folklore Society in the early 1910s. He collected state-specific stories, songs, and tales from about 1910 to 1940. When he died in 1943, the collection became known as the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore.
Brown’s collection was published almost twenty years after his death as Popular Beliefs and Superstitions from North Carolina. Upon its publication, the work is believed to have been the “first general work along comparative lines” of specifically American proverbs. Included in this collection is a longer saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. If March comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion.” For the most part, we don’t hear the second sentence anymore. Our predecessors believed in explanations for all of life’s occurrences and often arrived at the answer of balance: if a month began with a storm, surely it would end brightly and sunny! Perhaps for snappier flow, lines needed excision.
That’s not to say that these sayings are not around anymore! Nor does it negate their kernels of truth, some based on observed early science. We still circulate many of these whether it be in the water cooler at work or shared on social media. It is important to place these within context. We now know that they are not to be taken as facts but rather as what was once believed to be facts.
As the dreaded ides of March draw near, we offer up a few more of these sayings from the Brown Collection to celebrate the month:
-A thunderstorm in March indicates an early spring. -A windy March and a rainy April make a beautiful May (Also, March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers). -The first thunderstorm in March wakes up the alligators. -Fog in March; Frost in May. -The better the hunter you are, and the more you know about wild things, the surer you are that all rabbits turn to “he-ones” in March. -If you plant seeds on St. Patrick’s Day, they will grow better. -A dry March never begs bread. -Frost never kills fruit in March, no matter how full the tree blooms.
And for those hoping for a fruitful March, I leave you with -To make cabbage seed grow, sow them in your night clothes on March seventeenth.
Now “175 years young,” the NYAM Library is one of the most significant historical medical libraries in the world. In an earlier post, we looked at how we came to that position. Now I’d like to look to explore where we are now, and where we might go in the future.
Every good special collections library has a distinct identity, focused around its collections. This is ours: we are a research library holding medical and public health literature ranging from the earliest days of printing to the early years of the 21st century. Though formed by many forces, our collection now exists to serve the advanced academic humanities researcher in a variety of disciplines, chiefly the history of medicine and public health. Much of our collection is rare, such many of the books published before 1800, or the 6,000 journal runs found in fewer than four libraries throughout the country; some of it is unique, such as the Smith papyrus, the ancient Egyptian surgical text, and the 9th-century cookbook, Apicius’ De re culinaria. To support this identity, we continue to add to our collections, selectively, focusing on books and other materials that are not found locally, and may be rare nationally. This year so far, we have added seven rare and historical books, including a 17th-century treatise on the plague, an 18th-century book on retaining one’s reason into old age, and a 19th-century promotional pamphlet on curing chronic disease. Collecting physical books remains crucial. Not all the medical literature of the past has been digitized, and reading the bare information contained in the words of the text does not begin to exhaust the experience of learning from a physical book.
Supporting academic research into the collections is important. The Library awards two residential fellowships annually, the Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellowship and the Paul Klemperer Fellowship, each supporting a month’s work. Our application period for 2023 Fellowships just closed and our review committee is now working through the applications. Through our participation in the academic group, the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHSTM), we serve as a venue for their fellows as well, both short-term exploratory visits as well as longer term research trips.
Why support academic research? Historical scholars lay the groundwork and generate the ideas that will inform discussions in the years to come. The discipline of history provides a particular lens through which to understand our society today—and the role of medicine and public health in shaping society and being shaped by it, a central concern before the COVID-19 pandemic, brought even more sharply into relief since. Scholarly research may start in the rarefied atmosphere of academia, but that’s where concepts are developed and refined, and then honed through vigorous debate. As ideas emerge, they are picked up by thought leaders and informed citizens, and they help to shape the shared understanding and open debate of a healthy society. The Library does its part, not only in supporting academic scholars, but also in presenting their work: both our Fellows’ works-in-progress talks, part of their fellowship experience, and in lively series of more popular yet academically based talks . In 2018 we started the programmatic series Race and Health, followed in 2022 by Then and Now, pairing academic historians with public health researchers and policymakers, so that each may learn from the other, and the audience may learn from both.
What’s next for the Library in its support of academic work? Certainly continuing to add to the collections; and certainly continuing to award fellowships and welcome researchers. We will also continue our work behind-the-scenes: cataloging our holdings, so that everyone will know that we have them, and conserving our books, so that researchers of the future can use them too.
But the future should not be just more of the same! We want to support our academic researchers better going forward. How can we not just support individual researchers, but develop and sustain a creative intellectual community that can spark ideas and deepen understanding? How can we find the hidden voices in our collections, which have been smoothed over by the descriptive practices of the past? How can we supplement those voices now, by going beyond the printed word? These are all serious questions. Over the next decade, I hope we can dig more deeply and understand our collections better, to serve our users better. I hope we can find a way to support more research in our reading room, and even commission oral histories, as history starts just in the last moment.
The second great strand of the Library’s work is connecting the public with our collection. Our work is broad-based. Our practice of hosting school groups and providing tours goes back decades. While we had to pause this work during the pandemic, we then started “Virtual Visits”: online explorations of collection materials around a common theme. This past year, class visits have started up again in earnest, opening the worlds of the past through our books and images—for college students—while we offer everyone drop-in tours on the first Monday of each month.
Engaging with the physical book is important—for everyone, and for many reasons. In an increasingly digital world, we tend to think of facts, ideas, opinions, and images as disembodied—unmoored from the circumstances of production, distribution, and presentation—and therefore, mistakenly, as more authoritative. The reality of books (even acknowledging how books’ have their own ways of asserting authority) helps bring matters down to earth. Beyond that, books have a particular beauty. But this I mean not only the beauty of a well-crafted binding, or a pleasing or dramatic illustration, or a fine type-face—though I do mean those qualities, best appreciated with an authentic piece, not a facsimile, digital or otherwise. Part of the beauty of books comes rather from different qualities: its heft; a variety of different sizes of books; the thinness or thickness of the paper, and its quality, brightness, look, and feel; an exemplary job of printing and binding, or, alternately, signs of wear caused by generations of use; or even the gradual unfolding of the text as one turns from one page to the next—or bounces around, going forward and backward, engaging with the text physically while one engages with it intellectually. I should add: to appreciate the book is not to disparage the digital revolution—digital texts provide ways of advancing both intellectual and aesthetic life that are different from traditional books. In many ways digital books are better, but in many ways they are not—their experience is often “flatter.” As a society, we have room for both experiences of knowledge.
Libraries like the Academy’s are well-positioned to provide an exemplary experience of books and other library materials. Our collection is both deep and broad, even with its medical focus. And while many people may not have had an experience of a Renaissance-era oversize anatomical atlas, say, or 19th-century patent medicine ads, or 20th-century pamphlets on improving one’s health, because these materials are no longer common—well, we have them! Beyond this, though, current teenagers’ chief literary experience may well be digital, a trend that only promises to grow. We can provide students, and lifelong learners as well, with an experience not otherwise readily available: not just the book itself—though we can do that—and not just the content of the book—though we can do that, too—but also the deeper experience of understanding the book: how it came about, how it was used, how it’s made, and how it’s conserved. As other libraries empty their shelves and go all-digital, the Academy Library has an increasingly rare and valuable perspective to offer.
How can we do this better? We could engage more people in more ways. Digital products reach a broad swath of people and can draw them to the Library for an in-person experience. Hybrid models could be explored and exploited, for example marrying larger digital exhibits on expansive themes, with smaller physical displays and personal tours. We could explore taking our materials out to the community, rather than always asking people to come our way. We could make a concerted effort to find ways for all facets of society to encounter our collections. All these are possibilities, many of them being investigated and developed elsewhere. We should be actively exploring what works for us at the Academy Library.
I’m excited about the Academy Library, not just what we are doing now but what lies ahead of us. Keep connected and see what comes next!
On Wednesday, September 21, the Academy Library celebrates its achievements and looks to the future. Join us for a festive evening with a chance to meet the NYAM Library Team and explore a special display of some of our rare treasures. Register here.
Over the last 175 years, the Academy Library has built one of the premier medical collections in the United States, expanded its reach beyond the Academy to the world, and reinvented its mission.
Set up at the Academy’s founding in 1847 to support the Fellows’ continuing education, the Library sought to build a collection of the latest medical books and journals. The first item in its collection was Dr. Martyn Paine’s Medical and Physiological Commentaries (1840), followed by many more, growing to over 200,000 volumes today. The centerpiece of the medical library, though, was the medical journal, the avenue to the most up-to-date medical thinking. The Library’s journal collections comprise some 22,000 different journals, published on every continent except Antarctica, in dozens of languages. Collecting was extensive: the journals take up six floors of stacks; both books and journals number over 550,000 volumes. In addition, the Library has collected hundreds of thousands of pamphlets—a favorite 19th– and early 20th-century format—as well as 275,000 medically related illustrations. By the 1950s, the Academy Library was one of the largest medical libraries in the country.
In 1878, the Academy opened the Library to the public, and began to serve not just the Fellows, but also the larger medical community, inquisitive citizens, and historical researchers. By the turn of the 20th century, we were seen as complementing the New York Public Library; our scope reached beyond the city to the tri-state region. By the middle of the 20th century, our range expanded to the nation and beyond, as the Library became part of broader networks of libraries—medical and otherwise—that made our resources available to everyone. U.S. medical libraries coordinated their efforts under the leadership of the National Library of Medicine (which Academy Library director Janet Doe helped organize in its present form). The NYAM Library began to participate in the nationwide medical interlibrary system through NLM’s DOCLINE and, as one of NLM’s Regional Medical Libraries, organized training and outreach efforts for the medical libraries of the northeast. The digital revolution made this expansion possible—the same revolution that now brings medical information to people’s home computers.
In the 1990s, like many other leading medical libraries, we took on innovative projects to use the internet to collect new forms of medical information and to reach audiences in new ways. The Library was one of the founders of NOAH (New York Online Access to Health Information), started in 1994 as an early effort to present accurate medical information online. In 1999 it started the Grey Literature Report, an online database gathering and indexing the rarely-collected studies and articles published by foundations and other nonprofits. Through these and many other projects, the Library moved with the times. Even so, as medical books and especially journals moved into the digital realm, and as access to this literature increasingly came through medical schools and hospitals, the NYAM Library found its primary mission supplanted. People got their medical information elsewhere.
Alongside the Library’s mission to provide up-to-date medical information was its promotion of history. From the late 19th century, the Library began to collect the classics of medicine, supporting the public persona, in the words of John Harley Warner, “of the clinician who embodied not only the precision of [the] scientist but also the sensibility of the gentleman,” seeing history “as a wellspring of connectedness.” The Library’s rare book collection grew from donations and exchanges, including among esteemed physician-collectors, such as Sir William Osler and Academy Librarian Dr. Archibald Malloch. A series of remarkable gifts and purchases in the mid-20th century greatly expanded the Academy’s unique and rare holdings: the Edward Clark Streeter Collection of rare medical books, with many from the 15th century; the Margaret Barclay Wilson collection of food and cookery, which brought the 9th-century manuscript cookbook the Apicius to the Library; the Robert Levy collection on 17th-century physician William Harvey, discoverer of the circulation of the blood; the Fenwick Beekman collection on 18th-century Scottish surgeon John Hunter; and perhaps the most valuable of the Library’s holdings, the Edwin Smith Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian work on wounds from about 1600 BCE, the oldest known surgical text in the world. Manuscript and archival collections, such as the Michael M. Davis papers on medical economics, supported historical research as well.
The Academy’s new 1926 building provided dedicated spaces for rare books, and medical history and bibliography; the Academy’s 1933 addition created the Rare Book and History Room for study and seminars, designed after an Elizabethan library. From 1930 on, the Library published its History of Medicine book series, which concluded in 1989 after 53 volumes. Public lectures, some radio-broadcast, explored historical topics. Starting in 1996, the Library hosted a residential fellowship in the history of medicine and public health, and three years later added a second. As that field developed, historians expanded their focus from classic texts to the full panoply of medicine and public health.
As our in-person medical users began to drop away, the Library refocused its efforts to history, building on its premier collections and its century-long work in the history of medicine and public health. The Library’s general collections, the product of over 150 years of active collecting, were now valued for their historical potential. In the first decades of the 21st century, the Library stopped collecting current medical literature and made history its primary mission. Its Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health opened in 2012, mounting public programs that use history to engage the public around issues of health and medicine.
As the Library looks to the future, we embrace our mission of serving the Academy, the city, the nation, and beyond, preserving the heritage of medicine, and promoting historical understanding. We invite you to join us!
The Academy Library has reworked and expanded its timeline of milestones. Please check it out to learn more of our 175-year history.
 The Library of the Surgeon General’s Office of the U.S. Army was the largest, which in 1956 became the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
 John Harley Warner, “The Fielding Garrison Lecture: The Aesthetic Grounding of Modern Medicine,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 88 (2014): 1–47. The first quotation is from pp. 23–24, the second from p. 22, paraphrasing Sir William Osler.
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.
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.
The 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.
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 Illustration Page
Facendo Il Libro Illustration Zoom
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We 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.
By Lisa O’Sullivan, Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health
The August item of the month is Ambroise Paré’s (1510 –1590) Les Oeuvres, or Works. Published in 1575 in 26 sections or books, the folio volume has 295 illustrations and includes Paré’s writings on anatomy, surgery, obstetrics, instrumentation, and monsters. This post focuses on Paré’s military surgery and is the first in a series of occasional posts looking at the relationship between medicine and war.
Frontispiece of the first (1575) edition of Les Oeuvres, dedicated to King Henri III. Click to enlarge.
Dedicated to Henri III, Paré presents Les Oeuvres as an accumulation of his life’s studies and experience, and it incorporates many of his earlier publications. The French barber surgeon spent much of his life at war, serving in over 40 campaigns, and published numerous highly influential books, many of them directly based on his practice of military surgery.i Paré’s career was a prestigious one, progressing from working as an apprentice barber surgeon to great prominence as surgeon to Henry II, and subsequently his successors Francois II, King Charles IX, and Henry III.
Like his contemporary Andreas Vesalius, Paré is now celebrated as an emblematic figure of Renaissance thinking, willing to look beyond the established authorities and instead rely on the evidence of his own experience. In the Oeuvres, for instance, he mocks the use of “mummy” or “mummia,” a popular remedy ostensibly created from Egyptian mummies and used extensively by physicians.ii Such a position was particularly provocative given Paré’s identity as a surgeon, rather than a university trained physician with a formal education and knowledge of Greek and Latin.
Despite Paré’s close connections with many of its members, the Parisian Faculty of Medicine attempted to block the publication of the Oeuvres, arguing that the Faculty needed to approve all publications relating to medicine and surgery. In addition, they objected to Paré’s use of French, as he was among a small but increasing number of practitioners writing in the vernacular rather than the more scholarly Latin, making such works vastly more accessible to students of surgery operating outside the universities and the lay public.iii
Reminiscent of a “wound man,” this illustration demonstrates techniques for extracting broken arrows from the body. Click to enlarge.
Much of Paré’s renown was based on his early work in the military context. Throughout the Oeuvres, he returns to examples of treating soldiers wounded during conflict. Perhaps the most famous vignette describes how, during his first campaign in 1536, Paré found that he had insufficient boiling oil to use in cauterizing gunshot wounds, and instead used a liniment made of egg yolk, rose oil, and turpentine. The following day, he discovered that those soldiers treated with the liniment were in a better condition than those whose wounds had been treated according to the prescribed manner. He subsequently argued for the treatment of gunshot wounds with liniments and bandaging, as well as removing affected tissue from the wound.iv
Gunpowder, whether projected from cannons or shot from firearms, had become a significant factor on European battlefields in the late 14th century. The use of gunpowder dramatically changed the practice of warfare. Increasingly numerous and accurate firearms contributed to the number of soldiers killed and wounded. These weapons produced new types of wounds that penetrated into the body, carrying foreign materials with them and leading to gangrene, while also deafening and blinding those near blasts.v
A variety of tools for extracting bullets from wounds. On the top left, “crane bill” forceps for fragmented bullets; on right a shorter “duck bill” instrument designed for extracting whole bullets. At bottom, “lizard noses” for drawing out flattened bullets. Click to enlarge.
Surgeons based their treatment of gunshot wounds on the belief that the gunpowder carried into the body by the bullets brought poison with it. This idea came from Giovanni da Vigo (1450–1525), an Italian surgeon whose 1514 Practica in arte chirurgica copiosa and 1517 Pratica in professione chirurgica were highly influential surgical texts. Rapidly translated into multiple European languages, these books include da Vigo’s suggestion to cauterize (burn) the wound with boiling oil in order to counteract the poisonous traces of gunpowder and to seal any severed arteries. This procedure became considered standard practice.viParé, after his experience with liniment rather than oil, experimented further, and recounts seeking advice from other surgeons and testing a folk remedy for onion poultices for burns suggested by an older local woman. Concluding that they were effective against blistering offered Paré another rhetorical opportunity to emphasize his commitment to observation and experimentation.vii
The evidence found in earlier surgical manuals suggests that medieval surgeons had made similar experiments, and that it was the popularity of the more recent ideas promulgated by da Vigo that led to treatments with cauterization and oil.viii While he was not the only surgeon to be working towards more humane and effective treatment of gunshot wounds, Paré became the most well-known and is often celebrated today as the “father” of modern military surgery.ix This reputation rests on not only his work around gunshot wounds but his broad interests, influence, and innovation. A future post will explore other aspects of Paré’s Oeuvres and its long-term impact on military surgery.
i. A full bibliography of his works was produced by Academy librarian Janet Doe in 1937. See Janet Doe, A Bibliography of the Works of Ambroise Pare; Premier Chirurgien et Conseiller du Roy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937).
ii. Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuvres de m. Ambroise Paré … Avec les figures & portraicts tant de l’anatomie que des instruments de chirurgie, & de plusieurs monstres. Le tout diuisé en vingt six livres … (Paris : Chez G. Buon, 1575), p399.
iii. Paré defended his publication with a written defense and in the Parisian courts. While the verdict was not recorded, the book went on sale and sold out almost immediately. See Wallace B Hamby, Ambroise Paré, Surgeon of the Renaissance (St. Louis: W.H. Green, 1967), pp153-156.
iv. Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuvres de m. Ambroise Paré, pp357-359.
v. John Pearn, “Gunpowder, the Prince of Wales’s Feathers and the Origins of Modern Military Surgery,” ANZ Journal of Surgery 82 (2012): 240–244, 241; Kelly R DeVries, “Military Surgical Practice and the Advent of Gunpowder Weaponry,” The Canadian Bulletin of Medical History / Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine 7(2) (1990):131-46, p135.
vi. DeVries, “Military Surgical Practice and the Advent of Gunpowder Weaponry,” pp141-142.
vii. Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuvres de m. Ambroise Paré, p359.
viii. DeVries, “Military Surgical Practice and the Advent of Gunpowder Weaponry,” p142.
ix. Frank Tallett, War in Context: War and Society in Early Modern Europe : 1495-1715 (London, US: Routledge, 2010), pp108-110.
I have our rare book cataloger, Tatyana Pakhladzhyan, to thank for introducing me to American Natural History, a delightful three-volume set by John D. Godman (1794-1830), a physician, lecturer, and naturalist. She initially came across it in our S.132 section, which comprises books on zoology, natural history, and mineralogy (The Academy library has a unique classification system – watch the blog for an upcoming series on our staffers’ favorite sections.) After consulting with our curator, the decision was made to move the book into our Americana collection.
Though he is best known as a naturalist, Godman first made a name for himself as a medical man. Godman studied at the University of Maryland Medical School, graduating in 1818. He then moved around Pennsylvania and Maryland for a few years and succeeded in Philadelphia as a lecturer. Godman moved to Cincinnati in 1821, where he briefly taught at the Medical College of Ohio.1,2
In 1822, Godman moved back to Philadelphia. The next year he took over leadership of the Philadelphia School of Anatomy.1 Godman had a lifelong interest in nature, but it is in this period that he began to focus on his natural history studies. He became a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute, and American Philosophical Society.2 In 1826, he became the chair of anatomy at the Rutgers Medical College in New York City, but he was ill with tuberculosis and soon resigned. Too sick to lecture, he devoted himself to his literary pursuits and died in 1830. In his later years, he wrote a series of nature essays that were first published in a magazine and then posthumously as a collected work, Rambles of a naturalist.1,2 These essays are considered to be significant yet understudied American nature writings.2
Godman also contributed to medical literature, both as a writer and editor. He published a work on fasciae of the human body, Anatomical Investigations, in 1824. While living in Cincinnati, he edited the short-lived Western Quarterly Report of Medicine, Surgical, and Natural Science, which was the first medical journal published west of the Alleghanies.1,2 He later served on the editorial board of the Philadelphia Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences, which was renamed the American Journal of Medical Sciences thanks to his efforts.1
American Natural History is Godman’s effort to document and classify North American mammals. The creatures include wolves, bears, seals, cats, weasels, the domestic dog, and the decidedly American bovine, the bison. The descriptions are accompanied by illustrations depicting the animals with remarkably expressive faces.
As Godman details in the preface, he started on American Natural History in 1823 and anticipated a speedy year to year and a half of work to publish the first volume. Instead, the first two volumes were published in 1826 and the third followed in 1828. He explains the delay:
“It has been frequently necessary to suspend it for weeks and months, in order to procure certain animals, to observe their habits in captivity, or to make daily visits to the woods and fields for the sake of witnessing their actions in a state of nature. On other occasions we have undertaken considerable journies, in order to ascertain the correctness of statements, or to obtain sight of an individual subject of description.” (pp v-vi).
Godman’s emphasis on observation paid off; his work is noted for its accurate descriptions.2,3
Title page of Harlan’s Fauna Americana, 1825. Click on enlarge.
Looking further down the same shelf, we found another early American book on mammals, Richard Harlan’s Fauna americana: being a description of the mammiferous animals inhabiting North America. This was published just a year before American Natural History. Harlan’s book was based on A. G. Demarest’s Mammologie (1820). Godman openly criticized Harlan for this reason and maintained the superiority of his work. A rivalry developed between the two, with Godman generally considered the victor.2 Wesley C. Coe corroborates this in his article “A Century of Zoology in America.” He regards Harlan’s text as “a compilation of work from European writers…[that] had little value,” while Godman’s is an “illustrated and creditable work.”4 Nevertheless, Fauna americana will soon join American Natural History on the shelves of our Americana collection.
Please enjoy this selection of illustrations from American Natural History:
“Godman, John Davidson.” In Dictionary of American biography, edited by Allen Johnson. New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931.
Rosen, Susan A. C. “John D. Godman, MD.” In Early American nature writers: a biographical encyclopedia, edited by Daniel Patterson, Roger Thompson, and J. Scott Bryson. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. Retrieved from http://books.google.com, July 28, 2016.
Faul, Carol. “Godman, John Davidson.” In Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists, edited by Keir B Sterling. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997. Retrieved from http://books.google.com, July 28, 2016.
Coe, Wesley. “A Century of Zoology in America.” The American Journal of Science series 4, 46 (1918): 355-398. Retrieved from http://books.google.com, July 28, 2016.