Archive for the ‘Health Science Rare Book Collection’ Category

– about past United States epidemics are in the Archives and Special Collections in the Health Sciences Rare Books Collection:

Carey, Mathew. A Short Account of the Malignant Fever, Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia: With a Statement of the Proceedings That Took Place on the Subject in Different Parts of the United States. 3d Ed., Improved. ed. Philadelphia: Printed by the Author, 1793. Call number WC 530 C275 1793.

Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793 claimed the lives of nearly 4000 people. Carrey’s book and other related histories revel a little-known episode in Black history. Due to a mistaken belief that African-Americans could not get yellow fever, many Blacks volunteered or were volunteered to care for the sick and dying. They served in all capacities, including as nurses, cart drivers, and grave diggers. At the time, Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the United States and one of the largest U.S. cities.

Other books in the Health Sciences Rare Books Collection are:

United States. Public Health Service. Preliminary Report on the Yellow-fever Epidemic of 1882, in the State of Texas. Washington, D.C., 1882. WCK U58p 1882

Fenner, Erasmus Darwin. History of the Epidemic Yellow Fever, at New Orleans, La., in 1853. New York: Hall, Clayton, 1854. WCK F336h 1854

Miner, Thomas, and William Tully. Essays on Fevers, and Other Medical Subjects. Middletown, Conn.: E. & H. Clark, 1823. WC M664e 1823

Herman P. Chilson, Hot Off the Press books, youth books, DVDs, videos, government documents, and oral history collections in the Archives and Special Collections and in the I.D. Weeks Library also have items on pandemics and epidemics.

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Midwifery, a profession in the branch of obstetrics, has been around for centuries. While the techniques used in midwifery has changed, the core of the profession has not. Midwives are there to help with pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the contributions midwives have had to health, and, along with nurses, WHO has since declared 2020 “The Year of the Nurse and midwife” in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday (“Executive Board designates 2020”, 2019).

Every book you will read about in this blog post can be found within the Health Science Rare Book section of the Archives and Special Collections department, located in the ID Weeks library.

A Treatise on the Management of Pregnant & Lying-in Women

Originally published in 1772, this edition was published in 1791. Charles White pays close attention to the cleanliness and the ventilation of the birth chambers and recommends placing women in an upright position after giving birth. He also recommends isolating infected patients, that may have fever or other illness. These ideas were progressive and lead to the book lending to the reform of obstetrics. White’s A Treatise on the Management of Pregnant & Lying in Women was his greatest work.

Charles White (1728-1813) was known an innovative surgeon and well known in the field of obstetrics. Charles Cullingworth, MD, called him “a great provincial surgeon and obstetrician of the eighteenth century.” White co-founded the Manchester Royal Infirmary, along with Joseph Bancroft, an industrialist. He also had a hand in the foundation of Saint Mary’s Hospital, also located in Manchester. Charles White was a fellow in the Royal Society. For 55 years, Charles White kept the mummified remains of Hannah White, who was afraid of being buried alive, on display in a clock. Upon his death, her body was then put on display at the Museum of the Manchester Natural History Society for another 50 years until she was buried in an unmarked grave. To read more about the Manchester Mummy, go to this BBC News article and to read about premature burial, follow this link.

Text Box: A Treatise on the Management of Pregnant & Lying in Women
Baudelocque’s Midwifery

Baudelocque’s Midwifery was translated into English, not by Dewees but John Heath. Instead, Dewees wrote an abridged edition to prune and update the content, along with keeping it relevant to students, sometimes removing entire chapters. This also lightened the heavy, dense book, making it easier to produce and cheaper for students to purchase. He would also add his own notes or change the wording of some segments. Some changes that were made by him included encouraging midwives to utilize bloodletting and suggesting a simpler diet than what Baudelocque recommends.

During the 18th and 19th century, Jean Louis Baudelocque (1745-1810) was the leading obstetrician in France, le grand Baudelocque, a master accoucheur (a male midwife). He was a professor of obstetrics of École de Sauté, which was established after the French Revolution. Baudelocque is known for inventing a technique to measure the pelvis before delivery, resulting in the pelvimeter.  He was appointed to attend to Empress Marie-Louise of France during her first pregnancy, but died before he could do so, and also to the Queen of Holland and the Grand Duchess of Berg.

William Dewees (1768-1841) “was so famous that no parturient woman of the time considered herself safe in other hands (Hodge, 1842).” Dewees was against the use of forceps during delivery. He introduced Baudelocque’s A system of Midwifery to the United States where it became a manual for midwives.  He held a position as Professor of Midwifery and the chair of the Diseases of Women and Children at the University of Pennsylvania. After contracting an illness, Dewees had to pause practicing for a number of years before returning to practice. Dewees is remembered for both his theoretical and practical contributions to midwifery.  

An Elementary Treatise on Midwifery

Unlike Baudelocque’s Midwifery, An Elementary Treatise on Midwifery is a direct translation, which was used to justify printing it in the United States alongside the former. Velpeau strived to include the works of both those in his native France and in foreign countries in his research. In his title, instead of using the term “obstetrics,” derived from the Latin word for midwives, he instead uses “tokology”, which is derived from the Greek word for childbirth.   

Alfred-Armond-Louis-Marie Velpeau (1795-1867) is a French surgeon and anatomist known for the first to provide an accurate description of leukemia. He started on the path of medicine by first accidentally poisoning a depressed girl with hellebore in an attempt to cure her sadness. Velpeau trained under Piérre-Fidele Bretonneau, a prominent doctor. Like Baudelocque, he held a position at École de Santé, but as the chair of clinical surgery. In total, Velpeau published about 340 titles and some 10,000 pages. He was a member of the Academy of Medicine and the Academy of Science. Velpeau is thought to have said on his deathbed “Il ne faut pas être paresseux; travaillons toujours” (English translation: One must not be idle; we should always work) (Dunn 2005).

You’d be surprised how much medical knowledge has changed over the years! Visit the Archives and Special Collections department, located in the ID Weeks Library, 3rd floor, to explore our health sciences rare books. The ones included in this post are just a few of the cool, old books in the collection.

Reference Information

Drife, J. (2002). “The start of life: a history of obstetrics.” Postgraduate Medical Journal 78(919): 311-315.

Executive Board designates 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/hrh/news/2019/2020year-of-nurses/en/.

Cullingworth, C. J. (1904). Charles White … a great provincial surgeon and obstetrician of the eighteenth century. London, Glaisher.

Hodge, H. L. (1842). An eulogium on William P. Dewees, M.D. : delivered before the medical students of the University of Pennsylvania, November 5, 1842. Philadelphia, Merrihew & Thompson, printers.

Mitchill, S. L., – and E. Miller, – (1801). The Medical repository, and review of American publications on medicine, surgery, and the auxiliary branches of philosophy. Vol. 4, New York: Printed by T. & J. Swords.

 Dunn, P. M. (2005). “Dr Alfred Velpeau (1795–1867) of Tours: the umbilical cord and birth asphyxia.” Archives of Disease in Childhood – Fetal and Neonatal Edition 90(2): F184-F186.

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Health Sciences Rare Books is one of the collections located in the Archives and Special Collections. This collection consists mostly of medical books donated to the Lommen Health Science Library. While the majority of the items are books, the collection does include anatomical stereograms, one movie film, and two video tape cassettes. Some of the items are facsimiles or copies, but most are originals. All the items can be found with the help of the library catalog. They cannot be checked out, but you can read the books in the Archives and Special Collections reading room.


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Some characteristics of this collection are:

Year range: 1665 (original date; ours is a later facsimile) to circa 1980, with most of the items published between 1800 and circa 1980.

Most Frequent Subjects: anatomy, midwifery/obstetrics, and surgery

Most Frequent Authors: Osler and Gray





Items that caught my attention are:

  • Abernethy’s The surgical and physiological works of John Abernethy. 1825. Subject is phrenology, which purports that the shape of the skull indicates mental faculties and character.
  • Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis Icones anatomicae, ediderunt Academia medicinae nova-eboracensis et Bibliotheca Universitatis monacensis. 1934 edition based on the 1555 and 1543 books. Subject is human anatomy, and the book is illustrated with beautiful woodcuts.
  • Bichat’s Physiological researches upon life and death. Translated from the French by Tobias Watkins. 1809. Subject is biological life and death.
  • Carey’s A short account of the malignant fever, lately prevalent in Philadelphia: with a statement of the proceedings that took place on the subject in different parts of the United States. Subject is yellow fever in Philadelphia.
  • Dauer’s MAGANGA – ein wissenschaftlicer. Format 16mm film. Subject is African medicine from a very Eurocentric point of view. It shows trephination, which is drilling a hole in the skull to release pressure.
  • Edinburgh University Stereoscopic Anatomy. Circa 1900. Subject is human anatomy. Edinburgh University was an early teaching and research center for surgery. Their stereograms show three-dimensional images of human anatomy.
  • Gunn’s Domestic Medicine. 1835. Subject is health care you can do yourself when a doctor is not available, such as in frontier areas.
  • Hooke’s Micrographia or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses. With observations and inquiries thereupon. Facsimile of 1665 book. This is the first book describing observations made through a microscope.


Contact the Archives and Special Collections for a list of what is in the collection.










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In 1665 “the English Royal Society published the first popular science book, Micrographia, (with the subtitle Or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries Thereupon). It was written by Robert Hooke, then a 30-year-old hunchbacked, cantankerous, neurotic hypochondriac who was also a brilliant natural scientist, polymath and an original fellow of the society that published the book.”

Micrographia captured many people’s imaginations. In it, along with dozens of beautiful engravings based on meticulous illustrations by the author, Hooke provided not only a clear description of the architecture of fleas, the seeds of thyme, the eyes of ants, the internal makings of sponges, microscopic fungi and the small building blocks of plants, but he also provided a detailed description of his own microscope.”

A facsimile of this book is available in the Health Science Rare Book collection of the Archives and Special Collections.

For more information on the history of microscopes and discovery of the microscopic world, see Paul Falkowski, “Leeuwenhoek’s lucky break: how a Dutch fabric-maker became the father of microbiology,” Discover , June 2015, p. 58-63. It is also the source of the quote above.

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