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Medical Printed Collections

30,000 items.

The Library's holdings of historical medical material are among the most important in Britain.

The Manchester Medical Society, founded in 1834, deposited its collection in the Library in 1875, a decision which was fully confirmed in 1930.

The Society's library consisted of just over 1,000 volumes in 1835, but growth was rapid after 1858 when Thomas Windsor became honorary librarian, the catalogue issued in 1890 listing some 29,000 volumes.

There are now in the Library some 3,000 medical books printed before 1701 including about 200 incunables: there are also around 4,000 18th-century items.

Particularly noteworthy is a first edition of Andreas Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Basel, 1543), with magnificent engraved plates by Titian's pupil, Jan Calcar.

Mention should also be made of:

  • the first Latin edition of Hippocrates (Basel, 1526)
  • the Aldine edition of Galen’s complete works in Greek (Venice, 1525), and Thomas Linacre’s translations of individual works into Latin, printed by Richard Pynson (London, 1522-24)
  • the first edition of Charles Estienne’s celebrated De Dissectione Partium Corporis Humani (Paris, 1545)
  • Gaspar Tagliocozzo’s pioneering work on plastic surgery, De Curtorum Chirurgia Per Insitionem (Venice, 1597)
  • the first English editions of William Harvey’s Anatomical Exercises on the circulation of the blood and on the generation of living creatures (London, 1653)
  • the first editions of Robert Boyle’s Memoirs for the Natural History of Humane Blood (London, 1684), Edward Jenner’s Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae (London, 1798), and Richard Bright’s two-volume Reports of Medical Cases (London, 1827-31), in which various diseases are examined in the light of morbid anatomy

The Library recently acquired a significant incunable edition of Matteo Silvatico’s Liber Pandectarum Medicinae, printed by Bernardino Stagninus in Venice in 1499.

Many of the nineteenth-century medical books were acquired by John and Thomas Windsor during the 1860s and 1870s, the most significant period of collecting for the Manchester Medical Society’s library. They include many rare and important items including first editions of the works of Xavier Bichat, Claude Bernard, and others.

The collection is particularly rich in continental editions and features an impressive range of titles in the German language.

See also

Finding aids

  • Pre-1701 books are catalogued in Ethel M. Parkinson and Audrey E. Lumb, Catalogue of Medical Books in Manchester University Library, 1480–1700 (Manchester, 1972).
  • All material acquired up to 1890 is recorded in Catalogue of the Library of the Manchester Medical Society (Manchester, 1890).
  • Material acquired subsequently is recorded in the medical card catalogue at the Main Library.


Main Library and The John Rylands Library

most pre–1801 books are at the JRL, more modern material at the Main Library and stores.