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Medical Printed Collections

Date range: 15th-20th centuries

Medium: Printed

Number of items: c.70,000 items

The Library’s printed medical collections are among the major UK research collections in the field. The collection is largely drawn from the library of the Manchester Medical Society, which itself acquired the libraries of local hospitals, such as Manchester Royal Infirmary, St Mary’s Hospital for Women and Children and Macclesfield and Bolton Infirmaries in the early 20th century.

The Manchester Medical Society, founded in 1834, deposited its collection at Owens College in 1875, a decision which was fully confirmed in 1930. The growth of the collection owes much to officers of the Society such as Charles Clay, who gave 1000 volumes in 1860, and especially to Thomas Windsor, Honorary Librarian 1853-63 and 1879-1883.

The library’s strengths in obstetrics and gynaecology are to some extent due to the benefactions of specialists such as John Hull, Charles Clay, Thomas Radford and Charles Cullingworth. Other strengths of the collection lie in the recognised classics of the history of medicine, in exemplifying medical education and practice in the nineteenth-century continental publications, and in its focus on local and regional practice and publications.

The collection currently holds around 2,500 items printed before 1701 (including about 200 incunables), around 19,000 18th-century items and around 30,000 items printed between 1800-1949. There are also around 19,000 medical pamphlets.

The 1800-1949 collections and the pamphlets are housed at the Main Library. The pre-1800 collections are housed at the John Rylands Library.

See also:

Further information:

  • Partly catalogued online: all catalogued books (including all pre-1700 items) are recorded in Library Search.
  • Card catalogues available via the Main Library Special Collections Reading Room.
  • Online cataloguing in progress for 1800-1949 items.
  • 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).


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