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McGoogan Library Rare Book Collection


Housed in two high-security rooms, the McGoogan Library’s Rare Book collection encompasses a variety of health science disciplines. These include midwifery and obstetrics, the history of disability, infant feeding, watershed works, anatomy, alternative medicine, and surgery. Materials range from a medical manuscript written during the 1300s by Albertus Magnus to collections compiled by modern physicians, including the Charles F. Moon collection of obstetrical works, the Leon S. McGoogan collection in obstetrics, and the H. Winnett Orr rare book collection on permanent loan from the American College of Surgeons.

Books Currently on Display

Explore a sampling of the collection’s printed works from the 16th through the 19th centuries.



Engravings, explaining the anatomy of the bones, muscles, and joints, 1794

From the McGoogan Health Sciences Library Rare Book Collection

Engravings, Explaining the Anatomy of the Bones, Muscles, and Joints

Published 1794
John Bell


John Bell was a distinguished Scottish anatomist and surgeon. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, Bell opened the Extramural School of Anatomy, where he hoped to teach anatomy beneficial to improving the skills of surgeons.


Bell created Engravings, Explaining the Anatomy of the Bones, Muscles, and Joints for his students, drawing the illustrations himself. He made the engravings for most of the illustrations as well. Bell’s images invoke a ghoulish quality reminiscent of Romantic-era Gothic novels. He and his younger brother Charles Bell, also a surgeon and artist, collaborated on several anatomy texts.


John Bell’s popularity with students resulted in professional jealousy by surgeons at the Royal Infirmary, where he practiced. His colleagues’ resentment and his combative attitude prevented him from assuming a more significant role at the Infirmary. He retired to Italy for his health and died there in 1820.


Did You Know?



Fubo no on wo shiru zu, c. 1880

From the McGoogan Health Sciences Library Rare Book Collection

Fubo no on wo shiru zu

Realize one’s parental love

Published circa 1880
Utagawa Yoshitora
Dates unknown


Historians know little about Utagawa Yoshitora, including the dates of his birth and death. He is thought to have been born in the city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) during the Edo or Tokugawa Period (1603–1867). Yoshitora was a ukiyo-e printer who created over 60 prints and illustrated over 100 books.


Ukiyo-e, “picture[s] of the floating world,” was a popular woodblock printing style in Japan from the 17th to 19th centuries. Yoshitora created this print during the Meiji Period (1868–1912). The title of the triptych is “Realize One’s Parental Love,” and depicts the ten lunar months of gestation. A flower represents each month. In Japanese tradition, hanakotoba, “the unique language of flowers,” attributes emotions and interpersonal actions to different flowers. The triptych’s text informs the reader about conception, regulation of intercourse, auspicious times for intercourse for childbearing, and other traditions.


Did You Know?

  • Ukiyo-e images based on kabuki actors were very popular. Kabuki (the art of singing and dancing) theatre is a classical form of Japanese dance/drama. Actors wear glamorous costumes and decorative kumadori make-up.
  • In historical traditions, the Japanese compare the anzan (easy birth) to a dog’s delivery which tends to be easy and multiple. When a woman reaches the fifth month of pregnancy, she is encouraged to visit a temple or shrine on the 12th day (the sign of the dog is located on the 12th place on the Chinese zodiac calendar). Inu Hariko is a dog character that appears on pregnancy amulets.
  • Amulets or omamori can be found at shrines and temples in Japan. Pregnant women wanting a safe and easy childbirth would seek out an anzan omamori. The safe birth ceremony, Obiiwai, dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185). The ceremony is still performed at certain temples. During the ceremony, the women are blessed with prayers and a fukutai (maternity belt).



Man: his structure and physiology; popularly explained and demonstrated, 1857

From the McGoogan Health Sciences Library Rare Book Collection

Man: his structure and physiology; popularly explained and demonstrated

Published 1857
Robert Knox


Scottish anatomist Robert Knox is an infamous figure in the history of medicine. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he served as a surgeon treating the wounded from the Battle of Waterloo. A short time after, he traveled with the British Army to South Africa and then to Paris to further his anatomical studies. Upon his return to Scotland, Knox taught private anatomy lectures where he was well known for his role in the West Port murders, also known as the Burke and Hare murders.


In the early nineteenth century, a medical school’s need for bodies for medical dissection was great. To fill the need, criminals labeled “resurrectionists” dug up newly buried corpses to sell to anatomists. In 1827, William Burke and William Hare murdered 16 individuals and sold their bodies to Robert Knox. They were ultimately caught and convicted for their crimes. Knox avoided prosecution, but the incident forever damaged his reputation. He eventually moved to London where he continued his medical practice and writing, but his career never recovered.


Did You Know?

  • Knox had an interest in art, about which he wrote two books: A Manual of Artistic Anatomy (1852) and Great Artists and Great Anatomist: A Biographical and Philosophical Study (1852).
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish novelist, wrote a short story, “The Body Snatcher” in 1884. The character of Dr. K is a reference to Robert Knox.
  • In 1980, British actor Patrick Stewart portrayed Robert Knox in an adaptation of The Anatomist, a play written by James Bridie in 1930.



A System of Anatomical Plates, 1825

From the McGoogan Health Sciences Library Rare Book Collection

A System of Anatomical Plates

Published 1825
John Lizars, MD


John Lizars, MD, was a Scottish anatomist and surgeon. He apprenticed with John Bell (whose anatomy book is also on display) before graduating from the University of Edinburgh. After graduation, he served as a surgeon with the Royal Navy. During the Napoleonic Wars, he saw action aboard ships along the coasts of Spain and Portugal during the Iberian conflict. Upon the end of his military service, Dr. Lizars joined Bell at his Extramural School of Anatomy.


During this time, Lizars created A System of Anatomical Plates, a collection of 101 plates engraved by his artist brother William Home Lizars and printed by their father, Daniel Lizars. Dr. Lizars was also an accomplished surgeon who performed ovariectomies, operations on aneurysms, and resected the maxilla for sarcoma. Much like his mentor, Bell, the combative attitude of Lizars embroiled him in arguments with other Edinburgh surgeons.


Did You Know?

  • John Lizars operated in the same theatre as surgeon Robert Liston. Liston was famous for his speedy surgeries. In the time before anesthetics, speed could predict a positive outcome. He was known as the “fastest knife in the West End.”
  • John Lizars published one of the earliest works on the addictive dangers and potential health damage of tobacco in The Use and Abuse of Tobacco (1859).
  • Scotland produced many famous authors in the nineteenth century, such as Walter Scott, the author of Waverley; Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Arthur Conan Doyle, who created Sherlock Holmes; and J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.



Collection Highlights

Discover books previously on display in the American College of Surgeons Rare Book Gallery.



Feldtbuch der Wundartzney, 1517

From the McGoogan Health Sciences Library Rare Book Collection

Feldtbuch der Wundartzney

Field Book of Surgery

Published 1517
Hans von Gersdorff  
Illustrated by Johann Ulrich Wechtlin
(1480/85-after 1526)


Hans von Gersdorff served as a surgeon in the Strasbourg army during the Swiss Confederacy’s fight against Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy. He was also the personal surgeon to Sigismund, Archduke of Austria.


Feldtbuch der Wundartzney was von Gersdorff’s only published work. Written in German, the book provided guidelines for treating wounds, such as setting bones and cauterizing gunshot wounds, recipes for plasters, salves, and balsams, and other anatomical-related instructions for military surgeons. He provided information on surgical procedures, such as extraction of arrows or fragments, and the first visual depiction of amputation.


Von Gersdorff also developed a retractor, a medical device used to raise depressed skull fragments, and a machine for the correction of crooked limbs.


Did You Know?

  • Hans von Gersdorff was the first surgeon to describe the surgical technique of leg amputations.
  • Feldtbuch der Wundartzney was published in vernacular German and was intended for battlefield surgeons.   
  • The text showed new methods of treating gunshot wounds and lower limb amputations. The book also covers leprosy, anatomy, surgery, glossaries of anatomical terms, diseases, and medications.
  • Von Gersdorff derived his anatomical knowledge from Arabic physicians and French physician, Guy de Chauliac.
  • The artist of Feldtbuch der Wundartzney, Johann Ulrich Wechtlin was a student of Hans Holbein the Younger (ca 1497-1543). A German Renaissance artist, active between at least 1502 and 1526, Wechtlin’s woodcuts are his only known surviving works. He was the most prolific producer of German chiaroscuro woodcuts, "printed in two or more colors," during their period in fashion, though most of his output was for book illustrations.



The Surgeon's Mate, 1639

From the McGoogan Health Sciences Library Rare Book Collection

The Surgeon’s Mate

Published 1639
John Woodall


John Woodall traveled to Germany, Poland, and France before joining the British Barber-Surgeons Company in 1599. In 1613, Woodall was appointed the first “Chirugeon Generall” of the East India Company, a position he held for 30 years. One of his duties was to fit-out the chests that ships’ surgeons used on voyages. He wrote The Surgeon’s Mate to instruct apprentices in the details of what to include in these chests. Woodall provided advice on the treatment for common diseases and ailments of seamen, including constipation, gunshot wounds, and fractures. He was the first to accurately describe the symptoms of scurvy, advising the prescription of fruit juices, and invented a new trephine saw for the treatment of head injuries. He also introduced new and more humane treatments for gangrenous tissues and instructed readers on the importance of clinical notes, care of instruments, and how to keeps one’s temper on long voyages.


John Woodall included his portrait on the title page (on right) along with the portraits of several important physicians who contributed to the advancement of medicine (clockwise from top left)

  • Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine
  • Podaliruius, son of Asclepius
  • Avicenna, Persian physician and astronomer (980-1037)
  • Ramon Llull, Spanish mathematician and philosopher (c. 1232-c. 1315)
  • Galenus Abrahams, Dutch physician and preacher (1622-1706)
  • John Woodall, the author (center)
  • Hippocrates, Greek physician (370-460 BCE)
  • Jean Fernel, French physician (1497-1558)
  • Paracelsus, Swiss physician, alchemist, and philosopher (1493-1541)



Did You Know?

  • John Woodall apprenticed at age 16 or 17 under a London barber surgeon.
  • Conditions aboard East India Company (EIC) ships were difficult, and sailors faced many medical problems at sea. Nutrition was poor, infectious diseases (including sexually transmitted diseases) spread rampantly throughout the close quarters, and battle brought much trauma. Coupled with this, ships were often poorly stocked with medicines, and the barber-surgeons were often inadequately trained. To deal with these issues, John Woodall was hired as Surgeon-General to the EIC in 1613 by Sir Thomas Smith, the governor of the company.
  • Woodall addressed the problem of poorly stocked ships by redesigning the surgeon’s chests and implementing a system of checking each chest’s inventory and sealing it before it was brought onboard.
  • Woodall’s book provides a list of the medicines and instruments in his surgeon’s chest and an indication for their uses. As the last section in his book, Woodall included a description of chemical symbols and alchemist’s terms to serve as a reference and to aid in the interpretation of medicine labels.
  • Woodall’s surgeon’s chest contained slots for 160 assigned medicines. One problem with trying to identify the composition of the medicines included in the chart is that all the medicines were identified in Latin. Also, much of Woodall's text is phonetically spelled and the reader will even find the same word spelled in different ways within a single entry.



Elements of Surgery: For the Use of Students, Volume 1 of 2

Published 1813
John Syng Dorsey  


John Syng Dorsey was born into an American medical family in 1783. His uncle, Philip Syng Physick, was the first chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After finishing his medical degree, Dorsey traveled across Europe to audit lectures at major surgical centers. His view that European practices were stringent and not progressive, coupled with the trade embargoes and blockade of Philadelphia during the War of 1812, instilled a sense of nationalism in him that led to the publication of Elements of Surgery.


Considered the first American surgical textbook, Elements of Surgery is regarded as the beginning of the professionalization process for surgeons in the United States. Published in 1813, the work is an organization of his uncle’s lectures of major areas of clinical surgery, which included hernia and fistula repair, amputation, cesarean section, and non-surgical procedures such as bandaging and autopsy. Eight of Dorsey’s sketches are engraved and included in the volumes.


(On left) Ophthalmology Instruments:
Figure 8: Represents the section made in the cornea in the operation of extracting a cataract.
Figure 9: An artificial pupil, near the external margin of the iris.
Figure 10: The place of introducing the cornea knife and the mode of passing it through the anterior chamber of the eye.
Figure 11: This figure represents an accident which sometimes happens in the operation of extraction, the floating iris before the blade of the knife.
Figure 12: The forceps contrived by Dr. Physick with a circular punch on the extremities of the blades.
Figure 13: A small hood useful in extraction operations.
Figure 14: Wenzel’s knife for incising the cornea.
Figure 15: Curette and needle.
Figure 16: Wenzel’s forceps.
Figure 17: The nail-headed style used in fistula lachrymalis (opening in the upper tear duct).



Did You Know?

  • Dorsey started his medical career at the age of 15 by assisting his uncle, physician Philip Syng Physick.
  • Dorsey graduated from medical school at the age of 19 but was considered too young to practice medicine.
  • Elements of Surgery was considered “monumental” because Dorsey wrote and illustrated 2 volumes.
  • Dorsey was also a poet, publishing poems in The Port Folio, a weekly literary and political magazine published in Philadelphia.
  • In 1807, Dorsey joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania as an adjunct professor of surgery and in 1810 became a full surgeon. He was made professor of materia medica in 1813 and professor of anatomy in 1818. Only a few hours following his introductory lecture as chair of anatomy, Dorsey developed a high fever and died 10 days later.



Traite complet de l’anatomie de l’homme, Volume 3 of 8, 1831-1854

From the McGoogan Health Sciences Library Rare Book Collection

Traite complet de l’anatomie de l’homme, Volume 3 of 8

Comprehensive Human Anatomy, Volume 3 of 8

Published 1831-1854
Marc Jean Bourgery  


Born in France in 1797, Marc Jean Bourgery struggled for his entire career to gain academic and scientific esteem. The eight volumes of his Traite Complet de l’Anatomie de l’Homme cover all aspects of anatomy, including morphology, surgical anatomy, and embryology, in both black and white and hand-colored illustrations. Artist Nicholas-Henri Jacob created 726 drawings from direct laboratory observation. The lithographs were created by Madame C. A. Jacob Hublier and others. The volumes skillfully integrated specimen preparation, graphic representation, and descriptive text. Too expensive for students, the volumes were purchased by physicians or members of the intelligentsia. The set took Bourgery 23 years to complete, with the final volume published five years after his death in 1849. Traite Complet de l’Anatomie de l’Homme is considered one of the most comprehensive, clear, and beautiful works of the 19th century.



Did You Know?

  • Bourgery attended lectures of the naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a professor at the Museum of Natural History in Paris.
  • Bourgery worked as a clinical intern in 1817 with René Laennec, inventor of the stethoscope at the Hôpital Necker, and from 1818 to 1820 with Guillaume Dupuytren, French anatomist and military surgeon who treated Napoleon Bonaparte's hemorrhoids, at the Hôtel Dieu.
  • Bourgery started his medical studies in 1813 but did not complete them due to financial issues. Instead, he worked for several years as an officier de santé (health officer) in a copper foundry in Romilly-sur-Seine (Aube), where he was actively involved in chemistry, chemical engineering, and the establishment of a copper sulfate factory.  He finally received his MD in 1827.
  • Bourgery's role model and mentor was the anatomist and paleontologist Georges Cuvier, a French naturalist and zoologist, sometimes referred to as the "founding father of paleontology." Cuvier was a major figure in natural sciences research in the early 19th century and instrumental in establishing the fields of comparative anatomy and paleontology through his work in comparing living animals with fossils.
  • Around 1820, Bourgery was awarded a prize from the Paris medical faculty and a gold medal from the hospital administration for his work as an assistant doctor.



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