Early Medical Books at Glasgow


    To illustrate a current series of lectures on "The Evolution of Social Medicine", by Dr. Douglas Guthrie, there have been placed on view in the Hunterian Library of the University of Glasgow some interesting works from the Hunterian and the Ferguson Collections, and from the library of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. William Hunter, eminent in London as an obstetrician and an anatomist, though not so famous as his younger brother John, bequeathed his library and museum to the University of Glasgow, where it forms a rich mine of learning. Besides his own magnificent atlas, "The Anatomy of the Gravid Uterus" (1774), the books selected from Hunter's library include some of the earliest works on midwifery. Among the medical classics in the exhibition are the first edition of the works of Hippocrates, printed in Greek by Aldus of Venice in 1526, and another Aldine work, Celsus' "De Medicina", the oldest medical document after Hippocrates, of which the 1528 edition is shown, the Florentine edition of 1478 being still stored away for safety. From the Ferguson Collection come two of the finest works of Paracelsus, "Grosse Wun-darztney", 1536, and "Paramirum"(1565), next to which may be seen David Laing's copy of one of the rarest of medical books, Michael Scot's "Liber phisionomie"(1477). Herbal literature is represented by "De historia stirpium"(1540), by Leonard Fuchs, Nehemiah Grew's "Anatomy of Plants"(1682), with many beautiful drawings, and the magnificent "Curious Herbal" of Elizabeth Blackwell (1737). Another rare work is "An Account of the Foxglove" (1785), in which William Withering of Birmingham, a friend of Erasmus Darwin, introduced the use of digitalis in heart disease, having learned of its use as a 'folk remedy' from his country patients. Although the valuable University manuscripts have been stored away for safety, it has been possible to show from the Faculty library a volume of letters of advice, or "consilia", written and signed by Herman Boerhaave of Leyden (1668-1738); the earliest minute book of Glasgow Medical Society (1815), and a manuscript diary of the Crimean War, written by George Buchanan, the first professor of clinical surgery at the University of Glasgow. The exhibition, which has been arranged with the co-operation of Dr. W. R. Cunningham, University librarian, and Dr. Snodgrass, librarian of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, will remain open until the end of January.

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