#UKMHL Libraries UK Medical Heritage Library

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine collection goes digital

As part of the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK-MHL) digitisation project, jointly funded by Jisc and the Wellcome Library, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Library is contributing books and pamphlets dating from between 1780-1914 from its collection. This post, the fourth in a series looking at the UK-MHL, outlines the history of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Library’s collection.

A page from 'Tropical diseases: a manual of the diseases of warm climates' written by Sir Patrick Manson in 1898 - a year before he would found the School.
A page from ‘Tropical diseases: a manual of the diseases of warm climates’ written by Sir Patrick Manson in 1898 – a year before he would found the School. Click to go through to the full digitised book on the Wellcome Library’s website.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health. It was founded in 1899 by Sir Patrick Manson as an institute of tropical medicine to train physicians working in the colonies about the diseases they might encounter. It is thought that a library was available to staff and students from the very beginnings of the School. The first edition of the Library Catalogue, printed in 1904, lists 373 volumes, including 17 periodicals and four yearbooks.

Throughout the years the Library has benefited from the addition of items from other library collections. In 1920 the library was merged with that of the Tropical Diseases Bureau (the contents of which were used to compile the first updates of the Global Health bibliographic database, now published by CABI). In the 1930s the libraries of the Society of Medical Officers of Health and the Ross Institute were also added.

In 1924 the historical collection was begun by the purchase of 32 old books on tropical diseases and on naval and military hygiene. This was supplemented by a number of notable donations, including volumes from the personal libraries of Sir Patrick Manson, Sir Andrew Balfour, Sir Arthur Newsholme and Sir Shirley Murphy. In 1927, a grant of £3,000 from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust allowed the collection to be extended so that by 1944 it contained 356 volumes on various topics relating to public health and tropical medicine. Notable titles include the first and second editions of John’s Snow’s seminal work on the Broad Street cholera epidemic, a first edition of James Lind’s “Treatise of the Scurvy” and two copies of John Graunt’s “Collections of the Bills of Mortality”. The collection now contains over 3000 books and a similar number of pamphlets.

In 1930 the Reece Collection was added to the Library stock. Dr Richard Reece was a Senior Medical Officer with the Ministry of Health who had a particular interest in the history of smallpox and vaccination. After his death his library was presented to the School by Dr HA Macewen from the Ministry of Health. The collection was described in the British Medical Journal (1924;1:803-5) as “probably the most complete library in this country of the old literature of small-pox, variolation and vaccination”. Among many other items is a copy of the first edition (1798) of Jenner’s original work on the “Variolae Vaccinae,” which was formerly the property of the Southampton Anti-Vaccination League and bears scornful marginalia deriding Jenner’s arguments.

As well as contributing to the UK-Medical Heritage Library, the School runs an Adopt-A-Book scheme to raise money towards the conservation and preservation of these historical materials.

Click here to see the content digitised from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the Wellcome Library catalogue

Thanks to Jane Falconer from the LSHTM Library for providing the content for this post.

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