The Historical Collection

The departmental library of the Institute, the Historical Collection is also the resource center for the history of medicine for the Hopkins community, and hosts visiting scholars from the United States and abroad. A research collection covering all aspects of the history of medicine, public health and allied sciences, it contains over 70,000 volumes. A large, comprehensive library of secondary sources accompanies a smaller, but choice collection of rare books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, medals, stamps and objects.


Among the rarities of the Historical Collection: Jean Gerson’s De pollutione nocturna, 1480; two copies of the 1500 edition of Johannes de Ketham’s  Fasciculus medicinae; the German translation of Andreas Vesalius’ Epitome (1543); William Harvey’s De motu cordis (1628); Aristoteles Master-Piece (1684).  A separate room houses part of a particularly extensive and remarkable group of rare books donated by Dr. Henry Barton Jacobs, which includes the publications of François Rabelais, Louis Pasteur, Edward Jenner, William Osler, along with works relating to tuberculosis, smallpox, and nineteenth-century French medicine.


The Historical Collection holds a small and varied body of manuscripts, including: a morocco-bound French fourteenth-century version of Constantinus Africanus’ Latin translation of the Viaticum of Ibn al-Jazzār; folders of correspondence of Edward Jenner; cartons of papers of the Rockefeller foundation malariologist, Paul Farr Russell. There is a large amount of miscellaneous correspondence and manuscripts, mainly by physicians from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, and a collection of Ceylonese palm-leaf medical manuscripts dating from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century.

Prints and Photographs

Our image collection, numbering over 20,000 items, contains caricatures, institutional views, hospital postcards, along with portraits of physicians and scientists from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. The largest portion is the unique pathological print collection created by Dr. Jonathan Hutchinson, an English surgeon, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, venereologist and pathologist, whose career spanned the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries.


Ranging from nineteenth-century phrenological heads to eighteenth-century bloodletting instruments, the object collection also includes an extraordinary group of smallpox artifacts and prints collected by D. A. Henderson, MD, MPH. The Institute’s noted collection of medically-related medals is well-documented in Sarah E. Freeman’s impressive 1964 catalogue. The medical stamp collection of the Institute is especially strong in material relating to infectious diseases from around the world.

The contents of the Historical Collection are located in several rooms and vaults in the Institute on the third floor of the Welch Library building, as well as on the top three levels of the Welch Library’s eight-floor book stacks. The Historical Collection is open to researchers on weekdays from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. Non-Hopkins affiliated researchers are welcome, but are asked to contact the Collection before visiting for the first time.

For further information, contact:

Michael Seminara
410-955-3159 or