“A Plague of Lust”: Love, Marriage, and Venereal Disease

~This post is courtesy Melissa Grafe, John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History, Head of the Medical Historical Library.

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day!  We thought we would focus on love, marriage, and venereal disease, sampling the many books on these topics that you can find in the Medical Heritage Library.

Guides for marriage are well represented in the Medical Heritage Library, as many of these popular texts deal with topics of health, pregnancy, and child rearing.  Sexual relations, if mentioned at all, are coyly alluded to within the texts, and eugenics often appears in the manuals from the early 20th century.,

The heplagueoflustbein01rose_0007althy marriage, a medical and psychological guide for wives (1916) may be helpful on the days where coping with the husband is particularly challenging.  This guide describes the art of housekeeping, miscarriage, pregnancy, “difficulty of getting exercise in town,” and much more.

Alternately, husbands also received valuable advice in manuals like The young husband, or, Duties of man in the marriage relation (1840)In this text, by William Alcott, husbands are cautioned against jealousy and suspicion, coached on “keeping cool,” and “giving presents and little things,” helpful beyond Valentine’s Day!

See others, using just a simple search of the term marriage.

On the flip side of love, sex, and marriage, the Medical Heritage Library also has a robust collection of materials on venereal disease.  We have the classic works, like Dr. John Hunter’s A treatise on the venereal disease (1791)Issued in many editions, including this 1791 Philadelphia text, Hunter believed that gonorrhea and syphilis were caused by the same disease agent, and encouraged the use of mercury for treatment, prior to the development of an effective drug, Salvarsan, in the early 20th century.

Other titles are more playful, such as The plague of lust : being a history of venereal disease in classical antiquity … (1909) by Dr. Julius Rosenbaum. Feel free to browse our texts on venereal disease here!


Celebrating Elizabeth Blackwell

blackwellThis week, the Medical Heritage Library is celebrating the life of Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States and the first woman on the UK Medical Register. Elizabeth, born February 3, 1821, in Bristol, England, was the third child of Hannah (Lane) Blackwell (1792–1870) and Samuel Blackwell (1790–1838)’s nine children. Elizabeth attended Geneva Medical College from 1847 to 1849, and in 1853, she established a small dispensary in New York City with her sister, Emily (the third woman to receive a medical degree in the United States), and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska (1829-1902); the dispensary  expanded in 1857 to become the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. As an adjunct to the infirmary, Elizabeth and Emily founded the Women’s Medical College in New York in 1868. In the years following the Civil War, Elizabeth resettled in England. There, with physician and feminist Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912), she founded the London School of Medicine for Women in 1874. Like her sisters, Elizabeth Blackwell never married.

Elizabeth was one many remarkable Blackwell family members, who collectively advocated for abolition, women’s rights and women’s suffrage, public health measures, and prohibition. The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, houses the papers of the Blackwell family and has digitized the entire collection, including an extensive number of photographs.

blackwell2Elizabeth’s mark on medicine is visible — and accessible — in the Medical Heritage Library, which includes the full text of Blackwell’s Medicine as a Profession for Women (1860), the address, The influence of women in the profession of medicine (1890), and her two-volume work, Essays in Medical Sociology I (1902) and II  (1902), among others.

New to the MHL!

The MC Migel Library of the American Printing House for the Blind has been adding lots of great new items recently. Here are just a few:

Additionally, the Wellcome Library has been adding lots of titles to its collection of medical officer of health reports all of which are available as part of the MHL, too.

The Gaither Report

On November 7, 1957, H. Rowan Gaither’s report, “Deterrence & Survival in the Nuclear Age” was issued. It called for $30 billion to build bomb shelters to protect American citizens in the event of nuclear war. In the years that followed, articles, such as those published in the New England Journal of Medicine (5/31/1962) called out the medical consequences of thermonuclear war, including “Some Psychiatric and Social Aspects of the Defense-Shelter Program” by P. Herbert Leiderman and Jack H. Mendelson. They bluntly summarized the situation: “It should be apparent that the psychologic and social problems raised in planning a defense-shelter program are of a magnitude and complexity that make it advisable to concentrate massive efforts on eliminating the need for such a program.” Data about the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki informed the discussion. Published in 1946, this “Medical report of the Joint Commission for the Investigation of the Effects of the Atomic Bomb” (volume 6) illustrates population and casualties, as well as building and shielding studies. Also check out Elena Carter’s “Beds not bombs: Highlights from the Medact collection.

~This post was originally on our Facebook page and is courtesy Emily R. Novak Gustainis.

Digital Highlights: Johann Remmelin’s “Kleiner Welt Spiegel”

The Archives and Special Collections of the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University have digitized the 1661 German translation of Johann Remelin’s Catoptrum Microcosmicum.

Check out the great video made about the process:

And read their full post about digitizing a medical pop-up book! You can check out the final result in the MHL here.

Digital Highlights: Home Dangers

Mrs. Priestley’s 1885 lecture Unseen dangers in the home is a tour de force collection of late Victorian concerns about health and hygiene. She starts right off with the dangers of polluted air and moves on through bad water and the dangers of in-house piping among other things. It’s interesting to note that Priestley’s text assumes her audience is one of well-off matrons with disposable income; this is not a lecture designed to help the working poor, for example. She recounts anecdotes from friends with houses in Mayfair, Picadilly, and St. James, who have had to deal with complaints from their servants of bad air in basements, kitchens, bathrooms, and attics.

Flip through the pages of Mrs. Priestley’s lecture below or follow this link to read Unseen dangers in the home.

As always, for more from the Medical Heritage Library, please visit our full collection!

Digital Highlights: Christmas Recipes

I always enjoy looking through the cookbooks and home manuals in our collection and it always seems as though a holiday is a good time to point out a few.

What about the 1903 texts The White House cookbook : a comprehensive cyclopedia of information for the home; containing cooking, toilet, and household recipes, menus, dinner-giving, table etiquette, care of the sick, health suggestions, facts worth knowing, etc., featuring a recipe for both an English and a Christmas plum pudding.

Or this 1959 Food at Your Fingertips: In One Volume, put together by the Cookbook Committee of the Homemaking Section of the American Association of Instructors of the Blind.

There’s also the 1902 Cook book, published by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Pullman Memorial Church, Albion, New York, which starts off with Pea soup. Dr. Fluhrer’s Favorite, and Mrs. Willingham Rawnsley’s 1908 An old-world recipe book, offering The Pudding. The simply titled Myra’s cookery book (1880) provides a wealth of recipes from soup to pickles.

Did I miss out your favorite? let me know in the comments! And, as always, please do visit our full collection for more.

Cartes-de-Visite Collection: A Glimpse into the Data

Carte-de-visite of Emily Blackwell (1826-1910), English born physician. Photograph by W. Kurtz.

Carte-de-visite of Emily Blackwell (1826-1910), English-born physician. Photograph by W. Kurtz.

The New York Academy of Medicine Library  has digitized our collection of cartes de visite, small inexpensive photographs mounted on cards that became popular during the second part of the 19th century, through the Metropolitan New York Library Council’s (METRO) Culture in Transit: Digitizing and Democratizing New York’s Cultural Heritage grant.  The grant allows METRO to send a mobile scanning unit to libraries and cultural institutions around the city to digitize small collections and make them available through METRO’s digital portal  and the Digital Public Library of America .

Our collection consists of 223 late 19th– and early 20th-century photographs of national and international figures in medicine and public health.  This collection contains portraits both of lesser-known individuals and of famous New York physicians, such as Abraham Jacobi, Lewis Albert Sayre, Willard Parker, Stephen Smith, Emily Blackwell, and Valentine Mott. It also includes many with international reputations: Robert Koch, Louis Pasteur, Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolf Virchow, and others.


Names of Subjects in Collection

Names of Subjects in Collection

Exploring the metadata of the collection provides a glimpse into the richness and surprises of the collection.  We identified most of the subjects, but there are three subjects that we only have the last name and one subject that is completely unknown. You can learn more about these subjects on our blog.

The majority of the subjects are physicians, but there is one lawyer and politician, John Van Buren, an American. There is also a carte of Celine B. (Mrs. Alexander) Hosack, widow of Dr. Alexander Eddy Hosack.  The auditorium at the Academy is named for Dr. Hosack to commemorate her generous bequest to the Academy’s finances in the 1880s.  There are only four women in the collection:

The subjects of the collection represented countries in Europe and North America.  Five of the most frequent are:

  • American 32% (71 cartes de visite)
  • German 25% (55 cartes de visite)
  • English/British 9% (20 cartes de visite)
  • Austrian 8% (18 cartes de visite)
  • French 6%) (13 cartes de visite)

There are also Bavarian, Canadian, Czech, Hungarian, Irish, Prussian, Scottish and Swiss subjects in the collection.

A majority of the subjects were photographed in America and Germany. Thirty-six percent of the photographs were taken in New York, 10% in Berlin, 10% in Vienna, and 9% in London to round out the top studio locations.  The most frequent photographers in the collection were:

  • Barraud & Jerrard 23% (17 cartes de visite)
  • Rockwood & Co. 21% (16 cartes de visite)
  • Falk 21% (16 cartes de visite)
  • Mora 20% (15 cartes de visite)
  • Kurtz 15% (11 cartes de visite)


Photographers or Studio Names in the Collection

Photographers or Studio Names in the Collection

We are still exploring the data of the collection, but wanted to provide a quick glimpse into what we’ve found thus far.  We are thrilled to share our entire collection on the Digital Culture website. You can view the front and back of each carte, and find out brief information about the physicians and scientists pictured. View all of the Academy Library’s digitized collections.

This post was co-authored with Arlene Shaner, MA, MLS. She is Historical Collections Librarian in the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, where she has been on the staff since January of 2001.

Digital Highlights: “Confectionery Made Easy”

Many of us are looking at an uptick in home baking as the holidays approach and some of us are dusting off recipes that we don’t use all that often: shortbread, cinnamon rolls, croissants, Eccles cakes! Never fear, though, George Read is here with directions for a variety of confectionery items in a “plain and concise manner.”

Flip through the pages of The confectioner’s and pastry-cook’s guide below or follow this link to read it online.