Year One of “Expanding the Medical Heritage Library” Is Complete!

We have just submitted our first year report on our second National Endowment for the Humanities-funded grant, “Expanding the Medical Heritage Library: Preserving and Providing Online Access to Historical Medical Periodicals.” Under this grant, we have been digitizing numerous 19th century American medical journals (approximately 1,863 volumes so far!) and we’ve excerpted some of the highlights below.

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
The College staff were particularly excited about a number of our selections. Among the most significant contributions were 147 volumes comprising the four leading 19th‐century homeopathy journals (American homoeopathist/American homoeopath/American physicianHahnemannian monthly, Homoeopathic physician, and Homeopathic recorder). Additionally, we included the entire run of the Transactions of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, which includes a complete run of all volumes published throughout more than 200 years (volumes were published in 1793 and 1841‐2002). As the holder of the journals’ copyright, the College of Physicians agreed to release these volumes freely into the public domain for this project. The Transactions include proceedings from meetings, lists of Fellows, and detailed appendices that collectively describe how the College of Physicians shaped and engaged with emerging American medical trends.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services
Columbia digitized 71 titles, the bulk of which came from the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th. These were years when U.S. medicine came of age – from its disorganized, underfunded, and generally unscientific state in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War to a powerful, scientifically cutting‐edge, and lavishly financed medical establishment by the end of the First World War. Many of the journals Columbia chose to digitize were created by emerging specialties such as dermatology and venereology; pediatrics; and neurology/psychiatry. They also concentrated on public health and climatology journals knowing that these cover an unusually broad range of topics that appeal to researchers in a wide range of disciplines. Additionally, they included many New York City journals since their holdings of these were usually complete. These included the Brooklyn Medical Journal and its successor, the Long Island Medical Journal (1888‐1922); the long‐running and influential New York Medical Journal (1865‐1922); and two New York German‐language journals: the New Yorker Medicinische Monatsschrift (1852‐53) and the New Yorker Medizinische Presse (1885‐1888).

Yale University’s Cushing/Whitney Medical Library
The titles Yale chose represent a variety of themes, from deafness to dentistry. Yale choose the journals, in collaboration with partners, based on perceived need, as many of the titles were not fully available digitally, allowing Yale to fill in gaps. A significant title selected by Yale was the American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb, a Connecticut journal that holds importance as one of the oldest journals in English that focuses on the education of the deaf.

Our Reading List

We can’t hope to be as exhaustive as Whewell’s Ghost or The History Carnival, but all this talk of going back to school has us thinking in reading lists. Here’s some of what we’re looking at online this week.

If that last piece piques your interest, we have lots of 19th century medical journals already in the collection and more coming in all the time! Check out issues of the Philadelphia journal of the medical and physical sciences (1820), the New York journal of medicine (1856), the Maryland medical journal (1901), the American journal of the medical sciences (1827), or the New Yorker medizinische Monatsschrift (1891).

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

New to the MHL!

Have you checked out the latest items added to our collection? Here are a few highlights:

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

Digital Highlights: Elizabeth Packard Ware, Asylum Activist


Title page from Mrs. Packard’s first volume.

In 1860, Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard (see references in the Alabama Law Review and Project Muse) was committed to an Illinois insane asylum by her husband, with the assistance of a personal friend who was a physician. Packard claimed that she had been incarcerated unjustly and, after three years of work, managed to have herself released, having convinced the authorities of her sanity (the judge’s final decision in the case is said to have taken less than ten minutes to make!) Upon returning home, however, her husband sought to finish the job by isolating her in their house, boarding her up not unlike a character in Jane Eyre.

Accounts vary, but Packard herself said that her husband had institutionalized her because her religious beliefs differed from his and, as a clergyman, he was worried for his reputation and income if she continued to speak out.

During her first bout of institutionalization, Packard was eventually allowed writing materials by the asylum superintendent, Dr. Andrew McFarland. She composed at least one weighty volume while still in the asylum: The Great Drama: or, the Millenial Harbinger, which is a largely personal treatise on her own experiences and religious convictions. She divides American religous belief into two main camps: Christians and “Calvinists.” She identifies herself as the former and her husband, unambiguously referred to as her persecutor or jailor, as the latter.

Packard also wrote more specifically about the asylum system in Modern Persecution: or, insane asylums unveiled and The prisoners’ hidden life.

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

Images from the Library



From J.B. Sarlandière’s Mémoires sur l’electro-puncture, considérée comme moyen nouveau de traiter efficacement la goutte, les rheumatismes et les affections nerveuses, sur l’emploi du moxa japonaia en France : suivis d’un traité de l’acupuncture et du moxa, principaux moyens curatifs chez les peuples de la Chine, de la Corée et du Japon; ornés de figures japonaises (1825).

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