Amy Trulock

Future Librarian, Class of 2012

19th Century Curiosity Libraries

“The nineteenth century was an era of widespread interest in curiosities for their own sake, not only those intended for popular exhibit by P. T. Barnum and others but also those collected by physicians—such as Frank Hastings Hamilton (1813–1886), Joseph Leidy (1823–1891), Thomas Dent Mütter (1811–1859), and Isaac Parrish (1811–1852)—for their own pleasure and that of their professional colleagues. Private “pathological cabinets” were quite common at the time. Yet these curiosities—such as tumors in jars, bullet-shattered bones, Chang and Eng Bunker’s conjoined liver, or anthropodermic bookbindings, which might seem bizarre, irreverent, or even criminal today—were not intended merely to entertain ghoulish physicians but to instruct. As such, they were intended to be protected and preserved alongside the medical books and journals themselves. Through most of the nineteenth century, medical libraries almost always existed in tandem with anatomical or pathological museums, and they were thought to go hand-in-hand as teaching tools [10].”

via Financing North American medical libraries in the nineteenth century.

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