Rīga Stradiņš University, Institute of the History of Medicine (Latvia)
Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine, Riga (Latvia)
An Evaluation of Rare Medical Book Collections in Latvia According to the Grolier Club List One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine
The Grolier Club is America’s oldest and largest society of bibliophiles and book experts. The club was established in New York in 1884 in honor of Jean Grolier, a distinguished 16th-century French bibliophile. Since 1903, the Grolier Club has published lists of “One Hundred Books Famous in…” in various areas of science, also staging exhibitions related to the same.
The list of One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine was published in 1994. The exhibition with this identical title was inspired by and modelled after the exhibition of One Hundred Books Famous in Science held at the Grolier Club in 1958. It contained the overall opinions of medical bibliophiles and retailers of antique books. The list is also based on the views of former Grolier Club members such as Sir William Osler, Harvey Cushing, Josiah K. Lilly, Jr, and others. According to the curator of the exhibition One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine Haskell F. Norman: “A book that is ‘famous’ need not be one that is most important, nor need it announce the author’s major discovery or, for that matter, any discovery at all.”
The Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine in Rīga conducted a search for books written by authors who are on the list, yielding up books by 54 authors such as Avicenna, Boerhaave, Celsus, Descartes, Galen, Hippocrates, Laennec, Lister, Morgagni, Pare, Pasteur, Pavlov, Vesalius, and so forth. The museum will look for other rare books in other collections in Latvia. Detailed analysis and application of the research will be conducted during the summer of 2019, with the results to be presented at the 29th Baltic Conference on the History of Science in Vilnius.
The search for collections of rare medical books can be expanded to Estonia, Lithuania and Scandinavia. The hypothesis is that all of the books mentioned in Grolier’s One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine are available for researchers in the aforementioned region. Most of these are held by the Pauls Stradiņš Museum.