Rare Books

HCA rare books shelving

Rare books in Historical Collections & Archives are included in the library catalog. Our rare book holdings can be described as "a collection of collections." Each collection is unique, and has its own story:

The History of Medicine Collection

Consisting of over 3,000 titles from the early 16th to mid-20th centuries, the History of Medicine Collection is the most extensive of HC&A's rare book collections, with a strong relationship to campus history and the local medical community.

The collection began development under Bertha Brandon Hallam, the first professional librarian at University of Oregon Medical School. Beginning in 1919, Hallam engaged the support of the Portland Academy of Medicine, the city’s leading organization for medical professionals. PAM directly funded many rare book acquisitions, and facilitated donations of books from members throughout the 20th century.

In the early 20th century, George Emanuel Burget, Ph.D., Chair of the UOMS Library Committee, donated his own book collection to the library. Included were several works by Claude Bernard; Félix Vicq-d’Azyr’s 1786 Traité d'anatomie et de physiologie; and titles by Marcello Malpighi, John Hunter, Alexander von Humboldt, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, R.T.H. Laennec, and many more. PAM and Library Committee members including Adalbert Bettman, M.D., Noble Wiley Jones, M.D., and Ernst A. Sommer, M.D., also made individual donations of rare books. An important donation from Joseph Leggett Miller, M.D. brought works by Roger Bacon, Hermann Boerhaave, Richard Bright, Ambroise Paré, and Benjamin Rush, along with dozens of other titles.

In 1964, the History of Medicine Room was established through the support of PAM and the medical school. At this time the History of Medicine Collection included around 400 16th-19th century volumes.

In 1980, biophysicist and inventor Norman Holter donated his copy of the 1555 edition of Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica to the library. As one of the greatest works of Western medicine and a landmark of the Renaissance, Holter’s donation raised the profile of OHSU Library’s rare book collections, and encouraged future donations of rare medical classics.

Thanks to donations from faculty, alumni, and the general public, the History of Medicine collection today includes over 3000 titles, and is among the finest institutional collections of rare books in the Pacific Northwest.

History of Dentistry Collection

The History of Dentistry Collection originated in the School of Dentistry’s library in the 1970s, under the guidance of J. Henry Clarke, D.M.D., and the school’s History of Dentistry Committee. The dental school built the History of Dentistry Collection to around 550 titles from the 18th century to the early 20th century, with strengths in orthodontics, periodontology, anesthesiology, pathology, oral surgery, and dental practice in the Pacific Northwest.

In 2003, the collection and its oak bookcases were transferred to OHSU Library. The transfer of the collection to OHSU Library established a new partnership for preserving and providing access to the school’s unique historical collections. Since 2003, over 100 additional titles have been added to the collection, including several historic works on 18th-19th century dental anatomy and technology.

Classic Article Collection

The Classic Article Collection includes over 1500 individual volumes of scholarly journals, which contain over 2000 of the articles  identified in Lee Ash's Serial Publications Containing Medical Classics and Morton's Medical Bibliography. The collection was formed by OHSU Library staff in the early 2000s, as a cooperative effort to reduce the holdings of obsolete journals in OHSU Library, while preserving those volumes that contain historically significant texts. Selected articles from the collection are also available in OHSU Digital Commons.

Sydenham Collection

First developed under the direction of Bertha Hallam, the Sydenham Collection contains 19th-century books published by the Sydenham Society and the New Sydenham Society, London-based publishers of reprints of classic medical works.

First Class Collection

First developed under the direction of Bertha Hallam, the First Class Collection was built from a list of the textbooks used by students in the first session of the University of Oregon Medical School (1887-1888). It provides a fascinating glimpse of 19th century medical education.

Whitman Collection

Also developed first under Bertha Hallam, the Whitman Collection was built from a list of books that were known to be in Dr. Marcus Whitman's collection at the Whitman mission. Historical works about the Whitmans and the Whitman mission are also included.