Osler Library of the History of Medicine

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Osler Library of the History of Medicine, an important resource for medical history scholars
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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, June 2017

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See also David S. Crawford | Galen | History of medicine portal | Hua Tuo | William Osler | Sushruta | Lucille Teasdale | Emily Howard Stowe

The Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University in Montréal Québec is Canada's foremost library in the history of medicine, and one of the most important scholarly resources of its kind in North America. The Library maintains a collection of 8000 works relating to the history of medicine, much of it donated by William Osler himself. Osler's presence in the Library is underlined by the fact that his ashes are kept in the library as a memorial. The Library website provides an overview of its collections and describes its holdings of archives, manuscripts, incunabula, portraits and artefacts. Online access to the Library catalogue is made available through McGill's central catalogue. The site provides easy access to the Osler Library newsletter and a range of other library publications, including the Osler Library Studies in the History of Medicine series. The newsletter is accompanied by an author and subject index. The site hosts a number of virtual exhibitions relating to the life of William Osler and the Osler Library. The Osler collection is one of the most extensive in the world, ranging from Sumerian tablets to medieval Arabic manuscripts.

Holdings & services

The Library comprises a circulating/reference collection of secondary literature and journals on the history of the health sciences, as well as a collection of primary materials (pre-1914). The collection of historic volumes assembled by the Library has grown to close to 100,000 volumes. The archives and manuscript collections are devoted to Osler and the history of medicine at McGill University, Quebec and Canada. Decriptions of archival collections can be browsed at http://osler.library.mcgill.ca/archives. Services included reference, interlibrary loan, image reproductions, tours, and a visiting fellowship for scholars. Databases have been developed to find our collection of almanacs (http://osler.library.mcgill.ca/almanacs) and reprints (http://osler.library.mcgill.ca/reprints/) and an index of Canadian medical obituaries (http://osler.library.mcgill.ca/cfstand/).

NLM Profiles in Science

  • This site is a collaboration between the Alan Mason Chesney Archives at Johns Hopkins, the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill and the National Library of Medicine. Osler was instrumental in founding the Medical Library Association, and served as its president from 1901-1904.



IndexCat contains over 4.5 million references to over 3.7 million bibliographic items dating from over five centuries and covering subjects of the basic sciences, scientific research, civilian and military medicine, public health, and hospital administration. A wide range of materials can be discovered through IndexCat, including books, journal articles, dissertations, pamphlets, reports, newspaper clippings, case studies, obituary notices, letters, portraits, as well as rare books and manuscripts. Recently, two new collections, involving medieval scientific English and Latin texts, were made available through IndexCat. Opening a new frontier in historical research, these additional collections encompass over 42,000 records of incipits, or the beginning words of a medieval manuscript or early printed book. IndexCat users can search incipit data by manuscript, library, author/translator, title, subject, date and other information.

The History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine creates the IndexCat database, which is the online version of the Index Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office.
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