This collection of approximately 1350 books covers the history of medicine from the time of Hippocrates to the turn of the twentieth century as well as incorporating items relating to the history of the King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Development of the collection
As King's College London was established in the nineteenth century, this period is one of the strengths of the King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry historical collection. At the turn of this century, appalling sanitary conditions, overcrowded housing and haphazard and dangerous working environments meant that epidemics like typhus, scarlet fever and cholera were commonplace. These issues are mirrored in nineteenth century medicine, which saw the development of the vaccine, the advent of antiseptic surgery and improvements in hospital and medical practices. The KCSMD historical collection holds many items reflecting the progress of medicine in this period. For example, An inquiry into the causes of the variole vaccination ... (1801) by Edward Jenner, Aseptic surgery (1896) by Charles Barrett Lockwood and Clinical lectures in the practice of medicine (1848) by Robert Graves.
Despite the fact that the library of KCSMD was only formed in the nineteenth century, earlier works have not been neglected and are well-represented in the collection. The sixteenth century saw the birth of anatomy and the start of modern medicine with the publication of anatomical works by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). The KCSMD historical collection holds Opera omnia, anatomica & chirurgica (1725), which is the first edition of Vesalius 's collected works. Other noteworthy items from this period include one of the first works on plastic surgery, Cheirurgia nova ... de narium, aurium, labiorum'que defectu (1598) by Gaspare Tagliacozzi and a handwritten manuscript, An hospitall for the diseased ... copied from a 1598 work thought to be written by Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603). There is only one known complete copy of this edition.
The seventeenth century was significant in the history of medicine in that it placed emphasis on scientific observation, something Hippocrates had advocated over 2,000 years previously. In this century William Harvey (1578-1657) provided the first complete theory of circulation in the human body, breaking the paradigm that fresh blood was constantly manufactured in the liver. The KCSMD vhistorical collection holds the 1766 edition of Harvey 's complete works, Opera omnia, and the first edition of Harvey 's De generatione animalium (1651), where Harvey describes his theory of reproduction.
The eighteenth century continued to see progress in anatomy, with medical schools no longer in fear of violating Church decrees in the dissection of corpses. Many anatomical works were published in this period and the KCSMD historical collections holds, for example, An anatomical exposition of the structure of the human body (1763) by Jacques-Bénigne Winslow and A course of anatomico-physiological lectures on the human structure and animal oeconomy (1765) by Charles Nicholas Jenty. Surgery also flourished in this century, as can be seen in William Cheselden 's A treatise on the high operation for the stone ... (1723) and Pierre Dionis 's Cours d'operations de chirurgie ... (1708). The practice of medicine changed significantly in the eighteenth century and was heavily influenced by the famous clinician and teacher, Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), whose pupils came from all over Europe and as far afield as the United States and China to be taught by him at the University of Leiden. The KCSMD historical collection holds many different works by Boerhaave. For instance, Dr. Boerhaave's academical lectures on the theory of physic ... (1766-1773) and Boerhaave's Aphorisms (1724).
Ancient medicine has not been excluded from this medical collection and there are works by Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC) as well as Celsus (25BC-40AD) and Aetius of Amida (527-565). There is one rare incunable in this collection: Pietro d 'Argelata 's, Cirurgia magistri, published in 1497 in Venice.
Transfer to the Foyle Special Collections Library
In 2002 it was decided to move this historical medical collection to the Foyle Special Collections Library in Chancery Lane, London, where the collection could be housed in conditions appropriate to its value and fragility. In the Foyle Special Collections Library, the King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry historical medical collection is kept under secure conditions in an environment specially adapted to preserve early printed materials. There are two other significant medical collections which are also housed in the Foyle Special Collections Library. These are the Guy's Historical Medical Collection and the St. Thomas Historical Medical Collection, making the Foyle Special Collections Library one of the largest UK university repositories of historical medical material.
Research Resources in Medical History
In 2001 the Research Resources in Medical History grant scheme, a joint project funded by the Wellcome Trust and the British Library, was established to support the preservation and access to historical medical collections in Britain. The Foyle Special Collections Library successfully received funds from this project in 2002 enabling the retrospective cataloguing of the KCSMD historical medical collection, as well as conservation of many of its most fragile items. Prior to the advent of this cataloguing project, there was very little information available on the contents of the KCSMD historical collection. The online cataloguing of this collection has now ensured that a valuable and unique medical resource is internationally available and is preserved in its entirety.
The history of King's College Hospital
The first King's College Hospital opened in 1840 some nine years after King's College London. When King's College got underway in 1831, it had a medical department but no attached teaching hospital. Medical students found it difficult to gain entrance to London hospitals to gain the required medical experience and the numbers of medical students registering began to dwindle. It became imperative that King's College either acquire or start a hospital where medical students could work unhindered in gaining the necessary practical experience.
In 1839 the Council of King's College London purchased the lease of a disused workhouse in Portugal Street. At this time, the area between Lincoln 's Inn Fields on one side and Regent Street on the other, was a vast slum made up of insanitary, overcrowded housing with dark and dangerous alleyways. Situated in the heart of this environment, King's College Hospital opened itself to the public in 1840 with 50 beds. Within three months the number of beds had increased to 120 and such was the need for a hospital in this area that in 1845 the Council of King's purchased the freehold to the workhouse and acres of adjacent land. Work began on the enlargement of the hospital, a by no means easy feat, as the hospital remained open to patients during this construction period. The new hospital was completed in 1861 and was built according to the latest theories on hospital architecture. Wards had beeswaxed floors, large windows to provide natural lighting and a fireplace on the inside wall. With slum clearance taking place in earnest at the turn of the twentieth century, and a newly created office environment replacing living accommodation, it became necessary also to move King's College Hospital south of the river into the suburbs of London from where patients now hailed. This third and final King's College Hospital officially opened in 1913 on the site where it still stands today in Denmark Hill.