Friday, February 27, 2009

Catalogs at Countway

I've spent parts of the last couple Thursday mornings at the Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard's Countway Library of Medicine. They have a few very interesting library catalogs that I've been scoping out as possible additions to the Libraries of Early America project, and I'll probably be spending some more significant time there later in the spring.

Among the items of interest are an 1816 manuscript catalog of the first Boston Medical Library (founded in 1805) and an 1823 printed catalog of their library. One of the founders of the Boston Medical Library was Dr. John Collins Warren (1788-1856), whose two-volume library catalog from 1830 delighted me immensely. One volume is organized by author, giving full bibliographic details about the books (we like those). The other volume is organized by subject, using a very extensive classification system (presumably devised by Warren himself). Jefferson's is the only other early American library I can think of offhand where such a scheme is deployed.

A third item of particular interest is the library catalog of Dr. John Jeffries (1744-1819), a Boston physician who served as a surgeon with the British army during the Revolution and lived in England until the late 1780s. While there he made several voyages by balloon, including one across the English Channel. He returned to Boston and lived out his days as a prominent medical figure in Boston. His books, or at least the medical portion of them, were left to his sons at his death, and a catalog was made of them. Later, some of the books were donated to Harvard Medical School, the Boston Medical Department, and the Boston Public Library. The Jeffries catalog is almost entirely medical books, some with, um, interesting names, like "Directions for ruptured persons" (which I presume is something like this title).

I'm excited to add some medical libraries to the project, and very thankful to the Center's public services librarian, Jack Eckert, for making me aware of these catalogs. I'm sure I'll have more to say about them soon when I've dived in a bit deeper.