Vaulted Treasures: Historical Medical Books at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Inside a climate-controlled vault at the University of Virginia Claude Moore Health Sciences Library are treasures. Not gold or silver or precious stones, but printed treasures, all published between 1493 and 1819. Some are small pocket-sized volumes only a few inches tall. Others are massive: the largest weighs in at 18 pounds and has a cover that exceeds four square feet. Some consist of only the written word. Others contain exquisite illustrations of the human body or fanciful landscapes.

Big or small, plain or fancy, the books and their authors all contribute to the history of medicine. They are reminders that the ideas and knowledge we take for granted in the twenty-first century have evolved over millennia. Physical symptoms in life have not always been directly correlated with physical findings in the body after death, and two centuries ago the now ubiquitous stethoscope so often draped around the physician’s neck did not exist.

Join us on a journey into the vault to view more than 50 of our most notable books and see how their authors over the years have documented their discoveries and concepts for contemporaries and for us.  Or, stay in the twenty-first century and delve into the digitized versions of many of our treasures in the Fulltext Books section, which offers links to the scanned images of over half of these rare books.

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