Welcome to the online exhibitions of the Royal College of Surgeons Library and Archives.
Our online exhibitions showcase our rare and unique books and archives, allowing visitors from around the world to enjoy our collections.
New exhibitions are added throughout the year, so check back regularly to discover more about the visual and historic treasures from our collections.
The Royal College of Surgeons Library and Archives in Lincoln's Inn Fields is closed to visitors for a major refurbishment project. When we reopen in 2021, we will be presenting physical exhibitions in the building, and these will also made available online for the permanent enjoyment for all.
Healing plants were once at the core of medical teaching and doctors and surgeons were required to be medical herbalists alongside their other practical skills. This exhibition concentrates on works that represent the most famous and rare of the RCS library's botanical herbals and evokes the passion, exploration and dedication of the medical botanists that documented these plants in gardens and in the wild and ultimately used them to help patients. The library of the Royal College of Surgeons has an outstanding collection of early herbals and botanical books. Most of these are donations from surgical fellows who studied botany or had a personal interest in plants and natural history. Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows includes many such surgeons, for example: Joseph Lister, pioneer in antiseptic surgery, who was second in the list of candidates obtaining honours in Botany, according to his University of London certificates dated 14 August 1845.