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19th Century Cataloguing Project

In recent years, the Library identified and prioritized the need for the systematic cataloguing and conservation of its historical collections. The award of two grants from the Research Resources in Medical History scheme set up by the Wellcome Trust enabled the cataloguing of approximately 26,000 out of a total of around 28,000 items in its collection of tracts and pamphlets. A third part of the same funding stream, awarded to allow the Library to catalogue and make available online its printed monograph collection from 1800-1849, was completed in 2016.

The initial project began in May 2007 with the aim of adding details that previously only existed in the Library’s card catalogue to Heritage Collections, the Library's online catalogue.

The bibliographic records covering the nineteenth century monographs are now also available via the Copac academic and national library catalogue - see “Access to the collection below for further details”.

The Nineteenth Century monograph collection

The nineteenth century monographs collection comprises an estimated 8,500 items ranging over all aspects of medicine and is not purely related to surgery. Natural history and other scientific subjects are represented, reflecting the work of nineteenth century College museum curators.

Typical items found in the collection are:

  • Continental works on topics such as surgical treatment for inflammation and gangrene
  • Biographical works of famous surgeons by their distinguished colleagues
  • Famous works such as those of Charles and John Bell reprinted under varying imprints, dates and in different languages
  • Colourful and detailed plates relating to topics such as disease and comparative anatomy

Benefits of the project

Use of the nineteenth century monographs had been limited because they are kept out of sight of Library users in various storage areas around the College. Also they are organised by size and time period rather than subject and listed only on terse, hand-written catalogue cards. Cataloguing reveals the contents of the collection by creating online descriptions for all the tracts. It also allowed the Library to produce statistics relating to the condition review that ran in parallel to the cataloguing of the collection.

As in previous projects, recognised international standards are being applied to cataloguing the collection. Many of the items have interesting evidence of their provenance that will be recorded as part of the new online records.

Access to the collection

Now that the cataloguing is complete it is possible to search for these nineteenth century items within the Heritage Collections.

The bibliographic records covering the nineteenth monographs will gradually become available via the Copac academic and national library catalogue.

Copac is a freely available library catalogue, giving access to the merged online catalogues of many major UK and Irish academic and National libraries, as well as increasing numbers of specialist libraries.

Subscribing institutions can locate records for these nineteenth century items on Research Libraries UK's Union Catalogue record retrieval database.

If you are interested in consulting material from this collection, please email library@rcseng.ac.uk.

Other historical medical and scientific collections in the UK

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