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Books & Manuscripts

The Historical Library houses a collection of manuscripts of historical significance from throughout the ages, as well as modern collections of importance. Current books in the history of medicine are located in the Historical Reading Room, either on the main floor or on the balcony. Biographies are shelved in the Morse Reading Room balcony. Most twentieth century reprints of medical classics currently housed in locked stacks CAN circulate. They may be checked out at the Circulation Desk for a period of two months.

Location LC Call Number
Main Floor


Balcony A-Q
Oversize books
Morse Reading Room Balcony Biog or Coll Biog

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

There are over fifty medieval and Renaissance manuscript codices in the Historical Library. A partial listing may be found in Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada and its Supplement, both of which can be found in the Medical Historical Library (call number: Hist Ref 2 Z6620 U5 R52 1935) . The Paneth Codex, one the most significant of the library's manuscript holdings, was acquired in the 1950s through funds raised by the Library Associates. 

Persian and Arabic manuscripts

The Historical Library has about 25 Persian and Arabic manuscripts can be found though ORBIS (the Library’s catalog). Search Orbis by Local call number, for Manuscript Persian or Manuscript Arabic to obtain the records of our holdings.  A number of Arabic and Persian manuscripts and early translations of medical works were digitized through a grant from the Arcadia Fund in 2013.

Modern Manuscripts (16th – 20th centuries)

The Historical Library holds several hundred individual manuscripts from the 16th to 20th centuries which can be located through Orbis.

The Library also has the originals of Harvey Cushing's and John Fulton's diaries as well as bound volumes of selected correspondence and memorabilia. Peter Parker’s papers, physician/missionary to China in the 1840s, are also in the Library.

Reference Books

The reference room of the Historical Library is open any time the Medical Library is open. The door is on the left side of the Historical Library Reading Room. After 5 p.m. the lights are usually turned off and the door closed. However, the room remains unlocked.
The reference room contains

  • a full set of Index-Catalogue of The Library of the Surgeon-General's Office, U.S. Army
  • biographical dictionaries including the major national dictionaries, encyclopedias of the history of medicine, and subject bibliographies

Older reference works (including some early 20th century works) are shelved in the locked stacks.
Reference works do not circulate but photocopying is acceptable if the book is in good condition.

Manuscript Collections of Yale faculty in Medicine, Nursing and Public Health

The Historical Library does not generally collect the papers of physicians and scientists. Administrative archives and Faculty manuscript collections are held by Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, including the Cushing, Fulton, Klebs, Grenfell, and Yerkes papers.

Interlibrary Loan

Due to their fragility, books through the nineteenth century are not available via Interlibrary Loan. If the book is 18th century or earlier and has 50 or fewer pages, consideration will be given to have it overhead scanned. For nineteenth century books, the limit is 100 pages. Microfilm copies may be requested for a fee for any book out of copyright. Contact our staff with requests and questions.