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Rare Books & Manuscripts

Discover our rare book collection by searching our library catalogs, either Orbis or Quicksearch.

The Medical Historical Library, one of the country’s finest collections, was part of the original design of the Yale Medical Library (now the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library), built in 1940 and dedicated in 1941. It was the vision of Dr. Harvey Cushing, who joined with his two friends and fellow bibliophiles, Dr. Arnold C. Klebs and Dr. John F. Fulton, in what they called -- with many inventive synonyms -- their “Trinitarian plan,” to donate their superb book collections to Yale if Yale would build a place to house them. 

Building on the original interests of our founders, the Medical Historical Library contains over 100,000 volumes from the 12th to the 21st centuries, spanning many topics in the history of medicine and science. 

Topics widely represented in our collection include Vesaliana, or works by and about anatomist Andreas Vesalius, the works of surgeon Ambroise Paré, anatomy and surgery in general, medieval and Renaissance medical manuscripts and medical incunabula, plague tracts, and herbals. 

The library also holds books and pamphlets on tuberculosis, inoculation and vaccination, anesthesia, ichthyology, weights & measures, and physiological works from the 16th to 18th century. Collections focused on different authors and texts include the works of Harvey Cushing, Benjamin Silliman, Michael Servetus, Luigi Galvani and his nephew Aldini, Richard Lower and John Mayow, Joseph Priestley, Robert Boyle, and bibliographies of Fracastoro’s poem Syphilis. 

The library also contains major scientific texts, including first editions of Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo, Charles Darwin, and Isaac Newton. Generally speaking, the library also contains large collections organized by date, from the 16th to the 20th centuries.