NLM logo

University of Otago
Medical & Dental Libraries

290 Great King Street
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand
Richard German, Health Sciences Librarian
+0064 3 479 7403
64 3 479 7403
Fax: +0064 3 479 5099

The Medical Library collects broadly in the pre-clinical and clinical medical sciences, pharmacy, and physiotherapy, supporting the research and teaching needs of the Division of Health Sciences at the University of Otago. The Medical Library does not collect in fields not currently taught at the University of Otago. These include hospital management, nursing, alternative medicine, occupational therapy and optometry.

In addition to the book and serial collections, the Medical Library has special collections of historical importance; significant works including the Monro Collection, the Historical Collection, the Money Collection and the Truby King Collection. The Medical Library is also a national repository library for medical monographs.

The Dental Library is a unique facility in New Zealand and, while priority is given to the research and teaching needs of the Faculty, care is taken to collect broadly in all aspects of dentistry as funding allows.

Regular reviews take place to identify areas which are weak or out-of-date, and material is acquired appropriately as funding allows.


The Monro Collection forms the core of our special collections. From 1720 to 1846 the Chair of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland was held consecutively by the dynasty of Alexander Monro, father (primus), son (secundus), and grandson (tertius). Monro tertius had two medically qualified sons, the younger of whom, David, emigrated to New Zealand in 1841 to settle in Nelson. He became a sheep farmer, went into politics and eventually became speaker of the House of Representatives, being knighted in 1866. It was to him that Monro tertius left the medical component of the library. Sir David Monro bequeathed the books to his son-in-law Sir James Hector, M.D., F.R.S. who in turn left them to his son Dr. C.M. Hector. It was only in 1929 that the collection finally reached the Library of the Otago Medical School. The Monro Collection includes about four hundred volumes of early printed editions of ancient and classical texts (such as works by Galen, Hippocrates and Vesalius), contemporary texts, and their own published works and manuscripts. It is the most important of the historical collections held by the Medical Library.

The Medical Library also holds the Medical Historical Collection, a collection of medical monographs from the 17th to the 19th centuries, including major medical and surgical texts, anatomical atlases and contemporary material on diseases such as plague, yellow fever and malaria. Original works are supplemented by some facsimile editions, including Anatomical Studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Truby King Collection includes the books from Sir Frederic Truby King’s library at Truby King House in Wellington, on deposit in the University of Otago Medical Library by the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society Inc. Sir Truby King (1858-1938) was Medical Superintendent of Seacliff Mental Hospital near Dunedin from 1889-1920. He held a lectureship in mental disorders at Otago University and was the first New Zealand doctor to hold a Diploma in Public Health. He was also the driving force behind the development of the Plunket Society and Karitane hospitals for the care of mothers and babies in New Zealand. Sir Truby King believed that a healthy body led to a healthy mind, which was evident in his enthusiasm for farming and animal husbandry at Seacliff. This philosophy also led to his programme of infant welfare, for which he is best known.

There is a small Dental History Collection of late-nineteenth century monographs and journals, including the publications of Sir Henry Percy Pickerill 1879-1956. Sir Henry Percy Pickerill was first Dean of the Dental School in 1907, and the editor of the New Zealand Dental Journal from 1909-1916. In England during the first World War he established a medical unit for the treatment of facial and jaw injuries at No.2 New Zealand General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames. On arrival back in Dunedin in 1919, he continued the unit, and resumed his position as Dean of the Dental School. He pioneered reconstructive surgery of the face and jaw, and his work resulted in major developments in the care of children with cleft lips and palates.

Subject Strengths:
History of Anatomy; History of Medicine; History of Pharmacology and Pharmacy; History of Public Health; History of Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy; History of Stomatology; History of Surgery
Last Updated:
31 Mar 2020