NLM logo

University of Chicago Library
(The John Crerar Library & The Special Collections Research Center)

5730 S. Ellis Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637
United States
Andrea Twiss-Brooks, Co-Director, Science Libraries Division
1 773-702-7715
Fax: 773-753-1230

The history of medicine collection at the University of Chicago Library is housed in two locations on campus. The Special Collections Research Center located in the Joseph Regenstein Library contains archival materials and early printed books, while the John Crerar Library holds more modern historical materials in the history of medicine and related disciplines. If you would like to visit the Special Collections Research Center, the address is: 1100 E. 57th Street (Special Collections Research Center)

While most aspects of the history of medicine are covered, those with special emphasis include studies of the nature of disease, anatomy, psychiatry, and physiology. The collections include books, journals, pamphlets, microfilm, modern and historical manuscripts, photographs and other archival materials. The John Crerar Library provides reference service in person and by letter, phone, or e-mail; the Special Collections Research Center provides in-person and remote reference service. Secondary material and photocopies or digital scans of primary source material may be provided on interlibrary loan depending on condition or other criteria. Both the John Crerar Library and the Special Collections Research Center are open to visiting researchers, who are strongly encouraged to contact the Library in advance of visiting to confirm individual arrangements and availability of materials.


The 1907 acquisition by the John Crerar Library of the Newberry Library’s collections in medicine, the later merger of the John Crerar Library with the University of Chicago Library in 1981, and the medical collections built by the University following the opening of the medical school in 1927, combined to create a large, rich collection in the history of medicine. The acquisition in 1906 by the John Crerar Library of the personal library of Chicago surgeon Nicholas Senn (estimated at 12,500 books and 14,500 pamphlets) and the acquisition by the University of Chicago Library of the Clifford C. Grulee collection on pediatrics (including two 15th-century editions of Paolo Bagellardo’s work on the diseases of children) are examples of the efforts that helped create the current collection.

The John Crerar Library is home to a large collection of nineteenth and twentieth century medical books and journals, including long runs of both North American and foreign medical periodicals. Also of note are holdings of state and regional medical association and society journals. While there are specific collection subject strengths, the history of medicine collections are broad in scope, covering almost every aspect of the history of medicine and allied sciences. The more modern historical collections of the John Crerar Library include substantial holdings in epidemiology and infectious diseases (including cholera, tuberculosis and yellow fever), sanitation and public health, psychiatry and mental health, surgery, and cookery and nutrition. These collections are also particularly strong in the history of the basic science, including human anatomy, botany, genetics, and bacteriology. Historical editions of biographical reference works (e.g., Chicago Medical Directory) and other reference works (e.g., Physician’s Desk Reference) are also held.

The Special Collections Research Center includes approximately 18,000 rare books from the 15th century onward, with particular strengths in human anatomy, internal medicine and surgery, gynecology and obstetrics. The library of Dr. Mortimer Frank consists of 522 books on anatomy and anatomical illustration, including two incunabula and nine manuscripts. Lester Frankenthal presented the library of a noted German obstetrician, Friedrich Ahlfeld, containing 1,500 volumes and 4,000 pamphlets and drawings representing the history of gynecology and obstetrics from the 17th to the 19th century. The bequest of Joseph Halle Schaffner further strengthened the history of medical resources, and the merger of the University of Chicago and the John Crerar Library included some extraordinary works, among them the 1628 Frankfurt first edition of Harvey’s De Motu Cordis and major anatomical atlases. In 2009 the Library purchased the Stanton A. Friedberg M.D. Rare Book Collection of Rush University Medical Center at the University of Chicago, consisting of approximately 3500 volumes from 1500 to the mid-20th century, with about 500 pre-1800 titles. Otorhinolaryngology and infectious diseases are particular strengths. Many of the 16th-century titles in the collection, including the 1543 edition of Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica, are in contemporary bindings.

Manuscript materials include collections formed by individuals, professional papers, and the records of medical organizations. Dr. Frank Webster Jay donated his collection of medical manuscripts and prints, including autograph letters of Boerhaave, Faraday, Leeuwenhoek, and Pasteur. The University of Chicago’s archival collections include professional papers of physicians and medical researchers, including James B. Herrick, Charles Huggins, Leon Jacobson, Ralph S. Lillie, Franklin McLean, Howard Ricketts, Nicholas Senn and Morris Fishbein; administrative records relating to the University of Chicago’s medical school, and the records of a number of Chicago and national medical associations received from the John Crerar Library.

Subject Strengths:
History of Anatomy; History of Botany; History of Cookery and Nutrition; History of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases; History of Genetics; History of Medicine; History of Military/Naval Medicine; History of Otorhinolaryngology; History of Pediatrics; History of Public Health; History of Radiology; Materia Medica
Last Updated:
29 Jun 2010