Pathology, surgery, therapeutics, anatomy, public health – these are some of the top subjects that are covered by the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK-MHL) digitisation project. In July the UK-MHL project reached the halfway point, with over 26,000 titles digitised, resulting in nearly 8 million images. Our goal is to reach 15 million pages in early 2016.
Each of the 10 partner institutions has contributed books and pamphlets from a wide range of medical and health-related areas, but each has a slightly different emphasis – University College London contributed a large number of ophthalmology books and pamphlets, while the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine naturally focuses on public health and tropical diseases. Military medicine is a top subject from both the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the Royal College of Physicians of London, while cholera is well represented from Glasgow University Library and others.
The Wellcome Library has a significant number of books related to exercise and gymnastics. Bristol University Library has sent us a lot of books on obstetrics and King’s College London’s contribution has a heavy dose of psychiatry and mental health. In the next 6 months the partners will continue adding more books to the collections, including a large number of cookery books coming soon from Leeds University Library.
Of course the more general subjects are well represented and describe a large proportion of the collections digitised so far, but there are a huge variety of highly specific topics and some obscure (and sometimes strange) ones hidden in the ‘long tail’ of subjects represented.
For example we have 29 books on ‘balneology’, the study of the therapeutic uses of medicinal springs, including one book from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh sporting an illustration of a ‘douche-massage’ .
In another quirky example, we have 19 books on the subject of quackery such as this pamphlet, an 1844 reprint of the 1564 work An Historiall Expostulation Against the Beastlye Abusers from the Royal College of Physicians in London.
And finally, electricity, a popular therapeutic technique with a somewhat dubious history, as shown in the 28 books we’ve uploaded so far along the lines of this gem, another one from the Royal College of Physicians in London.