Notes from the Rare Book Room Category


Ibn Butlan’s Tacuini Sanitatis (1531)

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The Maintenance of Health by Ibn ButlanImage via the, credit Royal Society

This images are from a 14th century translation of Arabic doctor Ibn Butlan, who died circa 1068. Butlan’s title roughly translates to “health report.” The report addresses the impact of nature, emotional states, daily life, and meteorological conditions on health. Butlan wrote that his book concerned “the six things that are necessary for every man in the daily preservation of his health.” These included:

1. “The treatment of air, which concerns the heart.”

2. “The right use of foods and drinks.”

3. “The correct use of movement and rest.”

4. “The problem of prohibiting excessive wakefulness.”

5. “The correct use of elimination and retention of humors.”

6. “The regulating of the person by moderating joy, anger, fear, and distress.”

Illustration from the 15th century edition of Tacuinum Sanitatis by Ibn Butlan.Wine. Image via                                                                                                                        Making spaghetti. Image via


Announcing the completion of the William Osler Pamphlet Collection

About William Osler

Sir William Osler, 1st Baronet (July 12, 1849 – December 29, 1919) was a Canadian physician and one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Osler created the first residency program for specialty training of physicians, and he was the first to bring medical students out of the lecture hall for bedside clinical training. He has frequently been described as the “Father of Modern Medicine.” Osler was not only a physician but a bibliophile, author, historian, and renowned practical joker. He had numerous ties to the University of Iowa. Special Collections holds letters between Osler and Campell Palmer Howard, a faculty member at the University, and Osler’s desk is housed in the John Martin Rare Book Room at Hardin (Room 401).

Hardin’s Osler Pamphlet Collection

From 1972 to 2010 the Hardin Library received a significant collection of documents by and about William Osler, including several copies donated by Dr. R. N. Larimer. The Rare Book room staff has provided helpful guides and online versions for much of this material. An index for the collection, which contains 317 items ranging from 1878-1976, can be found here.

[Osler at his desk]


Asitha Jayawardena: “Expedited ‘Diffusion of Innovation’: A Reflection on the Ponseti Method in the current era of medicine”

The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society invites you to hear: Asitha Jayawardena on Thursday, January 23 from 5:30-6:30 in Room 401.

Sparks Essay Contest winner and College of Medicine Student Jayawardena will describe the history and cultural context of clubfoot and treatments developed by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti. He will then describe diffusion theory as Ponseti’s treatment spread through the world. Visit the UI History of Medicine Society for more info or call Donna Hirst in the Rare Book Room at 335-9154.

Photo: Exciting new voices are coming to the Rare Book Room at Hardin!</p>
<p>The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society invites you to hear Asitha Jayawardena, College of Medicine student and winner of the Sparks Essay Contest, on the history and diffusion of the Ponseti Method for treating clubfoot. This event will be held in Room 401 from 5:30-6:30 on Thursday, January 23.


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, 2014

BERNHARD SIEGFRIED ALBINUS (1697-1770). Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani. Leiden:  1747

This work is perhaps the most monumental and finest anatomical atlas ever published. The plates, although probably derived from Vesalius, were drawn with painstaking accuracy by Wandelaer and are dated between 1739 and 1747. Albinus described in his preface the methods used in the drawing of the skeletons and “muscle men” to achieve symmetry and beauty in each figure. All of the skeletons and “muscle men” have lush background scenes taken from nature which were chosen to animate the figures and emphasize the harmonious and natural beauty of the human body. The first three plates of the skeleton are each accompanied by outline plates. The following nine plates of the “muscle men” also have an additional outline plate. The final sixteen plates represent individual muscles and parts of muscles and each of the many figures is supplied with an outline drawing unless the letters are engraved directly on the finished figures.

Albinus-832-tab. IV-001


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, December 2013

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, December, 2013

JOHANN CASPAR LAVATER (1741-1801). Essai sur la physiogno-monie : destiné à faire connoître l’homme… 4 vol. 1781[-1786].

Lavater was born in Zürich; he was a poet and a physiognomist. His name would be forgotten but for his work in the field of physiognomy. The fame of his book, which found admirers in France, England as well as Germany, rests largely upon the handsome style of publication and the accompanying illustrations.

The two principal sources from which Lavater de-veloped his physiognomical studies were the writings of the Italian polymath Giambattista della Porta, and the observations of Sir Thomas Browne in his Religio Medici. This pseudo-scientific analysis of the human face, and all the feelings it is capable of expression, was partially written by Goethe, a leading expert in craniology. To defend the science of physiognomy, Lavater drew upon the work of Haller, Herber, Leibnitz and Sulzer.

Although this work remains controversial, it is highly valued for its superb engraved illustrations. There are numerous portraits of famous writers, artists, musicians, scientists, and contemporary personages including Goethe, Samuel Johnson, Locke, George Washington, Voltaire, Heidegger, Wren, Diderot, Isaac Newton, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

JOHANN CASPAR LAVATER (1741-1801). Essai sur la physiognomonie


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, November 2013

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, November, 2013

GASPARE TAGLIACOZZI (1545-1599). De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem, libri duo. Venice: 1597.

Tagliacozzi was professor of surgery and anatomy at Bologna. This work, “Concerning the surgery of the mutilated by grafting,” is a classic in the history of plastic surgery and is especially noteworthy for its description of rhinoplasty. Rhinoplasty had been practiced in ancient India and, in the thirteenth century, by a family of itinerant Sicilian surgeons who kept the operation a family secret. The volume is divided into two parts: “Theory of the art of plastic surgery,” and, “Practice of the art,” which describes and illustrates the instruments and operative procedures for restoration of the nose, lip, and ear. Tagliacozzi also fully discussed the complications, such as hemorrhage and gangrene, that often occurred during these operations.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, September 2013

HANS VON GERSDORFF (ca. 1455-1529). Feldtbuch der Wundartzney. Strasbourg: Bey Hans Schotten, 1530.

Gersdorff was a milGersdorff-149-lxxii-001itary surgeon who gained wide experience during forty years of campaigning and was an expert in the treatment of battlefield injuries. His work covers anatomy, surgery, leprosy, and glossaries of anatomical terms, diseases, and medications. Gersdorff emphasized a well-founded knowledge of anatomy because the surgeon was frequently called on to deal with extensive bodily trauma. He derived his anatomy from Arabic authors and works of Guy de Chauliac. The surgical portion of the work was devoted to wound surgery and covers the methods he employed for extracting foreign objects and amputating limbs. He used a tourniquet to control bleeding when amputating and covered the stump with the bladder of a bovine to help control postoperative hemorrhaging. Of special interest are the sedatives and analgesics, although he appears not to have used them in his practice. The section on leprosy is given over largely to remedies for a disease he did not believe could be cured.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room @Hardin Library

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room      August 2013

MARC JEAN BOURGERY (1797-1849). Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme, comprenant la médecine opératoire.  Paris: 1831-1854.

Bourgery’s work is without question one of the most beautifully illustrated anatomical and surgical treatises ever published in any lanBourgery-1569-tome 1-fp-001guage. The 726 hand-colored lithographs were executed after drawings by Nicolas Henri Jacob (1781-1871), a pupil of David. Jacob made his drawings from dissections and other anatomical preparations. Bourgery studied medicine at Paris where he interned under Laennec and Dupuytren and won gold medals for excellence from the Paris faculty of medicine and hospital administration. After ten years as health officer at Romilly, Bourgery returned to Paris to continue his career in anatomy and surgery. Bourgery divided his treatise into four parts which covered descriptive anatomy, surgical anatomy and techniques, general anatomy, and embryology and microscopic anatomy. Four volumes of the set are devoted to surgical anatomy and cover in detail nearly all the major operations that were performed during the first half of the nineteenth century.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, July 2013

GASPAR SCHOTT (1608-1666). Physica curiosa, sive mirabilia naturae et artis libris XII. comprehensa, quibus pleraque…Wurzburg,] 1697.

Schott was the author of several works on mathematics, physics, and magic. His most interesting work is the “Magia universalis naturæ et artis”, 1657-1659, which contains a collection of mathematical problems and a large number of physical experiments in optics and acoustics. He published “Pantometricum Kircherianum”; “Physica curiosa”, a supplement to the “Magia universalis”; “Anatomia physico-hydrostatica fontium et fluminum”, and a “Cursus mathematicus”. “Physica Curiosa” is a large compendium of pictures and stories regarding monsters, physical abnormalities, and bizarre animals. Rather than a work of original scholarship Schott’s book, like many others of its kind, attempts to gather together as much as is commonly known on a topic. Many of the descriptions of animals and creatures repeat apocryphal accounts as if they are fact, and perpetuate belief in unicorns, satyrs, and other mythical beings”.




Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room,  June 2013

STEVEN BLANKAART (1650-1702). Anatomia reformata, sive Concinna corporis humani dissection… Leiden, 1695.

Blankaart, Dutch pharmacist, physician, and anatomist, initially practiced pharmacy and later medicine in Amsterdam. He studied medicine and philosophy at Franeker where he graduated in 1674. He was a prolific writer and was the first to edit and publish a medical journal in Holland. Blankaart is also known for his use of the injection technique to study the details of blood vessel distribution. This technique was first suggested by Leonardo da Vinci and later used by such prominent anatomists as Graaf, Swammerdam, and Ruysch. Blankaart first published this popular anatomical text at Leiden in 1687. In this comprehensive work, he cited nearly seventy authors whose works he had consulted. The finely engraved plates in this profusely illustrated work attest to Blankaart’s keen observational powers.  A plate depicts some of the apparatus used in the embalming process.