While expounding on the usefulness of scientific periodicals in a letter that was republished in The emporium of arts & sciences (1812), Richard Winter noted the following :
The advantages derived from scientific periodic publications, are an acquisition which former philosophers were not possessed of, and it was not until the last century they were first instituted. The rapid progress of science and information since that period, would be a sufficient argument in favour of their decided utility … besides furnishing new ideas to the young student, they point out the precise state of the different branches of human knowledge …
To those who consult an Encyclopedia for scientific matter, these publications are of indispensable utility, by continually pointing out the numerous improvements as they become public, and by that means the general system of philosophical knowledge is kept to the level of the existing state of discovery.
To the mechanic a repository of this kind must be highly useful, as the receptacle in which he may record his labours and improvements, and secure to himself the well-earned fame of his discoveries, at the same time that he derives advantage from others following his example in their contributions to the general fund of science.
In short, there is no class of individuals but may profit.
With the spirit of Winter’s idea in mind, and with the support of the Open Knowledge Commons and The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Medical Heritage Library has undertaken the digitization of thousands of volumes of rare and historic medical journals. These new materials will complement and enhance the collection of digitized medical monographs that now numbers in the tens of thousands by providing a historical glimpse at the cusp of discovery and innovation in medicine over the past several centuries.
The Center for the History of Medicine has kicked off this effort, having so far digitized or prepared for digitization over 150 different journal and periodical titles. Much like the collection of historical medical monographs, the collection of digitized journals will cover a vast spectrum of topics in medicine and the natural sciences. Many of these publications are extremely rare and have not been freely available online until now. What follows is a list of 5 noteworthy titles that have been digitized so far.
Click thumbnail to read The Confederate States medical journal online
1. The Confederate States medical & surgical journal (1864)
The Confederate States medical & surgical journal was the only medical periodical published in the Confederate States of America. It covers various topics, and includes detailed case reports, mostly related to the treatment of battlefield injuries and resulting complications. The Countway Library owns a complete run of the journal’s 15 issues, original sets of which are extremely rare. A 16th issue (vol. 2, no. 3) was printed in the Confederate capital of Richmond in March of 1865, but that final issue was never distributed to the public, as all known copies were burned during the fall of the city on April 2nd.
Click image to read vol. 1 of The magnet online
2. The Magnet (1842)
The magnet was published in two volumes between 1842 and 1844, and edited by Laroy Sunderland, a former methodist minister, a noted abolitionist, and a vocal proponent of mesmerism. Sunderland underwent a crisis of faith after coming to believe that he possessed hypnotic powers owing to his ability to use naturally-occurring animal magnetism to influence the minds of other people.
The magnet was an eccentric publication, covering a diverse range of topics that included electromagnetism, hypnosis, phrenology, spiritualism, the polarity of various regions of the brain, novel methods for electromagnetically sounding the depths of the ocean, lunar phenomena, hygiene, sleep walking, and others. It also contains correspondence from readers and interested parties, as well as numerous illustrations.
Click thumbnail to read vols. 1 and 2 of The emporium of arts & sciences online.
3. The emporium of arts & sciences (1812)
Edited by John Redman Coxe, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, The Emporium was mainly concerned with the state of science in Europe and was published to provide practical information on scientific research, particularly that information contained in foreign papers on chemistry, mineralogy, manufacturing, and machinery.
The Emporium contains instructional essays and articles on a wide range of specific topics, including, but not limited to: the art of making gun flints, the construction of a movable table for the use of engravers, preparing ox-gall, explosive demolition of rocks under water, methods of telegraphic signalling (including smoke signals), spontaneous combustion, the effect of magnetism on time-pieces, the remains of a woolly mammoth, the wines and champagne of France, the construction of theaters (and their acoustical properties), the qualities of rapeseed oil, and many others. The etched and engraved plates are extremely well executed.
Click on thumbnail to read vols. 5-27 of The Richmond and Louisville medical journal online.
4. The Richmond and Louisville medical journal (1868)
Preceded by the Richmond medical journal, and succeeded by Gaillard’s medical journal, the Richmond & Louisville medical journal is one example of the many regional medical periodicals that will be digitized as part of this project. Other regional medical journals so far digitized or prepared for digitization by the Countway Library include The Cleveland medical journal (1902-1918), The New England medical gazette (1866-1918), The Illinois medical and surgical journal (1844-1846), The Vermont journal of medicine (1874), The New England journal of dentistry (1883-1884), The San Francisco medical press (1860-1865), and The Transylvania journal of medicine (1828-1839), among many others.
5. Photographic review of medicine and surgery (1870)
Click thumbnail to read Photographic review or medicine and surgery online.
The publishers of Photographic review intended it to be a useful compilation of visual documentation of rare and unusual medical cases. The mounted albumen plates in Countway’s copy are particularly well preserved, and show conditions that include: congenital deformities, tumors, wounds and abscesses, various lesions, skin diseases, surgical excisions, calculi, and anatomical preparations, among other subjects.
A collaborative online collection of primary source materials held by some of the world’s leading medical libraries, the Medical Heritage Library presently contains over 40,000 individual volumes that cover a broad range of topics within the domain of medical history. To read more about the MHL and its contributing partners, or to browse the collection, visit www.medicalheritage.org.