History of Medicine

This collection comprises over 8,000 titles documenting the history of Western medicine from antiquity through the 19th century. Two named collections — The Le Roy Crummer Collection and The Lewis Stephen Pilcher Collection — stand up for their extensive holdings of early printed editions of the masters of Greek medicine, such as Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Galen, as well as for their illustrated editions of works on anatomy and surgery. 

Included in our holdings are anatomical treatises printed before and shortly after Andreas Vesalius’ groundbreaking De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Basel, 1543), and a first edition of William Harvey’s seminal treatise on the circulation of the blood: Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus (Frankfurt, 1628).

In addition, the collection features:

  • The Campbell Bonner Collection of Magical Amulets: it comprises 61 magical amulets, formerly owned by Campbell Bonner, professor of Greek at the University of Michigan from 1907 to 1945. These amulets, predominantly from Egypt and Syria, and ranging from the 1st century BCE to the 4th century CE, were believed to possess healing and magical properties.
  • Anatomical fugitive sheets, which are Renaissance-era illustrations depicting internal organs and structures, providing viewers with insights into the human body’s anatomy through various stages of dissection.
  • Multiple editions of notable works, including the medieval allegorical poem “Dance of Death, housed in the Aldred Scott Warthin Collection, and Thomas Browne’s Religio medici.

Ongoing collecting efforts remain ongoing, focusing on the early histories of surgery and anatomy, along with developing our holdings in popular medicine. 

The History of Medicine Collection is in the Special Collections Research Center

Important related collections 

Our holdings on the history of medicine are complemented by medical texts in the Papyrology Collection and by medical artifacts in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

For an overview of these early medical collections, explore The Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the Renaissance online exhibit.

Materials in the collection

Finding aids

Print from a woodcut of male human muscles from the hips up

P. 170. Woodcut showing a human figure from the musclemen series from Vesalius de humani....


Pablo Alvarez

Curator, Special Collections Research Center