ROAAr: Rare Books, Osler, Art, and Archives

 

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-3-05-51-pmMcGill’s new amalgam of Rare Books & Special Collections, Osler Library, Visual Art Collection, and the University Archives (collectively known as ROAAr) launched their first issue of a new newsletter series this December.

Published quarterly (Spring 2017 next), the ROAAr newsletter features four articles that showcase and discuss unique treasures of each rare unit.

Anyone who is interested in joining the ROAAr newsletter mailing list is encouraged to email info.library@mcgill.ca.

History is on every shelf at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine. Located on the third floor of McGill’s McIntyre Medical Building, the Osler houses Canada’s finest treasure trove of rare medical books, artifacts and archives. What began as a home for Sir William Osler’s personal library of 8,000 rare and historic works has grown to more than 100,000 titles that trace the beginnings of medicine in Canada and abroad to the present day.

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Snapshots of Osler at the bedside: Inspection, Palpation, Auscultation, Contemplation, c. 1895, Osler Library Photo Collection.

These rare collections have made the Osler a premier destination for students, researchers and bibliophiles from across Canada and around the world. This fall, the Osler played host to a visiting group from the Grolier Club – the oldest existing bibliophilic club in North America. Osler Librarian Chris Lyons led the distinguished guests on a tour through silent sanctuaries in the Wellcome Camera and the Osler Room, and gave them a hands-on look at many of the unique medical and historical gems within the Osler collection, such as a 1698 first edition of William Cowper’s Anatomy of Humane Bodies.

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The Grolier Club visits the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, 2016. Photo credit: Lauren Goldman

Capping off their trip, the eager Grolier Club members were treated to guided tours and presentations by the three other units under the McGill Library’s new ROAAr (Rare Books & Special Collections, Osler, Art, and Archives) umbrella.

To the delight of the guests, the Head of Rare Books Richard Virr showcased some of the Library’s oldest and most unique treasures, University Archivist Lori Podolsky helped them delve deep into McGill’s nearly 200-year history, and Coordinator Vanessa Di Francesco displayed many of the stunning works within the Visual Arts Collection. As they departed after their multi-day visit, the Grolier Club members were unanimous in their appreciation for their hosts, a testament to the treasures in the Osler collection and the combined and collaborative strength of ROAAr as a whole. The experience provided a fantastic model for hosting future visitors.

It was a busy autumn for Osler visits and curated exhibits – both within the library’s own gallery space and around Montreal. Our “pop-up” exhibitions this fall included 200 Years of the Stethoscope, celebrating two centuries of auscultation at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC), History of MS at the Montreal Neurological Institute’s annual MS Xchange, and in October, it was our pleasure to welcome two history classes from Marianopolis College (CEGEP) for a total of four visits – a powerful pedagogical experience for all.

For those discovering the Osler Library of the History of Medicine for the first time, we invite you to explore our online resources and website for more information. Contact or visit us anytime – there is much to be discovered!

Homecoming

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McGill Faculty of Medicine reunion programme and pin from October 8, 1926 with songbook inside. Part of the Osler Library Archive Collections.

Events, talks, and tours are happening all weekend long from October 27-30 at the Faulty of Medicine in celebration of McGill Homecoming 2016.

This year’s reunion welcomes milestone anniversaries for MDCM graduate years ending in 1 and 6.

Full events listing for alumni can be found here, and further information here.

Open Doors at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine (free event) is happening Friday 1:30-2:30pm, and Open Doors at the Maude Abbott Medical Museum (free event) is Friday 3:00-5:00pm. Rediscover the library’s treasure trove of rarebooks and medical atlases, and also take in one of the best historical collections of anatomical and pathological materials in North America.

Wishing the alumni an enjoyable and memory-filled weekend as they journey back to their McGill roots!

Osler Day 2016

Osler Library Board of Curators' medal

Osler Library Board of Curators’ medal

Come join us this Wednesday, October 26th for Osler Day 2016!

The Pam and Rolando Del Maestro William Osler Medical Students Essay Contest has selected three  finalists who will each have the opportunity to present before the judges panel from 11:30-1:00pm in the Jonathan C. Meakins Auditorium, McIntyre Medical Building 5th Floor, 3655 Promenade Sir William Osler.

The 2016 finalists are:

“Being placed at the Douglas Mental Health Institute for the family medicine shadowing program in first year was quite the adventure for me. Over time, I became increasingly interested in the history of mental health institutions like the Douglas, mental health care policies and more broadly, the history of psychiatry as a medical field.”

 

“As medical students, we are exposed to plenty of dogmas. Yet, medical dogma, like everything else in the world is susceptible to error. In accepting this, I sought to elucidate the origins of the formerly accepted belief that newborns did not feel pain”

Faculty, students, and friends are all welcome to attend and show their support for this year’s finalists. More details about the contest can be found here. Our special thanks to the Medical Students’ Osler Society, the Board of Curators of the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, and Pam and Rolando Del Maestro for their continued dedication with this celebrated annual event.

julio-biv__03_2In the evening, at 6:00pm in the Charles F. Martin Amphitheatre, the 39th Annual Osler Lectureship welcomes distinguished guest lecturer Dr. Julio SG Montaner, OC, OBC, MD, DSc (hon), FRCPC, FCCP, FACP, FRSC.

Director, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul’s Hospital, Providence Healthcare; Professor and Head, UBC-Division of AIDS, UBC and St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation Chair in AIDS Research; UNAIDS Special Advisor on HIV Therapeutics.

Dr. Montaner played a key role in establishing the efficacy of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) and since then has established the role of ‘Treatment as Prevention’ using HAART to simultaneously decrease progression to AIDS and death, as well as HIV transmission.

From Treatment to Prevention: Rethinking our Approach to Contagious Diseases

In 1996, medical researchers in British Columbia discovered that combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) significantly improved the quality and length of the lives of patients with HIV/AIDS, but only after the province began providing cART for free did researchers discover something equally profound: cART also prevented HIV transmission. This talk examines the journey from treatment to prevention and the implications for how we fight contagious diseases at local and global levels.

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Aequanimitas

Version 2Aequanimitas — a term that derives from late-15th century Latin — means imperturbability, or one who is incapable of being upset, or agitated; one who is calm, and not easily excited.

William Osler’s Valedictory address entitled Aequanimitas was first presented at the University of Pennsylvania, May 1st, 1889. In this short speech, Osler advised imperturbability as one of two essential qualities of the physician and of the surgeon. He defined this quality as a coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances, calmness amid storm, clearness of judgement in moments of peril, immobility, and impassiveness. The second quality he spoke of, equanimity, was described as being the mental and physical equivalent of the first.

It has been said that ‘in patience ye shall win your souls,’ and what is this patience but an equanimity which enables you to rise superior to the trials of life? Sowing as you shall do beside all waters, I can but wish that you may reap the promised blessings of quietness and of assurance forever, until

Within this life,

Though lifted o’er its strife;

you may, in the growing winters, glean a little of that wisdom which is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

For those interested in reading the full address and others made by Sir William Osler, we have several regular loan copies and various translations listed in the Classic Catalogue, in addition to rare and archived materials that are part of the Osler Library Archives collection.

For the Love of Cocoa

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The name Cadbury has been synonymous with chocolatey sweets in Britain and abroad since Quaker chocolatier John Cadbury (1802-1889) opened his first factory in 1831. Cocoa: All About It was written by his son, Richard Barrow Cadbury (1835-1899), and originally published under the pseudonym ‘Historicus’ in 1892. The book chronicles the natural history of the tropical American cocoa plant – its spread and cultivation around the world, the history of its use, and a detailed account of nineteenth century manufacturing processes as exemplified by the Cadbury family’s factory in Bournville, near Birmingham, England.

Truly a must-read for all chocolate lovers, this classic book provides a detailed and intriguing account of the world’s most popular indulgence. It is available to view at the Osler Library during regular opening hours, and if you’re unable to visit the library in person, a fully digitized version can be found by visiting www.archive.org.

Read, indulge, and enjoy!

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First edition copy of Cocoa: All About It, published 1892, with a gatefold reproduction of an illustration from the Latin Book on Chocolate (1639) depicting Neptune receiving a ‘Casket of Chocolate’.

Montréal Baroque Festival at Osler Library

Last Saturday we were pleased to host a sold out festival event in the Osler Library’s Wellcome Camera. Vincent Lauzer (pictured below) performed solo works for recorder as part of the 14th annual Montréal Baroque Festival. Each piece was composed by young Quebec composers, inspired and influenced by the Baroque style. We look forward to hosting more music events like this in the future! Details about a winter concert series will be announced later this year.

Vincent Lauzer performs at the Osler Library, part of Montreal Baroque Festival 2016.

Vincent Lauzer performing at the Osler Library’s Wellcome Camera, part of Montreal Baroque Festival 2016.

For more information about the Montréal Baroque Festival, please visit https://www.montrealbaroque.com.

Osler Library FAQs

Welcome back! As an introduction, or reintroduction, to your friendly, neighborhood history of medicine library, here are some questions I get asked frequently in the tours and classes I do here in the library. I’ve answered them here for your enjoyment and edification!

 

Do people actually use the books here?

OslerNiche_BooksSmaller copyAbsolutely! We have lots of readers come in to consult our rare books and archives, from various levels and fields. Many McGill profs use our collections in their research and McGill students use them for theses and research projects. We also receive visiting scholars from all over, some of whom are winners of our travel grants. You are not required to show academic credentials to use our collection, but if you are unused to working with fragile rare items, we will instruct you in how to use them in a way that doesn’t damage the books and contribute to their deterioration. Please feel free to write to us about your research project and make an appointment to consult our materials.

 

How did William Osler manage to collect all these books? Was he ridiculously wealthy?

Osler was a successful doctor, but certainly didn’t have the means it would take to accumulate a comparable collection today. 19th century physicians were generally paid according to what we would call a sliding scale. And since Osler was a famous physician in his day (he wrote one of the most famous medical textbooks), he had many well-to-do patients who remunerated him accordingly. Still, his love of books was so overwhelming that he describes in letters borrowing money from a rich brother to pay for his habit. Beyond that, though, the end of the 19th century and before WWI was something of a golden age for book collectors—rare books were still pricey items, but not nearly as expensive as they are today.

 

What is your oldest book?

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Fragment of cuneiform tablet (c. 700 BCE). B.O. 53.

Our oldest “book” is actually a clay tablet, probably written sometime during the 8th century BCE in Assyria (an ancient kingdom in modern day Iraq). The tablet is an example of one of the earliest forms of writing, done by forming tablets out of clay, impressing letters into them with a sharpened stick (called a stylus) in an alphabet called cuneiform, and letting the tablets bake in the sun so the writing is fixed. This tablet lists medical recipes made out of plants and animals. Here’s one particularly appealing example, a treatment for eye problems: “slay a scorpion, pull out its tongue, cut off its head, and with its blood anoint the inflamed eye; [the patient] will live.”

 

What is your most expensive book?

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Copernicus (1473-1543), De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium (The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), Nuremberg, 1543. B.O. 566. Woodcut f.9v depicting the heliocentric model.

It’s hard to say exactly, but this might be a contender: have a look at what this first edition copy of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres sold for at auction last year. We also have a first edition of this 1543 work in which Nicolaus Copernicus, the famous Polish Renaissance astronomer, describes for the first time in modern history the revolution of the planets around the earth. The Ptolemaic, or geocentric, model of the universe that dominated scientific had by the Renaissance period become extremely mathematically complicated in order to explain the movement of the planets that had been observed and recorded for generations. In this book, Copernicus demonstrated that his heliocentric model could simply and elegantly explain planetary motion.

 

Why is there one window in the stained glass that is different from the others?

One of these panes is not like the others...

One of these panes is not like the others…

Good question! This window was designed along with the rest of the Osler Room by Montreal architect Percy Nobbs in the 1920s. It features two symbols with medical significance. First is the staff of Asclepius, the Greek patron god of medicine. Asclepius was thought to be a son of Apollo. Temples to Asclepius were found throughout the classical world, and sick petitioners would visit them to sacrifice to the god, spend the night in the temple’s inner sanctum, and receive ritual healing from the temple priests. The symbol’s serpent and staff are thought to represent healing and rejuvenation. The second symbol is a book held out by a heavenly hand. The book represents the university, learning, scholarship, and the idea of medicine as knowledge transmitted through the ages. So why is there one book that has no writing on it? What do you think: mistake or message?

 

Why aren’t you wearing white gloves?

whitegloveGenerally, it’s no longer the accepted practice in the rare books world to wear white gloves when handling materials, except in some particular cases (like delicate photographs). The theory behind gloves was that the natural oils on peoples’ fingers would wear down the books over time. This may be true (we still try to avoid touching the written and printed text itself and only touch the blank margins of a book’s pages), but it’s counterbalanced by the fact that pages are a lot harder to turn in bulky gloves and the risks of tearing a page are a lot higher. Better to just come with clean hands.

 

Are Osler’s ashes really there?

Yes. But no, sadly, you can’t see them.