The British Library in London contains over 150 million items, in most known languages. The Sloane Collection of printed books includes a large number of medical dissertations submitted at Dutch universities, including a set of Leyden medical dissertations and disputations, from 1593 to 1746. There are 53 volumes in total. The Leyden medical dissertations have been catalogued by Dr Jacob Harskamp, Dissertatio medica inauguralis ... : Leyden Medical Dissertations in the British Library 1593-1746: Catalogue of a Sloane-Inspired Collection (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1998). The Sloane Collection also contains manuscripts of physicians and professors of medicine from the 17th century. The Library’s manuscript and archives collection contains the Indian Office Medical Archives, the India Office Records, and the Mosseri Genizah Archives (documents in Arabic, Hebrew, and Judeo-Arabic). In addition to thousands of papers/manuscripts related to the medical field (such as physicians, hospital administrators, professors of medicine, etc.), the Library holds the papers of Sir Alexander Fleming; papers related to the Royal College of Physicians, London; papers related to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and the Florence Nightingale papers. The Library also has a separate catalogue for Illuminated Manuscripts. Former curator of manuscripts, Dr Alixe Bovey, has provided a detailed essay, “Medicine, diagnosis and treatment in the Middle Ages” on the British Library website. The article includes digitized images from the Library’s illuminated manuscript collection.
The Library also contains Oral History of medicine and health professionals, covering many aspects of the history of medicine and medical professionals, including interviews with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and physiotherapists. Detailed information, including catalogue numbers, can be found here. This page also provides links to other areas related to the history of medicine, such as “Personal Health, mental health, and disability,” and “sexuality, reproductive health, and prostitution.”
The British Library’s digital collection of Sounds includes an oral history, “Disability Voices,” containing interviews that chart the experiences of disabled people. These interviews are available to the public. Another section, “Industry: water, steel & energy,” contains in-depth oral history interviews documenting the lives and careers of those who worked in the electricity, water, steel and oil and gas industries in the UK over the past century. The Sounds collection also contains an oral history, “History of the Common Cold Unit,” which includes 34 interviews conducted between 1994 and 1997 by Dr David Tyrrell, recording the memories of those who worked at the Common Cold Unit in Salisbury from 1957 until its closure in 1990. However, these interviews are only available to Higher and Further Education institutions.
The Evanion Catalogue of Victorian Ephemera contains approximately 5,000 items, including a variety of material, from advertisements, trade cards and catalogues, to advertising novelties, envelopes and even paper bags. Most of the items date from the late 1860s to 1895, and the majority are English, although there are a small number from France, the USA and Canada. Popular subjects include clothing, food and drink, patent medicines, kitchen equipment and domestic appliances, and a wide range of products and services. The catalogue is searchable online, and some of the items have been digitized.
The British Library also contains over 60 million newspapers from the early 17th century to the present day. Millions of searchable pages have been digitized, and the British Newspaper Archive project continues to digitize more pages every day.
The Library also has an online exhibition, “Beautiful Minds: Capture the Spirit of Nobel Achievement—Alexander Fleming (1881-1955): A noble life in science.” The exhibit also includes digitized images of Fleming’s laboratory books.
Another online exhibit, “Learning: Bodies of Knowledge,” features “bodily curiosities” from the Library’s collection, such as Acupuncture, Vesalius’s Renaissance anatomy lessons, and Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray, among others. The online gallery also features a biography of Vesalius and information about “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” which is available as a virtual book.