--> Skip to Main Content

Rare Books in the Cleveland Health Sciences Library: Home

Peterson 1

Plan a Visit


Allen Memorial Medical Library
11000 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106
(across from Severance Hall, home to the Cleveland Orchestra)

Office Hours

Monday - Friday: 8AM - 4:30PM
Saturday - Sunday: Closed

By Appointment

Monday - Friday: 8:30AM - 4:30PM (as staffing permits)



Profile Photo
Thomas Hayes
11000 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106

About the Collection

The Rare and Historical collections at the Allen Memorial Medical Library represent a large and unique collection of rare medical books, medical journals, incunables, and pamphlets on the history of medicine. The collection is jointly owned by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Medical Library Association and held within the Allen Memorial Medical Library.  

The Cleveland Medical Library Association (CMLA) was founded in 1894 by practicing medical doctors in the Cleveland community who wished to combine their personal collections of books.  The first book donated to the newly combined CMLA collection was a 1555 De Humani Corporis Fabrica, donated by Howard A. Kelly. In 1925, after Elizabeth Severance Prentiss provided a significant financial gift, construction was started on a new library for the CMLA.  The new library building was named after Ms. Prentiss’s former husband, Dudley P. Allen, who had been a principal founder of the CMLA prior to his death in 1915. 

Through the donations of the extensive collections of Jared Potter Kirtland, Reuben Vance, Gustav Weber, and Henry Handerson in the late nineteenth century, and Dudley P. Allen, William Corlett, Otto Glasser, Edward Harvey Cushing, and Robert Stecher in the twentieth century the rare book collection at the Allen Library grew significantly. The rare collection has several strengths, including anatomy, surgery, materia medica, and physick. With surgical specialties focused on ophthalmology, otolaryngology, urology, orthopedics, and reconstructive surgery.

In 1897 Gustav C. E. Weber (1828-1912) donated his personal library to the fledgling CMLA. It numbered over 1025 volumes, pamphlets, and folios, some quite rare and likely inherited from his father and grandfather. Surgery comprised a real core strength of Weber’s library, and it included such older classics as Johann Scultetus, Armamentarium Chirurgicum (1656), Lorenz Heister, Chirurgie (1731), Percival Pott, Chirurgical Works (1778), and John Bell, The principles of surgery (1815).  Important early German journals from Weber’s library include the Journal der Chirurgie und Augenheilkunde(1820-48), Kritisches Repertorium für die gesammte Heilkunde (1823-33), and Archiv für klinische Chirurgie (1861+). Books featuring surgical instruments constitute the other particular strength of Weber’s library.

Additionally, the collection of Reuben Aleshire Vance (1845-1894) was acquired in 1900, which includes such intriguing early works as the De Curtorum Chirurgiaof Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1597), A discourse of the whole art of chyrurgerieby Peter Lowe, (1612), The Works Of That Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey (1634), Chirurgical Treatise of Richard Wiseman (1686), and The art of surgery by Daniel Turner (1739). Vance proved alert to notable, path breaking surgical works of his own time, like John Snow’s On chloroform and other anaesthetics; their action and administration (1858) or Arpad Gerster’s The rules of aseptic and antiseptic surgery (1888). 

George Gehring Marshall's Herbal Collection was acquired in 1946. The collection has approximately 300 works, including some of the rarest jewels in botanical literature and coincidentally in medical history, with its strength centered in over 125 titles printed before 1700. The collection has six incunabula, including the seminal herbal, Herbarius, printed by Peter Schoeffer in 1484, and a complete copy of Le grant herbier en francois, printed in Paris by Pierre LeCaron. It also includes the most important of the 16th and 17th century herbalists, including Otto Brunfels, Leonhart Fuchs, and Hieronymus Bock.

In 1929, through a clerical error by Magg's Brothers, London, a catalog intended for Harvey Cushing ended up in the hands of his nephew, Edward H. Cushing. The catalog promoted 33 volumes once owned by Nicolaus Pol, a 15th century physician to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian and Charles V. Edward Cushing was able, with the help of Western Reserve University, to acquire them.  The Pol collection includes Johannes Ketham's Fasciculus Medicinae, widely held to be the first illustrated medical work in the West.

In addition, the rare book collection in the Allen Memorial Medical Library holds significant collections of works by or about Charles Darwin (including nearly 200 Darwin letters), and a similarly extensive collection focused on Sigmund Freud.


Find out More

About the CHSL

About the CMLA

Research Rare Collections

Rare Book Services


Information & Policies