With more than 17 million items dating from the eleventh century to the present, the National Library of Medicine, founded 175 years ago, is the world's largest medical library -- America's home to a rich worldwide heritage of objects from rare early medical books to disturbing, precise nineteenth-century surgical illustrations to delightful mid-twentieth-century animated cartoons. Despite more than a century and a half of classification and cataloguing, buried in the sheer mass of this collection are wondrous items largely unseen by the public and obscure even to librarians, curators, and historians. The individual objects -- rare, extravagant, idiosyncratic, and sometimes surprising -- brought to light in this book glow with beauty, grotesquery, wit and/or calamitous tragedy. Among the objects featured are a series never before reproduced of hauntingly delicate paintings and illustrations of monstra collected in the early decades of the nineteenth century from the museum of Dr. Klinkenberg in the Netherlands; charming hand-painted glass magic lantern slides, which doctors projected in slideshows to entertain and help cure inmates at St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Insane; the mimeographed report of the Japanese medical team first to enter Hiroshima after the atomic blast; surreal views of mechanically sliced cadavers in the photographic anatomical atlas of fin-de-si cle France's torious surgeon-provocateur Eug ne-Louis Doyen; and a staggering variety of objects from around the world and through seven different centuries. Each hidden treasure included here has been specially selected and is accompanied by a brief essay by a distinguished scholar, artist, collector, journalist, or physician. Delivered from the obscurity of the library's massive archive, these marvels speak to us, charm us, repulse us, amaze us, inform us, and intrigue us -- and present a tantalizing glimpse of some of the precious and remarkable objects to be
Michael Sappol is curator-historian at the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine and the author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America and Dream Anatomy and co-editor of A Cultural History of the Body in the Age of Empire. Laura Lindgren designs art and photography books and exhibition catalogs for publishers and museums. She is also publisher of Blast Books in New York, and she is the editor, designer, and publisher of Mutter Museum and Mutter Museum Historic Medical Photographs, and Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930, among others. Arne Svenson is the author of Prisoners and Mrs. Ballard's Parrots and photographer and coauthor (with Ron Warren) of Sock Monkeys (200 out of 1863) and Chewed. He is currently working on a new book on forensic facial reconstructions, Unspeaking Likeness.