Bright Young Collectors: Patrick Hansma

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Dr. Patrick Hansma in Michigan:

Me with Library.jpg
Where are you from / where do you live?

I live near Detroit, MI

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

My undergraduate degree is in biomedical science.  After getting my bachelors degree I went on to medical school.  Now I’m a pathologist.

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

My library is fairly diverse but the core of my collecting falls into two categories: 1) autopsy/forensic pathology and 2) Bibles/Biblical studies.  I’ve been collecting autopsy books for a while now but I only recently started on Bibles.  Though I own some very nice copies of the Bible in English--such as Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible (2 vol, 1815) and Scott’s Bible (6 vol, 1823)--which are currently are among my best holdings, I intend to develop it more toward’s the Bible in its original languages.  But I just started this collection--so we’ll see where it ends up.
As for autopsies, I’ve been at it for years.  I bet I probably have the most definitive collection of antiquarian books on autopsy methods in private hands.  I have nearly all the major titles and most of the minutiae.  Please don’t think that I’m bragging though--anyone can develop a definitive library.  Just pick your topic and start searching.  It’s amazing what you might find.  In my field I have very little competition.  It’s an uncommon thing to collect.  Which is fine by me, that keeps the prices low.  Most of them were published in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.  So most are cloth bindings, now ex libris from institutions, often stained from being in hospital pathology departments, etc. etc..  Most people collecting in medicine go for much earlier, leather bound high points, with beautiful anatomic or surgical plates.  And I don’t blame them.   My collection is very esoteric and few would enjoy it the way I do.

Overlay death_KJV Bible 1823_along side_Caspers Forensic Medicine 1861.jpg

I also have smaller subsets of collecting interests, including other areas of pathology, other medical topics, anatomy, astronomy, Edgar Allan Poe, Dante Alighieri, and some others.  But autopsies and Bibles take priority.  They represent my career and my faith.

How many books are in your collection?

My wife and I both are book lovers (she’s interested in typography and design).  Our combined library is probably about 900 volumes.  But the antiquarian books make up perhaps a third of that total.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I’m really not sure. Possibly Wistar’s System of Anatomy, 2 vol, 7th ed, 1839.

How about the most recent book?

In my pathology collection that would be Les Adelson’s Pathology of Homicide, 1974.  In my Biblical studies collection it is A Dictionary of the Holy Bible, 3 vol, London, 1759.  I’m very excited about that one as it demands some research.  It was published anonymously but I’ve been finding things that hint that John Brown may have been involved with that set.  I own Brown’s Bible (1815), Dictionary (1816), and Concordance (1812).  So if Brown can be linked to the 1759 set, I would be pretty thrilled.

Bones_Homicide Investigation 1947_along side_Barry Moser Bible trade edition 1999.jpg

And your favorite book in your collection?

Not possible to pick just one because my collecting is so divided now.  Some of my favorites include Gaub’s Institutiones Pathologiae medicinalis (editio altera, 1763), Hektoen’s Post-Mortem Technique (1894; my copy was owned by Frank Burr Mallory--another famous pathologist who also wrote a book on autopsy procedure), Grabe’s Vetus Testamentum (4 vol bound in 2, vellum, 1730; it’s the Old Testament in Greek transcribed from Codex Alexandrinus), and Bibliorum Sacrorum Concordantia (1685, wood boards, metal clasps and straps intact).

Best bargain you’ve found?

Probably Horner’s Lessons in Practical Anatomy, for the Use of Dissectors, 1st ed, 1823, full leather, near fine.  It’s the first edition of Horner’s first work and it’s not merely a textbook of descriptive anatomy, it is an instruction manual for medical students in the cadaver lab on how to perform the dissection and what to observe.  I wanted it because it contrasts nicely with my autopsy books since it details an entirely different manner of human dissection.  I think I paid $18 for it.

How about The One that Got Away?

There have been too many of those to count.  But a recent one was a 17th century copy of Fernel that sold on ebay for pocket change.  I missed it.  I was furious.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

In pathology, probably Benivieni’s 1507 De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis. It is considered the first book to advocate for the use of the autopsy.  They don’t come around very often and command five figure price tags.  I’ll never own one.  I do own a nice leather bound facsimile though, so that will have to do.  For my Bible collection, any 16th century copy of the Old or New Testament (Erasmus, perhaps?)  with a chain still attached to the binding would be a definite high!  But those also command top dollar.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

The internet.  My autopsy collection is so esoteric that there are no dealers who specialize in it--even among those who deal specifically in medicine.  I once asked the folks at Jeremy Norman’s History of Science if they could help me find a particular book I had been searching for for years (it was written by a very famous 19th century physician who has three medical conditions named after him!).  Their response was basically “never heard of it--but good luck.”  So I have had to act as my own agent.  That meant countless hours on the internet searching in multiple languages to find some of the rarest (because the most neglected) titles.  These books are often quite hard to find--there’s just not much of a market.

That said, there are a few brick and mortar shops I do like (all in Michigan).  Shaw’s Books, Archives Books, Credo Books and Redux Books, just to name a few.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

Probably guitars.  I like Rickenbacker and Gibson.

Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com

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