Hidden Treasure Celebrates 175 Years at the National Library of Medicine

HIDDEN TREASURE: a spectacular illustrated book celebrating the 175th anniversary of the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library.

“My fantasy holiday is a week spent locked in the archives of the National Library of Medicine, so you can imagine how excited I am about this book. It’s an incomparable treasure trove. I hugged it to my chest like a four-year-old with a new pair of shoes.”
— Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars

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-siècle France’s notorious surgeon-provocateur Eugène-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 found within one of the world’s great hidden treasures: the National Library of Medicine.
 
ABOUT THE EDITOR: 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 and Dream Anatomy and co-editor of A Cultural History of the Body in the Age of Empire. His current work focuses on twentieth-century modernist medical illustration and the history of medical film.

ABOUT BLAST BOOKS: For more than twenty years, Blast has been publishing books on extraordinary cultural and historical subjects, from Mütter Museum to Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962. Visit www.blastbooks.com.

“Opening this volume is like lifting up the lid of a treasure chest. The images and artifacts from the NLM’s historical coffers are intriguing, sometimes startling, unfailingly fascinating, and made all the more evocative by the authoritative, playful short reflections, many written by leading scholars in the history of medicine. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully produced, this is an amazing exploration of the visual and material cultures of health, medicine, and the body in their widest and most imaginative reaches.”
—John Harley Warner, Chair of History of Medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine

Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine
Edited by Michael Sappol
Hardcover with jacket • 10 x 11" • 240 pages 450 color illustrations • $50.00 • nonfiction
isbn 978-0-922233-42-7
Publication date: April 2, 2012
Blast Books
Distributed by Publishers Group West • www.pgw.com
P. O. Box 51, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276-0051 • www.blastbooks.com
Auction Guide