January 22, 2022

University of Pennsylvania: “Penn Libraries is Part of a Multi-Institution-Funded Project to Digitize Materials from Early Medical Education”

From Penn Today:

The script in black ink on cream cotton rag paper is filled with flourishes on the title page of the dissertation by University of Pennsylvania medical student Americus Vesuvius Payne, dated March 30, 1820. In the corner, in pencil, is the address, No. 201 Walnut.

Photographed at the Penn Libraries earlier this summer, it is one of more than 60,000 pages in more than 1,000 Penn medical student dissertations from the early 1800s that have been digitized over the past two years. The dissertations are available to the public free of charge through the Libraries online catalogue.

Source: Penn Today


The digitization project started in April two years ago, and the scans were completed in June, [Mitch] Fraas [senior curator, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts]. says. More than 1,000 dissertations are now online, and all included in the project are expected to be uploaded and available this month. The project was funded by a $500,000 Council on Library & information Resources (CLIR) grant to a consortium of Philadelphia libraries which house early medical materials, including the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and Thomas Jefferson University.


The CLIR-funded project includes 54 volumes and cover all surviving theses from before 1829, with the earliest dating from 1807 and the majority written in the 1820s. There are many more dissertations on the Kislak Center’s shelves, at least five times the amount they have just digitized, Fraas says, while standing in the stacks in front of the rows of black-covered volumes. The Libraries also has hundreds of volumes of lecture notes taken by medical students.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.