VCU Libraries has acquired a treasure trove of thousands of rare medical books, manuscripts, silhouettes and prints, providing researchers with the opportunity to explore the history and evolution of medicine in its earliest printed form.
The collection of Joseph Lyons Miller (1875-1957) — who practiced medicine in Thomas, West Virginia, while serving as medical director of the Davis Coal and Coke Co. and as surgeon to the Western Maryland Railroad Co. — includes 2,250 books, published from 1500 to 1946; 78 silhouettes; 3,500 prints; as well as approximately 400 manuscript items, including correspondence, account ledgers, medical student notes and essays with a significant portion related to Virginia and Virginia physicians.
“The Joseph Lyons Miller Collection contains remarkable first and second editions of books dating back to 1500, as well as prints and records,” said Teresa L. Knott, associate dean for VCU Libraries and director of the VCU Health Sciences Library. “These books shaped the practice of medicine, nursing and public hygiene. Many are artifacts themselves — offering beautiful illustrations, interesting printing techniques and insight into medical history.”[Clip]
Jodi Koste, interim department head and university archivist, VCU Health Sciences Library, said the collection is significant for a number of reasons.
“It represents a chapter in the history of VCU and the story of the public/private partnership that resulted in the first library building for the Medical College of Virginia,” she said. “The collection is noteworthy for the books, manuscripts, photographs and prints related to Virginia and the history of health care in the commonwealth. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is a collection of rare books that would be almost impossible to replicate today. The Miller Collection contains many 15th-, 16th-, and 17th-century titles vital to our understanding of the history and development of medicine. These scarce volumes rarely come on the market today. Only private collectors and the major research libraries in the United States and abroad are fortunate enough to have them in their collections.”
The collection also includes a significant number of prints, photos, engravings and lithographs focusing on prominent figures in the history of medicine.