Treasures of the PI Nixon Library Blog

Treasures of the P.I. Nixon

August 2016 Historical Book of the Month

The August 2016 Historical Book of the Month highlights the oldest resource in the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, De Medicina, published in Milan in 1481.

Image of book: De Medicina by Celsus

Aulus Cornelius Celsus was a first-century Roman historian who compiled this set of treatises as a home health reference for wealthy Patrician families. It includes principles of good surgery, dental practices, proper diet, and herbal remedies. De Medicina was rediscovered in the late Middle Ages and chosen as one of the first medical texts to be set in type.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Andrea Schorr, Head of Collection Resources, at schorr@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2403.

July 2016 Historical Book of the Month

Skeleton image from Osteographia by Cheselden

This month’s featured historical treasure is Osteographia, or The Anatomy of the Bones by William Cheselden. Published in London in 1753, this exquisite volume includes depictions of human and animal skeletons in interesting vignettes and in lifelike poses. His artists, Gerard van der Gucht and Jacob Schijnvoet, were the first to use the camera obscura to create more accurate engravings for book illustration.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Andrea Schorr, Head of Collection Resources, at schorr@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2403.

June 2016 Historical Book of the Month

Image scanned from Charles Bell's Illustrations of the Great Operations of Surgery

The June 2016 Historical Book of the Month features the artistic masterpiece, Illustrations of the Great Operations  of Surgery: Trepan, Hernia, Amputation, Aneurism, and Lithotomy by Charles Bell published in London in 1821. Sir Charles Bell was a Scottish surgeon, neurologist, and anatomist and namesake of such structures and phenomena as Bell’s Nerve, Bell’s Palsy, and Bell’s Spasm. This classic work in the history of surgery includes 20 engraved plates of Charles Bell’s own drawings of operations he performed over the course of 20 years.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Andrea Schorr, Head of Collection Resources, at schorr@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2403.

May 2016 Historical Book of the Month

Image from De Symmetria Partium in Rectis Formis Humanorum Corporum

This month’s highlighted historical book from the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library is De Symmetria Partium in Rectis Formis Humanorum Corporum by Albrecht Dürer. This 1st Latin edition was translated from the original 1528 German edition and published in Nuremberg in 1532.

Dürer was an influential artist, renowned print-maker, and respected contributor to the Northern Renaissance. This classic work includes 85 full-length figures of the human body that celebrate its mathematical proportions and aesthetic symmetry.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at finnie@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2406.

April 2016 Historical Book of the Month

Image of blackberry from American Medical Botany

In honor of Earth Day, this month’s chosen resource is Jacob Bigelow’s American Medical Botany, a 3-volume set published between 1817 and 1820 and one of the first titles published in the United States containing colored plant illustrations.

Sixty beautiful colored plates were produced using a special process invented by Bigelow himself. Each entry includes a plant’s botanical history, chemical examination, medicinal uses, and dissections of the flower and fruit from the plant.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at finnie@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2406.

March 2016 Historical Book of the Month

The March 2016 Historical Book of the Month features this monumental work by Giovanni Battista Morgagni.

Image of Giovanni Morgagni

  • De Sedibus, et Causis Morborum per Anatomen Indagatis Libri Quinque
    • 2nd edition
    • Published in Padua in 1765
  • The Seats and Causes of Diseases Investigated by Anatomy: In Five Books
    • 1st English edition
    • Published in London in 1769

Considered the Father of Pathological Anatomy, Morgagni confirmed the relationship between symptoms of disease and pathological changes in specific organs. He systematically indexed almost 700 postmortem examinations correlating the autopsy findings with the patient’s symptoms, or the cry of the suffering organs.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at finnie@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2406.

February 2016 Historical Book of the Month

Illustration of Skull Measuring

This month’s featured historical book is Coomb’s Popular Phrenology by Frederick Coombs published in Boston in 1841. This monograph contains charts and illustrations of the exact phrenological – or skull – measurements of over fifty people. Phrenologists believed that each personality trait and mental faculty is represented in a specific area of the brain and that the size of the skull over that area determines the capacity for that attribute. By feeling the contours, bumps, and fissures of the skull, they claimed to be able to determine a person’s character and intellect.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at finnie@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2406.

January 2016 Historical Book of the Month

Portrait of Robert BoyleThe January 2016 Historical Book of the Month is Medicinal Experiments: or, A Collection of Choice Remedies, for the Most Part Simple and Easily Prepared, a collection of medicinal recipes compiled by Robert Boyle and published posthumously in London in 1692. Namesake of Boyle’s Law, Robert Boyle was one of the founders of modern chemistry, but his interests were widespread, including philosophy and theology. In this pocket-sized monograph, measuring 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″, Boyle offers instructions for making concoctions to treat such varied ailments as jaundice, toothache, and convulsions in children, classifying each formula as an A, B, or C.

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at finnie@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2406.

December 2015 Historical Book of the Month

Portrait of Thomas Robert MalthusThis month’s highlighted resource from the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library is An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society written under a pseudonym by Thomas Robert Malthus in 1798. In this statistical classic, Malthus concludes that population increases exponentially while the food supply only increases arithmetically, leading him to advocate for population control and moral restraint. The work of Thomas Robert Malthus is credited with suggesting to Charles Darwin the concept of “Survival of the Fittest.”

For more information on the collections of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at finnie@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2406.

The Diary of a Resurrectionist: The Value of Death

The Dissecting Room by Thomas Rowlandson

The Dissecting Room by Thomas Rowlandson

Attending medical school in this century has a number of challenges. There is tuition, books, fees, and even things such as parking stickers that the students may have to worry about getting before the first day of class. However, back in 1896 the major supplies that medical students and schools were concerned about were cadavers.

Rise of the Resurrection Men

In the United Kingdom, specifically, there was a huge deficit in cadavers to use for instruction, training, and demonstrations. The need for these dead bodies became so intense that the occupation of “Resurrection Men” was born. The job description for these Resurrection Men was simple – they were instructed to go into cemeteries, exhume corpses, and transport them to the respective schools and institutions for dissection.
Previously schools in England gathered their cadavers from the judicial system, and criminals that were sentenced to death were the sole suppliers. During the 18th century, hundreds of people were put to death over petty crimes, but by the 19th century the judicial system and laws had matured so much conviction to capital punishment became less common. An average of only 55 people per year were sentenced to capital punishment, but, with the expansion of medical schools, the need for cadavers climbed to 500 bodies per year. This made the need for Resurrection Men vital in filling the gap.

Efforts to Protect the Dead

This lucrative, yet illegal, punishable by fines or imprisonment, business was booming for quite some years. It became so popular that friends and family of the recently deceased would take turns watching over their loved one’s dead bodies. The angst did not stop there. Once the corpse was in

Mortsafe

Mortsafe

the ground, many families continued to protect their dead by adding iron bars and structures over the graves called mortsafes or morthouses. This did not discourage all stealing as there were several techniques used by these men to retrieve the bodies.

The first, in which they would use a wooden shovel to create less noise than metal, was to dig 4 ft. into the ground at the head of the grave, expose the coffin, break it open, and then tie a rope around the corpse and pull it out. An 1896 article in the Lancet reported a much more complicated, inconspicuous approach where the Resurrection Men picked a spot 14 – 15 feet away from the head of the grave, removed some turf, dug a small slanting tunnel towards the grave to reach the coffin buried 4 or 5 feet down, tore off the head of the coffin, then pulled the corpse out through the tunnel, replacing the earth in the tunnel afterwards and covering it with the turf square. The article claimed in some cases the family would not even be able to tell that the grave had been disturbed. However, this method would have been almost impossible to carry out and would have been more obvious than re-digging in the original earth that had been removed during the burial. Some Resurrectionists were cemetery-keepers who would simply remove the body to a sack before they buried the coffin. In whatever method used, they were extremely careful not to take any clothing, personal belongings, or jewelry that had been on the corpse, as stealing was a felony, even though body snatching was not.

Anatomy Act of 1832

Anatomy Act of 1832

As this business became more and more profitable for the Resurrection Men, it became more and more disheartening for the families around the United Kingdom. After extreme cases occurred where people who were innocent and perfectly well were murdered to provide bodies, an uproar arose with many rallying and crying that enough was enough. In a move to protect civil justice and peace of mind, the Anatomy Act of 1832 was passed. The Anatomy Act required the licensing of anatomy teachers and regulated the supply of cadavers for medical research and education by giving physicians, surgeons, and medical students legal access to unclaimed corpses, especially of people who had died in prison or workhouses. It also allowed a person to donate his own or next of kin’s corpse, if there were no objection by other kin, in exchange for burial paid by the anatomy school. This completely dissolved the need for Resurrection Men.

Diary of a Resurrectionist

Front cover of James Bailey's Diary of a Resurrectionist. P. I. NIxon Medical Historical Library.

Front cover of James Bailey’s Diary of a Resurrectionist. P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

The Diary of a Resurrectionist, a book published by James Bailey in 1896 that contains portions of a diary actually kept by a member of a resurrectionist gang in London,  is owned by the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library. Though Bailey left out any gory details, it still proves to be an interesting read. Even though you are able to find almost the entire body of the work online, being able to view the hard copy is a treasure itself, reminding you to value life the way these resurrection men of the 1800’s valued death.

Sources:
Anatomy Act of 1832.” Segen’s Medicial Dictionary, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.  http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Anatomy Act 1832
“Body Snatching.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_snatching
Bailey, James. The Diary of a Resurrectionist. The Project Gutenberg. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32614/32614-h/32614-h.htm
“Thomas Wakley, the Founder of ‘The Lancet.’ A biography. Chapter III.” Lancet, vol. i. p. 285-287, Jan 18, 1896.

Images:
Anatomy act of 1832: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/objects/display.aspx?id=6870
Mortsafe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_snatching
The Dissecting Room: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32614/32614-h/32614-h.htm

Tressica Thomas B.S., SLP-A
DEHS Student- School of Medicine