The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

NUC Symbol: PPC

Historical Medical Library

19 South 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-399-2304 voice
215-561-6477 fax

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 10:00 am - 4:00 pm by appointment.

  • Robert D. Hicks, PhD, Director, Mütter Museum/Historical Library, Measey Chair for the History of Medicine,
  • Beth Lander, College Librarian,
  • Chrissie Perella, Archivist,
  • Tristan Dahn, Digital Projects Librarian,
  • Caitlin Angelone, Reference Librarian,

The College of Physicians was founded in 1787 and its library in 1788. Following a period of relative dormancy, the College was revitalized in the mid-nineteenth century, and the Library began an important period of growth around the time of the Civil War. From then until well into the post-World War II period the College Library was one of the four great medical libraries in the U.S. and the central medical library of the Delaware Valley. Through gifts, bequests, and dedicated purchase funds the Library also became a great medical rare book library, and in 1953 a Historical Collections department was established. During the second half of the twentieth century, the world of medical librarianship was transformed throughout the country, as society libraries like the College's declined in importance relative to the rapidly growing academic medical center libraries. Recognizing that the libraries of the regional medical schools had grown significantly and largely replaced the College Library as providers of the current clinical and biomedical literature, in 1996 College governance formally designated the Library as a "Historical Library." The entire library therefore took on the character of what had been the Historical Collections department.

The College Library holds more than 375,000 medical books and journals published through the late twentieth century. More than 400 are incunabula and 12,000 are pre-1801 imprints. There are strong holdings in anatomy, dermatology, neurology, pathology, and ophthalmology, and particularly rich collections on homeopathy, tuberculosis, and yellow fever. Manuscripts include medieval illuminated manuscripts, hundreds of 18th and 19th-century student lecture notes, and papers of leaders of American medicine, such as Robley Dunglison, George Bacon Wood, S. Weir Mitchell, Joseph Leidy, and William W. Keen. The records and archives of medical societies, organizations, and institutions, both extinct and extant, local and national, constitute a major resource for the scholar. The archives of the College of Physicians itself are especially important, for the College has addressed a variety of professional and community concerns since its founding. The College Library also maintains a research level collection of current scholarship in history of medicine.