THE J. K. LILLY COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL APPEARANCES OF CLASSICAL WORKS IN THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE AND SURGERY
J. K. Lilly's interest in collecting medical books in their original appearances budded early but flowered late. It was not
too late, however, for him to acquire, at what now seem modest sums, a distinguished group, remarkable not only for their
importance but also for their fine condition.
He showed some interest in this field from the very beginning of his collecting career. It was fortunate that, at that time,
he could blithely turn down Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Basel, 1543) and Harvey's De Motu Cordis (Frankfort, 1628) on the grounds either that he was "out of funds at the moment" or that "he would prefer to wait for a better
copy" and still have second and third chances to acquire them. Today a collector, solvent or not, disregards even mediocre
copies of these at his peril, although neither ranks very high among medical rarities.
Among Mr. Lilly's earliest purchases were works of Sir William Osler, for whom he had unbounded admiration. In 1937 he purchased
from the writer, then at Scribner's, New York, a small collection of Osler, including a first edition of Aequanimitas with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (London, 1904). This great book had a special attraction for him because, as he explained, the Eli Lilly Company, instead
of giving medical school graduates a few sample bottles of pills as a souvenir of this momentous occasion, had come up with
a different idea. They sent each a copy of Aequanimitas with the following letter.
ELI LILLY AND COMPANY—Indianapolis, U.S.A.
Eli Lilly, President
Together with congratulations on your attainment of a medical degree, this volume of addresses by Sir William Osler, who adorned
your profession in the United States for so many years, is cordially presented.
As the addresses by this master mind of modern medicine are read, may you catch his vision of the almost boundless possibilities
of your chosen profession.
May you share with him his "relish of knowledge" and his absorbing love and passionate, persistent search for truth.
Above all, may there come to you an inspiration which will enable you to live a rich, a happy, and an abundant life.
ELI LILLY AND COMPANY
The results had been gratifying indeed. Over the years some 100,000 copies had been distributed, including a Spanish translation,
and had incidentally provided a welcome source of income to the Osler estate.
Among Lilly's many collecting ventures at this time, his bookish interests were mainly literary and his collecting of medical
works was sporadic. He twice refused offers of Harvey's De Motu Cordis, perhaps the
most important work in the whole history of medicine. Though over forty copies are known, almost all are in institutions,
and it is seldom indeed, nowadays, that a private collector has an opportunity to acquire it. Osler records having had five
copies in his possession at one time or another. But that was another era. In 1935 Jake Zeitlin offered Mr. Lilly a copy for
$2,500, and in 1937 Charles Scribner's offered him a copy on thick paper at $3,500; both were rejected on the seemingly preposterous
grounds that they were not in original bindings and he would prefer to wait for such a copy.
In 1953 he secured through Scribner's a beautiful copy in original vellum for $5,500, the top price he ever paid for a medical
or scientific book. This is, I believe, the last perfect copy which has been in commerce. Lilly was taking a great chance
by waiting, but his patience paid off.
Through the 1930's his interest was centered largely on American medicine rather than English or continental. He acquired
such works as Noah Webster's A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases (two volumes, Hartford, 1799), the standard work on the subject in its day, and William Beaumont's Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice (Plattsburgh, 1833), one of the pioneer works of medical research in America. At one time or another he owned three copies
before finally securing one which met with his exacting standards of condition. Though a relatively common book, it is rarely
found really fine, with uncracked hinges and perfect label. Osler said of it, "To the medical bibliographers there are few
more treasured Americana than the brown-backed, poorly printed octavo volume of 280 pages with the imprint: Plattsburgh, 1833."
Oliver Wendell Holmes was a great favorite, and holdings include his first two medical works. The Library of Practical Medicine, Vol. VII (Boston, 1836) is the only recorded presentation copy and has a distinguished provenance, being the Wakeman-Wilson copy with
an autograph letter with the rare signature "Oliver Wendell Holmes, M.D." inserted. The Boylston Prize Dissertations (Boston, 1838) is also inscribed. The famous The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever is present in its original appearance (Boston, 1843), while Border Lines of Knowledge in Some Provinces of Medical Science (Boston, 1862) is presented to James Russell Lowell.
It should be mentioned that Lilly was collecting at the same time, and in the same somewhat desultory way, milestone works
in the history of science, with such emphasis as there was on mathematics. If desirable copies of important works came along,
they were acquired, but no especial effort was made to seek them out.
In 1939 Scribner's published one of the first catalogues of its kind to appear in America: Science and Thought in the Nineteenth Century. In the "Introduction" to the catalogue, my Scribner associate, John Carter, who had assembled and annotated most of its
contents, wrote as follows:
Of recent years, discriminating collectors have turned their attention increasingly to the first editions of those books
which have in one way or another influenced the progress of science or the development of thought and human behavior. And
what more natural and proper? The names of Volta and Ampère, of Faraday and Kelvin, commemorate by their everyday use the
services of their owners to civilisation. Darwin and Freud have added adjectives to the language, and Karl Marx is more powerful
today than when Das Kapital was first published.
The incurious and the hasty do not stop to ask why a volt is so called. The thoughtful man wonders, and finds out. The book collector goes further: he searches for the first appearance
of Volta's epoch-making paper, from which every electric battery in the world today derives, and he treasures it for what
it is— a cardinal document in the history of Progress.
Many of the great names, the historic books, in the history of science and thought are indeed sufficiently familiar.
Any schoolboy will connect the atomic theory with the name of Dalton, the theory of the conservation of energy with that of
Helmholtz; antiseptic surgery with Lister, Positivism with Comte, X-Rays with Röntgen, shorthand with Pitman, finger prints
with Galton, or Zarathustra with Nietzsche. But there are many less obvious, though equally important landmarks; and others
besides schoolboys might well be puzzled to say when was the first recorded case of appendicitis, what is the origin of the
square root of minus one or the coefficient of friction, or who first distinguished proteins. Why is Plimsoll's Line so called? Who inaugurated modern methods of contraception? Who discovered Neanderthal Man, or the infra-red rays of the
spectrum? Who coined such words as fluorescence and electron? Who was responsible for the modern system of food-canning, or the higher criticism, or the ticker-tape, or colloidal chemistry.
No one who has not dabbled in this kind of collecting can have any idea of the fascination of the search for facts
and achievements, and their printed origins; the tracking down of a pregnant idea or train of philosophic thought to the mind
that first conceived it. Hilaire Belloc once said of a favorite work that it was 'a book like a decisive battle'; but this
phrase, a fine hyperbole when used of a piece of pure literature, might be applied with absolute literalness to dozens of
books listed in the following pages.
We have endeavored to assemble here a representative selection of books and pamphlets illustrating the progress of
science and thought in the nineteenth century. There are certain gaps, where some clew to the crucial book has eluded our
researches, or where some desired item has proved unobtainable; but we believe that everything offered is significant in its
field, whether by its direct relation to the world today or its influence upon the thought of its own and subsequent generations.
This material is of a character, we believe, to attract the collector of vision, and to command the attention of those libraries
and institutions which take the history of science and of thought for their province.
It was a modest catalogue, with modestly priced books (75 per cent of the items were under $25), but it sparked Lilly's imagination.
In all his vast collecting career Lilly has been, above all, a "collector of vision." From this catalogue he acquired R. T.
H. Laennec's De l'Auscultation Médiate (Paris, 1819), recording his invention of the stethoscope, two volumes in original wrappers, paper labels, $180, together
with the much rarer first English translation by John Forbes (London, 1821—Garrison-Morton give 1834 as the date for the English
translation, a rare error in this encyclopedic work); Henry Gray's Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical (London, 1858), which the catalogue accurately described as "a book rarely found in original condition," was purchased for
$12 (the latest copy offered in trade was priced at £150). The famed Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace joint paper, On the Tendency of Species to form varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Species and Varieties by Natural Means of Selection, in its original appearance in the papers of "The Linnaean Society" (London, 1858), was acquired, with some reluctance, being
rebound, for $60. It was later replaced by a perfect copy in original blue printed wrappers.
Fascination in books of this kind, which had influenced thought and the mind of man, grew upon Lilly as his interest in collecting
literature lessened, as the writer recorded in his The J. K. Lilly Collection of Edgar Allan Poe, an Account of its Formation (Christmas, 1964). Just at this time clouds were gathering over the world and, until after 1945, he had little time or inclination
for collecting anything. In 1947 Scribner's issued another catalogue, Science, Medicine, Economics, and from this he obtained some very good things, among them Georg Bartisch's Ophthalmodouleia: Das ist
Augendienst . . . (Dresden, 1583), perhaps the most famous and lavishly illustrated of all the early books on eye surgery, original vellum,
$335; Andreas Vesalius' De Humani Corporis Fabrica, second edition (Basel, 1555), in original calf, $350 (later replaced with a finer copy in original vellum) ; and Franz Anton
Mesmer's Mémoire sur la Découverte du Magnétisme Animal (Geneva and Paris, 1779), $45.
It was at this time that he made a decision to go on to form a representative collection of the classic books in the history
of medicine. But what were they? Everyone knew some of the great books and traditional rarities. Picking fifty or so of these
items would be easy—getting them, of course, quite another matter.
Chief among the standard guide books at that time were Sir William Osler's massive volume recording his own library, Bibliotheca Osleriana (Oxford, 1919), and Garrison and Morton's Medical Bibliography. An Annotated Check-List of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (London, 1943). These were invaluable but much too comprehensive. Osler listed 7,783 items, Garrison, 5,506. Choulant-Frank's
History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (Chicago, 1920) was indispensable on a subject in which Lilly was especially interested and in which his collection is particularly
rich. Francis R. Packard's History of Medicine in the United States (New York, 1931) was also useful.
What was needed but not available was a guide for the discriminating collector who was forming a personal, not a research,
library. Lilly liked collecting by lists. He had acquired nearly all of the Grolier Club's One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature and A. Edward Newton's One Hundred Good Novels, and what he wanted was some similar guide to medical books.
Since one did not exist, he characteristically decided to have one created. There was considerable discussion of the best
objective way to have this done. Lilly wryly related that he once requested a famous dealer to recommend a list of important
works on another subject only to find that 95 per cent of the books suggested were reposing on the dealer's shelves. The choice
finally fell on W. R. Le Fanu, Librarian, Royal College of Surgeons of England, who on request compiled a list of Two Hundred Key Books in the History of Medicine and Surgery. This distinguished librarian began his list with Johannes de Ketham's Fasciculus anatomiae (Venice, 1491) and ended it with Howard Florey's (and others') Antibiotics (Oxford, 1949). Le Fanu's list was drawn, correctly, with no consideration given to the availability of the recommended books
and contained many of legendary rarity. Completion of the list was impossible, and even existing specialized libraries lacked
a goodly number of titles. Included, for example, was the first edition of Marcello Malpighi's De Pulmonibus Observationes Anatomicae . . . (Bologna, 1661). So rare is this work that as recently as 1944 that eminent authority Professor F. J. Cole remarked in his
History of Comparative Anatomy that no copy had ever been seen in England. Lilly had to content himself with the second edition (Hafniae, 1663), itself
an uncommon book, there being no copy in the Harvey Cushing collection, while the one in the Osler library lacks two plates.
But he was never quite happy with it.
Lilly set to work at quite a target. He had perhaps 15 per cent of the books on the list when it was formulated. How amazingly
successful he was in less than a half decade is reflected by the fact that when he turned his library over to Indiana University
in 1955 he had about 65 per cent in the editions specified and over 75 per cent in some form. For instance, for Cesar Lombroso's
L'Uomo Delinquente (Milan, 1876), there had to be substituted the later edition (Rome, 1878), and for Ivan Petrovich Pavlov's Lectures ... on the principal digestive glands (St. Petersburg, 1897), its first translation (Berlin, 1898).
It should be emphasized that the "Le
Fanu Two Hundred" by no means limited the collector merely to those works recommended. It simply acted as a guideline and
general directive, and a very useful one, frequently bringing attention to significant works which would have been otherwise
overlooked. If the recommended work could not be found, others representative of the author's achievements were sought. For
example, Ambroise Paré's first work, La methode de traicter les playes (Paris, 1545), which was Le Fanu's choice to represent this great surgeon, proved unobtainable; but his Cinq Livres de Chirurgie (Paris, 1572) was acquired, richly bound in typical Lyonnaise style, probably for presentation. This has been called by several
commentators Paré's chef-d'oeuvre, and Miss Doe, in her bibliography, comments upon its extraordinary rarity.
It is of interest to note that some of the most elusive works proved to be not the early rarities but those published in the
last half of the nineteenth century. For example, Hugh Owen Thomas's Diseases of the Hip (Liverpool, 1875) and David Ferrier's The Functions of the Brain (London, 1876) never were obtained. There was no question of price involved and indeed, in most cases, it would then have
been small. The books simply never appeared on the market. It should be remembered that works of this type, unlike literature,
do not often find casual buyers who discard them after reading. They immediately pass into libraries or into the hands of
specialists who hold on to them. Nor are they likely to be printed, in the first place, in large editions.
As the writer pointed out in discussing J. K. Lilly's formation of his Poe collection, he was lucky in his timing—collector's
luck, if you wish. Though the great medical books were not then as available and as cheap as they had been a generation before,
still they had not anywhere reached their present rarity, popularity, and price. One could still reasonably expect to have
an offer of several decent copies of most desiderata within, say, a half decade, and at prices which would not require mortgaging
one's home. This is no longer true. Also, a most important consideration was that there were some very knowledgeable contemporary
bookdealers active in this field, experienced in both English and continental markets, who could supply material of the type
wanted. The late Ernst Weil, from whom (though indirectly) Lilly obtained some of his best books, was an important source,
as was the late Raphael King, and the cooperation of Percy Muir was invaluable. E. P. Goldschmidt and Davis & Orioli also
supplied material. But by far the greatest part came from Scribner's.
Also, to use a felicitous medical phrase of Gordon Ray's, when writing recently of nineteenth-century literature, "prices
had not yet been inflated to the point of dropsy." Lilly's entire expenditure on his medical collection was scarcely double
the price of his first edition of Poe's Tamerlane (Boston, 1827), which was $25,000. Indeed, fewer than five books in the collection cost into four figures. Had he attempted
to do in the decade following 1955 what he accomplished in the decade before then, it would have been proved impossible.
It might be mentioned that, though a generous buyer and seldom questioning a price if he wanted a book (though he often returned
things on the grounds of condition) , Lilly invariably collected within a strict budget. He never gave a blanket order for
any books on any list to be purchased as they appeared. His dealers, therefore, had to exercise discretion in the spending
of funds allocated to them. In practice this meant that they offered him the uncommon books—those unlikely to appear on the
market reasonably soon again—first. Generally it was on these books that a higher profit could be obtained, while the more
common books which (one thought then) would always be available were often not offered at all—they could be sold next year
if real rarities could not be obtained.
For example, in September, 1953, the writer sent ten desirable medical books for
Mr. Lilly's consideration. With the letter was enclosed a clipping from an English dealer's catalogue offering a set of Richard
Bright's Reports of Medical Cases . . . (1827-31) for £450, Lilly having purchased his set a few months before for $485 (a copy sold this year at auction for $3,500),
a gentle reminder to the collector as to the moderation of Scribner prices.
Back came a typical answer.
This is a somewhat tardy reply to your letter of September 26 but I waited until the medical books came in and were
catalogued before replying.
You will recall that earlier in the year I wrote you what my budget with the Scribner Book Store for 1953 would be.
I have to report that with the present receipt of the ten medical books forwarded, we are now right on the button so please
don't ship me anything else this year or at least not until after December 15 and then only with the proviso that the invoice
may be settled during the first week in January of 1954. In this connection, I wish to proceed with the medical book want-list
to the tune, as we go into the new year, of a budget of $10,000 so please don't commit me to any outlay beyond this sum until
you hear from me further on the subject which may probably not be until late in 1954!
In view of the above I may not presently consider the other item mentioned in your letter of September 26.
Thank you so much, indeed, for your good offices—past, present, and future.
It is hoped that sometime reasonably soon a properly annotated account of his holdings in medicine will be printed. Meanwhile
the writer lists a selection from them, limited to those he thinks are, for one reason or another—importance, rarity, bibliographical
interest, condition, association, etc.—of especial interest.
It should be noted that, with two exceptions, all books mentioned in the catalogue are from J. K. Lilly's personal collection.
This has since been greatly augmented by purchase and gift. The exceptions are the George A. Poole, Jr., copy of Rabanus Maurus'
De sermonum proprietate, sen de universo (Strassburg, 1467?), the earliest known printed book to include a section dealing with medicine. Also Johannes de Ketham's
Fasciculus Medicinae (Venice, 5 Feb. 1493-4), the first Italian edition, noted for its fine wood engravings, the first anatomic illustrations
of any kind in any incunabula. This is the Dyson Perrins copy with bookplate and notes in his hand.
The Bernardo Mendel collection of Latin Americana included a fine collection of early medical books from "south of the border,"
beginning with Alonso de la Vera Cruz's Phisica Speculatio (Mexico City, 1555), the first scientific work published in the New World. And there have been many individual purchases.
Henri Dunant's privately printed and very rare Un Souvenir de Solférino (Geneva, 1862), which was directly responsible for the founding of the International Red Cross Society and for which he received
the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, is the most recent.
A notable gift was that of the very comprehensive medico-historical collection formed by the late Dr. Edgar F. Kiser, who
was closely associated for many years with the University's School of Medicine. Presented by Dr. and Mrs. Bernard D. Rosenak,
Indianapolis, and Mr. and Mrs. Herman P. Anspach, Highland Park, Illinois, and especially rich in early American and Indiana
rarities, this beautifully complemented Lilly's holdings. It included a notable lot of the works of Beaumont, including a
presentation copy of the Observations; a presentation copy of Daniel Drake's On the Principal Diseases of the Interior Valley of North America (Cincinnati, 1850-55); and the first two medical books printed in Indiana, Dr. S. H. Selman's The Indian Guide to Health (Columbus, Ind., 1836), and Buell Eastman's A Practical Treatise on Diseases Peculiar to Women and Girls (Connersville, 1845). Both works are examples of the familiar "family physician" and abound in frontier medical lore, and
both are uncommon, Byrd-Peckham (Indiana Imprints) locating five copies of the former and three of the latter.
However, no books from such sources are included in the following catalogue (except the two Poole incunabula), and to that
extent it does not give a true picture of the Lilly Library's current holdings in this subject. The fact that some important
book is not recorded does not mean that the Library does not have it, as witness those listed above: it simply means that
Mr. Lilly did not possess it. But without the books recorded here the Library could scarcely claim to have a significant collection
Formal collations are not usually given, as this is not a bibliography but simply a report on one aspect of a many-sided collector's
interests. It should be emphasized that Lilly chose every one of these books personally, rejecting many more than he ever
accepted. The notes may, in some cases, read as though they were taken from booksellers' descriptions. If so, that's sometimes
what they are! All books referred to are first editions, unless otherwise specified. The census of known copies, occasionally
given, is from standard sources and is probably in some cases already changed.
David A. Randall
Librarian, Lilly Library