History of Medicine Library collections

The History of Medicine Library at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has a leading collection of medical history items from Australasia and around the world. The RACP established the Library in 1940 as a clinical library, however the focus of the Library changed to medical history in the mid 1950’s. The History of Medicine Library continues to grow through the contributions of our College members. 

Rare book collection

The College holds over 400 items published before 1801. This collection is held in the Council and Fellows Rooms of the RACP at 145 Macquarie St. Sydney. Browse through our Early Medicine catalogue publication to view this collection of pre-1801 books held in the Library. The History of Medicine Library worked with the RACP and Monash University to publish this uniquely Australian asset and introduce it to a wider audience.

Rare material published before the 1800’s is generally not for loan but can be viewed on the Library premises.

Sir Edward Ford collections

Our former curator, Sir Edward Ford made several important donations to the History of Medicine Library during his association with the College. In 1978 he donated a unique collection of nineteenth and twentieth century medical Australiana which now adorns our newly refurbished Reading Room. On Ford's death in 1986 he bequethed the Library his international collection of rare and valuable medical books which are housed in his eponymous Room at 145 Macquarie St. His archive of medical history research, correspondence, ephemera and medical instruments were also acquired by the Library.

E. Graeme Robertson collection

A significant collection of neurology-related titles are held in the Library on behalf of Foundation Fellow and neurologist Graeme Robertson

Historical medical instrument and artefact collection

The History of Medicine holds over 250 historical medical instruments and artefacts. Some of the highlights include:

  • culture vessel used to produce mould for penicillin by Howard Florey and his team in Oxford

  • Astronaut John Glenn's graph of respiratory rate, blood pressure and ECG taken during his orbit of earth in 1962.

  • William Ingram's collection / box of items from his two British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions (BANZARE) with Sir Douglas Mawson.

New Zealand collection

The RACP's New Zealand collection is held at the Ernest and Marion Davis Library which is located at the Auckland Hospital. As part of its wonderful medical museum and library, it holds 1001 titles and a small number of artefacts on behalf of the RACP.

The most significant title, Booke of soveraigne medecines against the most common and known deseases of man and women [ca.165-] is held for safekeeping at the National Library of New Zealand who have digitilised a copy for online viewing

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RACP History of Medicine Library 

145 Macquarie St,

Sydney, NSW, 2000

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