Garrison Medical Library established in Halifax in 1817: With 501 books, 18 medical and surgical periodicals

By Dr. Allan Marble

While carrying out research in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, I came across A Catalogue of the Halifax Garrison Medical Library, dated 1846. The cover page of the catalogue indicates the library was estab­lished in 1817. It had been my belief char the only medical libraries in Halifax prior to 1868 were the personal libraries of the physicians and surgeons practicing there. The existence of the Garrison Medical Library altered my opinion as to the availability of medical literature since it was both extensive and current in its holdings.

The Garrison Medical Library contained 425 individual titles, with a number of them having two co six volumes, for a total of 501 books. It also subscribed to 18 medical and surgical periodicals including The Lancet, and the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal. Seventeen of these periodicals were published in the United Kingdom (UK) and the remaining one in the United States (US). Over 400 of the books had been published in the UK, chiefly in London, with 11 published in Paris and other parts of Europe, and six in the US.

Dr. William Donnelly's Diary of Practical Observations on Malignant Cholera at New York, which was in the Catalogue of the Halifax Garrison Library, was published in Halifax in 1832. Most of the books were published between 1800-1846, but 23 were printed in the 1700s and two in the 1600s.

It's most inter­esting co read the titles of the books in this library in 1846, and to note the variety of subjects covered. These included: anatomy, aus­cultation, bloodletting, bronchitis, burns, cancer, consumption, dropsy, diseases, epilepsy, fever, forensic medicine, gout, gonorrhoea, hernia, inflammation, insanity, liver, midwifery, pathol­ogy, pregnancy, pharmacy, respiration, rheuma­tism, teeth, vaccination, and yellow fever. The standard surgical writings of John Abernathy and Astley Cooper were included in the library as well as works of Boerhaave, Cullen and Guthrie.·

Some more unique titles included Churchill's A Treatise on Acupuncturation, Cox's. Practical Observations on Insanity, and Barlow's An Essay on the Medical Efficacy and Employment of the Bath Waters.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to deter­mine what happened to the library after 1846. I haven't even been able to determine where it was located that year. It could have been housed in the Army Hospital, located on the slopes of Citadel Hill which burned to the ground in November of 1866. It also could have been taken to the UK when the British Garrison left Halifax I 906. The existence of such a library in early 19th century Halifax is another example of a heretofore forgotten aspect of Nova Scotia Medical history. A knowledge of our medical past provides us with an appreciation of the progress we have made, and are making, through medical research. The existence of such a library in early 19th century Halifax is another example of a heretofore forgotten aspect of Nova Scotia Medical history.

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