Bibliotheca Osleriana

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INTRODUCTION TO THE WEB EDITION

Bibliotheca Osleriana - A catalogue of books illustrating the history of medicine and science collected, arranged, and annotated by Sir William Osler. (First edition published at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1929. Reprinted, with new prologue, addenda, and corrigenda, by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1969, 1987.)
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When Sir William Osler died in December 1919, he had been the Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford for fourteen years and had not lived in Montreal, or Canada, since 1884, but he had not forgotten his Canadian roots nor his close association with his alma mater, McGill University. In fact, he had decided about seven years before he died that he would leave his library to the Faculty of Medicine at McGill.

After he died it was to take a further decade, until 1929, before the library actually reached Montreal. Firstly a suitable physical library had to be constructed and secondly the printed catalogue, the Bibliotheca Osleriana, had to be compiled. Osler himself had suggested that the catalogue be prepared before the collection was moved from Oxford and he had laid down its the broad outlines and written some of the annotations, but flesh needed to be put on the bones. With the support of Lady Osler and many of Osler's bibliographic friends and colleagues, this labour took ten years and, involved William W. Francis, Reginald H. Hill and Archibald Malloch - men Osler himself had chosen for the task - and who are listed as the Editors of the catalogue.

This Web edition of the Bibliotheca Osleriana consists of the various Prefaces and Introductions to both the original 1929 printed catalogue and its 1969 reprint. 

This Web edition does not, and never will, include the original catalogue records themselves nor is the Index to the printed Bibliotheca reproduced here because virtually the whole collection has been re-catalogued over the last few years following modern standard cataloguing practices. Catalogue records for the items have been added to the  McGill Library catalogue. Most entries for Bibliotheca items in MUSE include all of the notes from the original printed catalogue, have modern subject headings and indicate the location of the items in the library - the books themselves are no longer shelved by Bibliotheca number.

Bibliotheca items can be found in the online catalogue by traditional "author" or "title" searches but can also be located by the Bibliotheca Osleriana number using a keyword PHRASE search. These Keyword searches should be input, in 'Basic keyword(s)', in the format "Osler 1234" where 1234 is the Bibliotheca number (use " " to indicate a 'phrase'). If you want to scroll through the Bibliotheca Osleriana by BO number you must use the Osler sub-catalogue. Then, using the Advanced Browse option you can browse by Bibliotheca Osleriana number. (Browsing by B.O. number is NOT possible in the full catalogue.)  You can go DIRECTLY to the Osler sub-catalogue by clicking HERE.

McGill - Queen's University Press has issued the full Bibliotheca Osleriana as an e-book. It is accessible at licenced institutions, including McGill. It can be accessed from here IF you are connected directly to the McGill computer network or have a VPN connection.

Though information on almost all items in the Bibliotheca is available through the McGill online catalogue, a few items have been lost and Osler had also arranged for some items to be given to other libraries. A listing of Bibliotheca numbers not listed in the catalogue is accessible from the link below.

It must be stressed that the Osler Library at McGill University now comprises not only the approximately 7600 items listed in the Bibliotheca; the library now holds over 60,000 volumes. The balance has been acquired by purchase, through the generosity of many donors and by transfers of historical material from McGill University's Life Sciences (formerly Medical) Library - founded in 1823 this is the oldest medical library in Canada. 

Though the Osler Library has grown in size since arriving in Montreal, its mission remains as laid down by Sir William:

 "The library is for the use of students of the history of science and of medicine, without any other qualifications, and I particularly wish that it may be used by my French Canadian colleagues, who will find it rich in the best of French literature."


1. Title page of the 1969 reprint

2. Dedication to Lady Osler and quotation from Religio Medici

3. Prologue to 1969 reprint (by Lloyd G. Stevenson)

4. Editors' Preface from 1929 edition

5. Introduction - the Collecting of a Library (by William Osler)

6. Appendix 1. A record day at Sotheby's

7. Appendix 2. Distribution of special books to other libraries

8. Table of arrangement

  9. Bibliotheca items NOT listed in McGill's online catalogue (pdf)

This page © David S. Crawford.  April 2006, October 2009.
Bibliotheca Osleriana
  © Osler Library, McGill University.

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