My Rare Book Collection Has A New Home


Since retiring and moving to Seattle in 2001, I decided in subsequent years to donate books and journals acquired during my thirty-year career as medical historian. Given my eclectic and wide-ranging interests, book and journals obtained from purchases at auction, publishers‘ review items, as well as gifts from colleagues living abroad, had created a valuable assortment of primary and secondary sources related to the history of disease and medicine. Conversely, irked by the activities of aggressive, largely California bottle collectors who went after popular remedies by dumping the contents and destroying their labels, I had also started in the 1970s to assemble a veritable assortment of pharmaceutical ephemera from small rural Wisconsin and Iowa drugstores forced to close their doors.

My early and favorite recipient was the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD. Books written in Spanish and collected during a WHO sponsored visit to Latin America in 1989, went to the UCLA Medical Library in Los Angeles. Since the 2010s, German medical works enriched the holdings of the University of Washington in Seattle. British reference materials found a new home at the Huntington Library in Pasadena while some Argentine periodicals reinforced the splendid collections of the New York Academy of Medicine. However, since the core of the book collection and the pharmaceutical memorabilia remained intact, the final and logical step was to search for an institution interested in the medical past but devoid of historical materials.

Because of my affiliation with the University of Washington Medical School, I knew about efforts in the State Legislature to establish a second medical school under the auspices of Washington State University on its Health Sciences campus in Spokane. Despite bitter debates and considerable opposition, the proposal was approved in 2015, leading to the official establishment of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. Subsequent accreditation allowed the institution to officially schedule the admission of its first class of students for August 2017. The rest was easy. That summer, I contacted Jonathan D. Potter, director of the WSU Academic Library in Spokane. Coincidentally, Potter was already actively involved in collecting and preserving digital and physical documents from the new Medical School. After a brisk email correspondence, several visits involving Porter and Spokane faculty members, as well as strong support from my family, we agreed by Christmas 2017 on the transfer of the books and pharmaceutical antiques, a task completed in spring 2018.

To learn more about where my antique and rare book collection is located, read their announcement here:

Medical historian gifts College of Medicine with rare collection