Rare Books & Special Collections

The Archives manages the Rare Books & Special Collections of the NYU Health Sciences Libraries. Rare books are included in the library catalog, but you must request an appointment to view the collection using our Reference Contact Form.

Carlisle Collection

Robert James Carlisle, MD

The Carlisle Collection is a collection of 3,319 volumes on the history of medicine. It was started by Robert James Carlisle but relevant books from the library’s other collections have since been integrated. The collection encompasses historical works, biographical works, and runs of the major medical directories.

Carlisle graduated from Bellevue Hospital Medical College and was a member of the faculty there for 48 years. By some accounts he served as the unofficial historian of both the hospital and the college. In 1893 he wrote “An Account of Bellevue Hospital With a Catalogue of the Staff, 1736–1894."  Carlisle died in 1935, but his collection does not seem to have been acquired by the university until the mid-1950s. It is not known whether the original collection comprised of Carlisle’s own books was bequeathed to NYU by Carlisle himself, or by another family member later on.

The Carlisle Collection is currently unavailable for circulation.

Heaton Collection

Dr. Claude Heaton

The Heaton collection came to NYU in the early 1960s under the stewardship of Gil Clausman, who was then director of Ehrman Medical Library. While Dr. Claude Heaton was still living, Clausman arranged for the purchase of the collection, securing a financial donation from a radiologist friend of Heaton’s who was on the School of Medicine staff.  The collection consists of 548 volumes on all aspects of medicine.

Heaton was a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the School of Medicine. He authored a book chronicling the first 125 years of history of the School of Medicine, as well as a work on the early history of the New York Obstetrical Society. He also published on the subject of maternity care.

The titles in the Heaton collection are cataloged in the library catalog system, however, the books do not circulate.  Volumes in this collection may be viewed in the Archives.  To request access, please use the Reference Contact Form

James Collection

The James collection consists of approximately 352 volumes.  The collection seems to have been named after Dorothea Draper James, who was president of the Bellevue Hospital School of Nursing. Little is known about how the collection came here, but there is a plaque on the wall of one library administrative office naming the room “The James Room,” in gratitude to Dorothea Draper James. NYU medical librarians recently discovered that Dorothea Draper James was the granddaughter of Charles Dana, the editor and publisher of the New York Sun. She was also the older sister of the monologist Ruth Draper.

Dorothea Draper James married twice, the second time into the James family (as the wife of William James’ son Harry). She was elected president of the board at the Bellevue Hospital School of Nursing and survived her husband by twenty years.
 

Titles in the James collection are cataloged, but the collection does not circulate and may not be photocopied.  Volumes in this collection may be viewed in the Archives. To request access, please use the Reference Contact Form.



Conservation Issues

One major issue with all special collections is the preservation and maintenance of the books themselves. Materials need to be treated and stored in a way that ensures their usability for generations of researchers to come.

In the case of the Special Collections, the older materials in the Heaton and the Carlisle collections are generally in acceptable condition, as they were cared for by former owners over a long period of years. However, volumes in the James collection, although of high quality in terms of content, are often not in the best physical condition. Additionally, many of the James volumes are of very large size and can be difficult to store properly.

The book shown here is a surgical anatomy of the head and neck written by Granville Sharp Pattison, the chair of anatomy here at the School of Medicine. This volume is an especially important work in regard to the history of the NYU School of Medicine and definitely requires attention. To this end, the Archives consult with conservators and will continue work to preserve these materials into the future.