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Number One


Shortly after Surgeon General Joseph Barnes asked John Shaw Billings to devote all his spare time to the Library in late 1867, Billings determined to itemize the collection, introducing for the first time unique identification numbers to each volume, and then to publish an updated catalogue. The collection had been formally inventoried only three times previously. Barnes had an inventory published in 1864, the first since the initial 1840 list. A revised listing was issued in 1865.

For the 1867-68 catalogue, Billings assigned a number to each volume in the collection. This system of enumeration was then continued, after number 6,984, for each volume acquired by the library and so served as an accession number.



Excerpt of page showing handwritten inscription in ink as follows: Library of the Surgeon General's Office from George A. Otis Surg. U.S. Vols. 1865.

It is unknown why this volume was given the first number. Although the author's name might indicate an alphabetical orientation, it is neither the earliest alphabetical entry nor does the subsequent enumeration follow that pattern. Noteworthy, however, is that the book was given to the Library in 1865 by George A. Otis, who at the time was working in the Surgeon General's Office in both the Library and the Medical Museum on the compilation of the surgical history of the war.

Close up of a bookplate, gray in background with black lettering, which reads: Dr. James Drew McCaw.

The Albinus book also bears the bookplate of Dr. James Drew McCaw. From 1856 to 1859, while living in Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Otis co-edited the Virginia Medical Journal. His partner at the publication was Dr. James Brown McCaw, whose grandfather was Dr. James Drew McCaw. In 1859 Otis left Richmond for Springfield, Massachusetts, and seems to have been given this book, which was inherited by his friend.

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SGO label decoration
Title page of book in Latin, with text in black, as follows: Bernardi Siegfried Albini - Explicatio Tabularum Anatomicarum - Bartholomaei Eustachii, anatomici summi, auctor, recognovit, auxit, denuo edidit. Leidae. Apud Joannem & Hermannum Verbeek, Bibliop. CCLXI.
Page includes an engraving of a woman walking in a forest with a torch, which bears the inscription: Donec Tu Phoebe Latebis.

The Explanation of Albinus's Anatomical Figures of the Human Skeleton and Muscles, 1754, by Bernhard Siegfried Albinus. This book was assigned the number 1 when enumeration was introduced to the Library's inventory system.

Excerpt of page showing a stamp in red, which reads 'Surgeon General's Office Library' and bears the handwriting, in pencil, 'no 1.'

The first inventory number assigned to a book in the Library.