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The Elusive James Tilton


Title page of book, text in black, as follows: Economical observations on military hospitals; and the prevention and cure of diseases incident to an army, in three parts: addressed I. to ministers of state and legislatures. II. to commanding officers. III. to the medical staff. By James Tilton, M.D. Physician and surgeon in the Revolutionary Army of the United States. On mules and dogs the infection first began, And last the baneful arrows fixed in man. Iliad, Book I. Wilmington, (Del.) Printed by J. Wilson. Page also bears handwritten inscription in black ink reading: P. Macaulay from his friend Dr. J. Tilton Philada July 11th 1814.

Economical Observations on Military Hospitals and the Prevention and Cure of Diseases Incident to an Army, James Tilton, 1813.

Billings became tenacious about titles he felt were indispensible to the Library. One example is his quest for a copy of Economical Observations on Military Hospitals and the Prevention and Cure of Diseases Incident to an Army by James Tilton. This was an influential work on the design and construction of hospitals, and one of the first to address ways to improve hospitals. Billings at first was unsuccessful but finally acquired a copy from an unknown source in early August 1873.

In January 1872, Dr. Billings began his search. He wrote to Philadelphia book dealer Peter Doyle. He told Doyle, "When I was last in your establishment I think I saw the book of which I enclose the title....Please keep a look out for it and if you find it forward it at once." But it was already gone.

By late February, he had asked Josiah Simpson to find it. Simpson, a surgeon stationed in Baltimore, was scouting all local sources for medical texts but was unable to locate a copy of Tilton's work

Early in April 1872, the library of the Pennsylvania Hospital agreed to give duplicate pamphlets from its collections to the Library in exchange for publications from the Surgeon General's office. Library committee member Joseph C. Turnpenny told Billings, however, that he couldn't have Tilton's Observations because they had only one copy. Later that month Billings offered an exchange for it but was again disappointed. Turnpenny said, "We can appreciate thy desire to obtain "Tilton on Military Hospitals" - the Committee feel unwilling to take the responsibility of exchanging where there is only one copy in the Library - this is from no selfish motive - it would be a transgression of our duty."



Bookplate, basically white in color with black type, text as follows: 3063 - Belonging to the Medical Library of the Pennsylvania Hospital.
Bookplate, basically white in color with black type, text as follows: No. 18 - Belonging to the Medical Library in the Pennsylvania Hospital.

Though he couldn't pry Tilton's Observations from their hands, Billings did get many important pamphlets from the library of the Pennsylvania Hospital. Many of them still bear the bookplates of their original owner.

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Image of a label, yellow background with black lettering, with text as follows: Peter Doyle. Philadelphia. Bookseller. 6 S. Tenth St. 1t house below Market St.

Label from Peter Doyle Co. of Philadelphia. His shop was known for having the highest prices in Philadelphia.