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Paracelsus Collections

The Paracelsus Collection at Hahnemann University

Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia was founded in 1848 as a school devoted to the homeopathic principles of Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). It was the first successful center for homeopathic education in the world. Much as Paracelsus, breaking from the authority of Galen, taught that the basis of medical science should be the study of nature, observation of the patient, and experiment and experience, so too, some 300 years later, did Samuel Hahnemann break with the tradition of allopathic medicine in his effort to establish a more benign, sympathetic approach to treating medical ills.

Constantine Hering (1800-1880), a student and follower of Samuel Hahnemann, was a physician, chemist, and zoologist. Known as the father of homeopathy in America, he was one of the founders of Hahnemann University. His passion -- or one of them, for he was a man of enormous curiosity and many interest -- was to obtain a perfect collection of all the works by or pertaining to Paracelsus. He devoted nearly half a century to this pursuit. The fruits of his labour form one of the principal collections of works by and about Paracelsus. This collection, known as the Constantine Hering Collection, is now a part of the special collections of Hahnemann University. Housing over 200 volumes dating from 1502 -- many in Latin and Old German -- the collection, in addition to the original works of Paracelsus, includes early works on the philosopher's stone, alchemy, botany, and a first edition of Robert Browning's poem, Paracelsus. In 1881, a catalogue documenting the collection was published by Globe Publishing House and in 1932, Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital produced a second catalogue of the Constantine Hering Paracelsus Collection housed at the College.

In conjunction with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Paracelsus, Hahnemann University Library will present an exhibit of books and memorabilia from this collection. The Paracelsus Exhibit will run from October through December, 1993 at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. On display will be selections from the original writings of Paracelsus, as well as material documenting the initial reaction to him and his work. The exhibit also will trace the thinking of Paracelsus and his philosophical progeny through Hahnemann and Hering, with books and memorabilia from the Hering Collection.

Carol H. Fenichel

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Paracelsian Works at the National Library of Medicine

Title page of Vom ursprung und herkommen des Bads Pfeffers featuring a fountain in the center surrounded by clouds, the sun, the moon, and five stars.
Title page from one of NLM's acquired works by Paracelsus. Paracelsus, Vom ursprung und herkommen des Bads Pfeffers (Basel, 1576)

The National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division holds an outstanding collection of works by Paracelsus. The Library's predecessor was the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office and the first Paracelsus work to be acquired was the Opera Omnia Medico-Chemico-Chirurgica (Geneva, 1658) which appears in its 1868 catalogue. By the 1880's and the printing of the first series of the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office, there were an additional thirty entries. Today, the Library's collection of works by Paracelsus continues to grow, with five titles having been acquired since 1989. The collection includes over 150 of the titles listed in Karl Sudhoff's Bibliographia Paracelsica. The earliest Paracelsus work in the collection is a copy of the 1536 Ulm edition of the Grosse Wund Artzney... which contains annotations in the hand of Konrad Gesner. Among other especially noteworthy holdings is the rare complete 10-part set of Paracelsus' collected works edited by Johann Huser and published in Basel between 1589 and 1591.

In addition to works written by Paracelsus, the Library holds numerous original works by his immediate disciples as well as by authors of various countries who were influenced by him. It also includes a large number of historical studies of Paracelsus' life and contributions to medicine and science. The Library's collection is a rich resource for the study of an innovative and controversial figure in the history of medicine. Access to all of these titles is provided through LocatorPlus (formerly CATLINE), the Library's online book catalog. In addition, many of these titles are available on microfilm for loan and for purchase.

Margaret Kaiser

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The Paracelsus Collection at Washington University, St. Louis

The Archives and Rare Book Division of Washington University School of Medicine Library (St. Louis) contains the holdings of the Robert E. Schlueter Paracelsus Collection, on deposit from the St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society. Of significant interest to alchemical and early modern scholars of science and medicine is this exceptional collection, perhaps the world's largest intact of works by, or concerning, the enigmatic German Renaissance physician and philosopher Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. Included are more than four hundred titles, primary and secondary sources dating from 1530; all materials are now cataloged and available through the OCLC database.

The Schlueter collection includes the larger part of the original writings of Paracelsus and surveys the distinct Paracelsian schools and revivals of interest that have flourished in Germany, England, France, and other countries over the past five centuries. The collection consists of six titles of the twenty-four known editions which were published during the life-time of Paracelsus, that is between the years 1527-1539. The earliest is the first edition of his three works on Syphilis, 1530, and the latest is the third edition of his Great Surgery, 1537. There are 161 titles from the remainder of the sixteenth century, and seventy-seven titles from the seventeenth century.

Five titles represent the important later editions between 1549 and 1560, including some translations. There are 131 titles of the publications between 1560-1588 which include the works published from the personal manuscripts of Paracelsus. Eighty-four titles represent the collected works between 1589-1658, during which period there were publications by Paracelsists, such as John Glauber, William Johnson and Ferdinand Parkhurst, including the Huser edition of his complete works, 1589-1591, and the Latin translation (Frankfurt, 1603).

In addition there are more than one hundred newer works such as facsimile editions, biographies, Kolbenheyer's three dramatic works, Browning's epic poem, Waite's translation of his hermetic writings, and others. Lastly there is an extensive collection of odd pamphlets and reprints of comparatively recent date.

Assembled in a lifetime of discriminate collecting by Dr. Schlueter, a distinguished St. Louis physician, this unrivaled Paracelsus Collection was so focused and complete that it became a model for similar special collections which were developed around other celebrated medical pioneers in other libraries of the world. The collection is at the disposal of any scholar desiring to utilize the primary sources of a controversial, often times discredited, pioneer sixteenth century scientist, surgeon and physician, as we celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Phillippus Aureolus Theoprastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, later called Paracelsus.

Susan Alon

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