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NLM Digitizes Unique Early English Books, Allowing Free Online Access

NLM also announces a three-year cooperation with the University of St. Andrews to identify the rarest European materials in the NLM’s historical collections

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) announces the release through its Digital Collections of nearly 200 items uniquely held by the NLM and printed in the English-speaking world from 1552 to 1800.

NLM’s participation in the English Short Title Catalog (ESTC) helped staff identify the uniqueness of these items. The ESTC is a union catalog managed by the British Library which lists books, pamphlets, and other ephemeral material printed in English-speaking countries from 1473 to 1800, containing over 480,000 items reported by over 2,000 libraries from around the world, including the NLM, British Library, Folger Shakespeare Library, and Library of Congress.

The NLM holds over 9,000 ESTC items, the most for any medical library in the world.

Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (London: Printed for John Garway, 1660).

The NLM’s new digital collection of unique English short titles includes:

As with all printed material added to NLM’s Digital Collections, these items will be included in the Internet Archive generally, and as part of the Medical Heritage Library, an international collaboration which the NLM has supported since 2010 to provide free access to historical medical literature.

The NLM’s Digital Collections currently encompass over 14,000 items spanning eight centuries and including monographs, serials, videos, and ephemeral literature. It complements PubMed Central® (PMC), NLM’s free, full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature, now including 3.5 million articles spanning the early nineteenth-century to the present day.

Additionally, as part of its ongoing initiative to make its historical collections widely known and available, the NLM also announces a three-year cooperation with the University of St. Andrews to identify and preserve the rarest European materials in the NLM’s historical collections.

The University of St. Andrews hosts the Universal Short Title Catalog (USTC), funded by the Andrew J. Mellon Foundation. The USTC is a unique collective database which seeks to include all books published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century.

Since its founding in 1836, the National Library of Medicine has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice and is a leader in information innovation. NLM is the world's largest medical library, and millions of scientists, health professionals and the public around the world use NLM services every day.