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New Online Exhibition Featuring NLM’s Medieval Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

"An Odyssey of Knowledge"

An online exhibition produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine: //

Visiting Curator: Alain Touwaide, Ph.D., Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Medicine in the Old World arose from many components: the classical Greek tradition, its Christian re-elaboration, the contributions of the Arab World, and the unique medieval synthesis of them all.  The exhibition uses significant images from manuscripts and early printed books of the National Library of Medicine to show how these cultures around the Mediterranean Sea contributed to the creation of medical knowledge in Europe.

Featuring 21 medieval manuscripts and five early printed texts scanned at high resolution, An Odyssey of Knowledge displays some of the most prized items held by the National Library of Medicine. It gives viewers a rare look at texts that are normally kept under lock and key, containing medical knowledge which spans over two millennia.

An Odyssey of Knowledge was originally created as a travelling exhibition for the International Society for the History of Medicine's 39th International Congress on the History of Medicine, held from in August 2004, in Bari, Italy. It was also displayed at the National Library of Rome, and at venues in Paris, Geneva, and Rio de Janeiro.

For more information about the website and the Library's early manuscript collection, please contact Michael North (, Head of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts in the History of Medicine Division.

Image caption: Manuscript with illuminated initial

Manuscript with illuminated initial "M" from: the Isagoge of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq al-'Ibadi (809-873), copied on vellum in Paris, ca. 1220.