The National Library of Medicine is the world's largest and most comprehensive medical library, with rich collections in virtually every written language and from every country. The Library collects materials in all areas of biomedicine, health care and the history of medicine as well as works on biomedical aspects of the humanities, physical, social and life sciences.
The Library's collection is constantly growing. At the end of FY 2015 the Library's collection numbered just under 28 million items. The collection of printed materials totaled approximately 2.8 million monographs, bound serial volumes, pamphlets and dissertations. There were also over 71,000 prints and photographs and over 24 million manuscript pieces in the Library's historical collection. The collection of non-print materials included approximately 98,000 audiovisuals and microforms.
The Library's acquisitions program is international in scope, including hundreds of arrangements with book dealers, subscription agents, media producers, publishers, governments, societies, and libraries worldwide. NLM also receives donations from around the world.
In the main reading room
users have immediate access to reference works representing all areas of biomedicine, and some general reference works. The History of Medicine Division
also maintains a reading room
housing a reference collection containing the major bibliographic resources necessary for historical research, as well as standard works in the history of medicine.
The General Collection contains the majority of monographs published in 1914 forward and serials published in 1871 forward. Interactive and electronic materials and audiovisuals produced since 1970 also are housed in the general collection. Titles may be identified through LocatorPlus
or the NLM Catalog
, both of which provide access to NLM bibliographic data for over 1.5 million journals, books, audiovisuals, computer software, electronic resources, and other materials.
HISTORICAL AND SPECIAL MATERIALS
The History of Medicine Division (HMD) is responsible for historical and special materials as described below. See the HMD Home Page
for additional information.
Printed works: The historical collection includes all book-length material in NLM printed before 1914, thousands of later pamphlets and dissertations, and all pre-1871 journals. NLM holds not only many of the great landmark works in medicine such as William Harvey's De motu cordis
, 1628, but also the many works of lesser authors necessary for historical research and scholarship. Of particular interest are reprints of more than 1,300 important Chinese medical works dating from before the Han dynasty.
Early Manuscripts: The Library holds 90 early western manuscripts (before 1600), microfilm copies of about 600 manuscripts held by European libraries, and collections of 139 Arabic and Persian medical manuscripts.
Modern Manuscripts: This collection comprises an estimated 13,200 linear feet or approximately 24 million items in more than 900 collections. The modern manuscript collection is particularly rich in eighteenth and nineteenth century American and British materials and is also quite strong in twentieth century American medicine. Areas of special strength and interest include biochemistry, biotechnology and molecular biology; surgery; pediatrics and child development; medical informatics; the history of medicine; military medicine; and the Public Health Service (including the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine).
Oral History: The oral history collection consists of about 200 memoirs of important figures in the health sciences. The collection comprises audiotapes and unpublished or restricted transcripts of potential value to scholars. Interviews in other formats (e.g., video recordings) or published personal narratives are housed in the general collection.
NLM Archives: The NLM Archives contain the internal records of NLM and its official publications. Internal records consist of the papers of the Library's Directors (including John Shaw Billings
), Board of Regents meeting minutes, annual reports, selected administrative records from the Library's operational divisions, archival copies of NLM publications and some oral histories. The Archives also include electronic copies of NLM Web site documents and files that are no longer current but are considered to be of permanent value.
Prints and Photographs: The prints and photographs collection, consisting of some 71,000 items, illustrates social and historical aspects of medicine. It ranges from 15th century woodcuts to 21st century photographs. The collection includes many individual portraits of physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, and others who have contributed to the health services and professions. Visual sources also represent health care facilities and laboratories, medical procedures and equipment, and other images which document the practice of medicine. The visual formats include fine prints, historical and contemporary photographic processes, posters, and visual ephemera such as patent medicine trade cards. The Library owns over 3,000 fine prints, including several hundred caricatures on medically related subjects. Artists represented in the collection include Goya, Daumier, Gillray, Hogarth and Rowlandson.
Historical Audiovisuals: In addition to current audiovisuals, the Library's collection includes approximately 4,000 historical audiovisuals consisting of films, videocassettes, slide-tape programs, film strips, and audiocassettes produced between 1917 and 1970.