Smith Library Stressbusters: Anatomy Rare Book Show and Tell

anatomy inviteIn addition to bubble-popping and “make your own squeeze ball” stressbuster activities, the George F. Smith Library of the Health Sciences hosted its first “Anatomy Rare Book Show and Tell” on Friday, May 13. Over the afternoon, 18 attendees (15 students, 2 librarians, and a regular library visitor) dropped by to see, touch (supervised!), and learn about:

  • Andreas Vesalius, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (2nd edition, 1555 – a gorgeous book with renowned illustrations, with our copy featuring a magnificent 1572 binding)
  • G. Bidloo, Anatomia Humani Corporis (1st edition, 1685 – folio size with awesome and gruesome giant plates)
  • Henry Gray, Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical (1st British edition, 1858, and 1st American edition, 1859 – fantastic pedagogical illustrations, and thanks to television, probably the best-known textbook title)

Librarian lessons learned:

Patron serendipity: A first-year medical student recently visited Special Collections and expressed interest in the rare books. She was concluding gross anatomy studies, and really liked the idea of a show and tell of classic anatomical works. She was happy to post news of the event on the private Facebook page of the first year students.  So if one patron is interested, it’s reasonable to conclude that maybe more than one will be interested!

Location location location: Instead of using the Special Collections reading room, the books were displayed in E-Classroom 2, a recently renovated room closer to where students congregate on Smith Library’s upper floor.  A sign taped to a chair and an open door worked to draw some second-year students temporarily away from their USMLE Step 1 studies. Prompted by a Vesalian illustration, some even recalled which bone in the human body is the only bone not connected to another.

If it works, do it again:  Attendees showed interest and stayed longer than originally anticipated. (By the end, my voice was shot.) So I intend to make similar rare book, manuscript, or even historical object show and tell events a regular end of semester activity.


Robert Vietrogoski

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