Hidden Treasure, a spectacular book with 450 images, celebrating the 175th anniversary of the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library.

Edited by Michael Sappol
Designed by Laura Lindgren
Photography by Arne Svenson

Publication date: April 2, 2012


My fantasy holiday is a week spent locked in the archives of the National Library of Medicine, so you can imagine how excited I am about this book. It’s an incomparable treasure trove. I hugged it to my chest like a four-year-old with a new pair of shoes.
— Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars



Opening this volume is like lifting up the lid of a treasure chest. The images and artifacts from the NLM’s historical coffers are intriguing, sometimes startling, unfailingly fascinating, and made all the more evocative by the authoritative, playful short reflections, many written by leading scholars in the history of medicine. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully produced, this is an amazing exploration of the visual and material cultures of health, medicine, and the body in their widest and most imaginative reaches.
— John Harley Warner, Chair of History of Medicine
    at the Yale University School of Medicine




With more than 17 million items dating from the eleventh century to the present, the National Library of Medicine, founded 175 years ago, is the world’s largest medical library—America’s home to a rich worldwide heritage of objects from rare early medical books to disturbing, precise nineteenth-century surgical illustrations to delightful mid-twentieth-century animated cartoons.

Despite more than a century and a half of classification and cataloguing, buried in the sheer mass of this collection are wondrous items largely unseen by the public and obscure even to librarians, curators, and historians. The individual objects—rare, extravagant, idiosyncratic, and sometimes surprising—brought to light in this book glow with beauty, grotesquery, wit and/or calamitous tragedy. Among the objects featured are a series never before reproduced of hauntingly delicate paintings and illustrations of “monstra” collected in the early decades of the nineteenth century “from the museum of Dr. Klinkenberg” in the Netherlands; charming hand-painted glass “magic lantern slides,” which doctors projected in slideshows to entertain and help cure inmates at St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Insane; the mimeographed report of the Japanese medical team first to enter Hiroshima after the atomic blast; surreal views of mechanically sliced cadavers in the photographic anatomical atlas of fin-de-siècle France’s notorious surgeon-provocateur Eugène-Louis Doyen; and a staggering variety of objects from around the world and through seven different centuries.

Each hidden treasure included here has been specially selected and is accompanied by a brief essay by a distinguished scholar, artist, collector, journalist, or physician. Delivered from the obscurity of the library’s massive archive, these marvels speak to us, charm us, repulse us, amaze us, inform us, and intrigue us—and present a tantalizing glimpse of some of the precious and remarkable objects to be found within one of the world’s great hidden treasures: the National Library of Medicine.

ABOUT THE EDITOR: Michael Sappol is curator-historian at the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine and the author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies and Dream Anatomy and co-editor of A Cultural History of the Body in the Age of Empire. His current work focuses on twentieth-century modernist medical illustration and the history of medical film.

ESSAYISTS IN THE BOOK ARE: Eva Åhrén, Bridie Andrews, Alexander Bay, Zoe Beloff, Timothy Billings, Sheila S. Blair, Jonathan M. Bloom, Ron Broglio, Mikita Brottman, Liping Bu, David Cantor, Mary Cappello, Andrea Carlino, Nathaniel Comfort, Harold J. Cook, Pia F. Cuneo, Olaf Czaja, Luke Demaitre, Mark Dery, Shauna Devine, Elizabeth Fee, Mechthild Fend, Paula Findlen, Mary E. Fissell, Sander L. Gilman, Elisabeth Gitter, Tal Golan, Charles Hallisey, Marta Hanson, Mark Harrison, William H. Helfand, Steven Heller, Kathy High, Mami Hirose, Ludmilla Jordanova, Lauren Kassell, Mark Kessell, Nikolai Krementsov, Shigehisa Kuriyama, Hannah Landecker, Susan E. Lederer, Barron H. Lerner, Melissa Lo, Mark S. Micale, Maren Möhring, Sheena M. Morrison, Allison Muri, Sport Murphy, Marcia D. Nichols, Marianne Noble, Lisa O’Sullivan, Alyssa Picard, Rosamond Purcell, Anne Marie Rafferty, Sita Reddy, Elizabeth Reis, Benjamin Reiss, R. Roger Remington, Jeffrey S. Reznick, Michael Rhode, Stephen P. Rice, Harriet Ritvo, Charles Rosenberg, Michael Sappol, Emilie Savage-Smith, Jonathan Sawday, Walton O. Schalick, Antony Shugaar, Jonathan Smith, Jennifer Spinks, Claudia Stein, James Taylor, Paul Theerman, Charles W. J. Withers, Hiroo Yamagata

Medicine, history • hardcover • 10 x 11" • 240 pages • 450 color illustrations • $50.00 • ISBN 978-0-922233-42-7

Order from AmazonOrder from Barnes & Noble