As someone who works in early history, I often get asked where I find my books and information.
Things have changed dramatically since my grad school days when you had to pay a reference librarian to run an online database search. To my delight, I’ve been finding more and more early texts online through specialized collections. But this doesn’t replace the thrill of the hunt in person. And I don’t think that I could go too long without getting dusty in the archives…
Still, for online databases, my first stops are always:
1. Historical Abstracts
2. History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
3. Modern Language Association (MLA) bibliography
4. Cambridge Histories
For full-text online resources, here are a few of my favorites:
1. The Bibliotheque Nationale in France. Their Gallica collection is ever-expanding and its breadth often stunning. I have found books there that are so esoteric (a 17th-century treatise on snakebites, anyone) – but when you need them, it’s always a treat to find them there.
2. Digital Book Index, supported by the National Union Catalogue (which catalogues holdings in libraries across the U.S.).
3. The British Library’s “turning the pages” project.
Finally, I have two research crushes…
The first is the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine. I’ve had the pleasure of working there twice during extended research trips. In fact, I couldn’t have written my first book or be writing this latest book without the Wellcome. And truly, its image collection is a marvel to behold. I love their blog, and am just delighted they’ve bookmarked my blog, Wonders & Marvels. Looks like the love may be mutual!
The second is the Bibliotheque interuniversitaire de Medicine (Paris), which is home to the archives of the University of Paris Medical School. The librarians there, including Mme Molitor and Mme Lambert, have been extraordinarily helpful in my quest to find needles in haystacks.
Image: Catalogue Card for Ambroise Pare, 16th Century Surgeon. BIUM