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Samuel X. Radbill correspondence concerning bookplates I

Identifier: MSS 2/037-02

Scope and Contents

This collection of Samuel X Radbill's correspondence concerning bookplates spans 1898 to 1987. The correspondence reveals how Radbill developed his extensive medical bookplate collection. The major correspondent in the collection is Sara Eugenia ("Sally") Blake (1886-1973), Librarian of the Tufts College Medical and Dental Schools, who was herself an avid bookplate collector. In addition to correspondence, the collection includes photographs of Sally Blake and samples of her bookplates, as well as Radbill's extensive notes about his medical bookplate collection.

Series 1.1 consists of Radbill's correspondence with bookplate collectors and book dealers from the United States, Great Britain, France, Austria, and Sweden. The correspondents provide lists of available bookplates and arrange purchases or trades with Radbill.

Series 1.2 contains Radbill's correspondence with bookplate collector Sara Eugenia Blake, who also designed and engraved bookplates. Radbill and Blake corresponded almost weekly over a forty year period; the majority of the letters are from Blake, but some copies of Radbill's replies are present in the collection. Radbill and Blake traded stamps and bookplates, exchanged information about other bookplate collectors, and discussed the bookplate trade in general. Both individuals travelled extensively, and many of their letters provide detailed accounts of their experiences abroad. Blake's letters, which are of a personal nature, also reveal a great deal about her life in Boston. In addition to correspondence, Series 1.2 includes two photographs of Blake; three bookplates (two belonging to Blake and one she engraved for Radbill); an article about Blake appearing in Success Unlimited (1963); and a checklist of the bookplates designed and engraved by Blake.

Radbill's correspondence with Italian book dealer Luigi Filippo Bolaffio is contained in Series 1.3. Much of the correspondence pertains to Vannuccini, an Italian artist commissioned by Radbill to design and engrave bookplates for himself and some of his friends.

Series 2 contains miscellaneous material, including photographs and photocopies of various bookplates; the bookplate of Henry Rouse Viets; Radbill's extensive notes concerning his bookplate collection; tearsheets from the German publication Exlibris Zeitschrift; and miscellaneous items.


  • 1898 - 1987


Biographical / Historical

Samuel X Radbill was born in Philadelphia in 1901. He spent his childhood in Eastwick, and graduated from South Philadelphia High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1924. He interned at the Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster in 1924 and in 1925, became resident at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He married Frances Hoffman, a South Philadelphia schoolteacher, on December 27, 1925, and opened practice in their first home in January 1926. By 1930, Frances had given up teaching to work as his nurse, which she did until his retirement in June 1982.

Radbill began his medical career as a general practitioner. While the bulk of his practice was with children from the beginning, he did not officially become a pediatrician until 1938, when he was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and joined the pediatrics staff at Philadelphia General Hospital as well.

During the early 1930s Radbill helped found and run three free local pediatric clinics in Philadelphia (located at Patterson School, Wolfe School, and the McKean-Carey School) in addition to his regular practice. He maintained evening office hours at least three days a week until his retirement.

In World War II he served as an examiner for the local draft board until enlisting for active duty in 1942. When he was called up in January 1943 as a Captain, his assignments included service as Chief of the Communicable Disease Section at Ashburn General Hospital in McKinney, Texas. He also served as Chief of Medical Service and Venereal Disease Control Officer at Fort Crockett, Galveston, Texas. He also conducted a civilian pediatric clinic at the fort.

Radbill’s professional activities were extensive, including membership in both major medical associations and several historical associations, and service on numerous committees related to these groups. In medicine, his memberships included the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia county Medical Society, serving at different times on the Board of Directors, as vice-President, and as Chairman of the Library committee. He helped organize PCMS’s Education and Scientific Trust, and served on the Executive Committee of that Trust, which coordinated the Greater Philadelphia Health Fair in1964 and 1965. Radbill also acted as a Philadelphia county Medical Society delegate to the Pennsylvania Medical Society for a number of years in the late 1960s and served as Chairman of the Philadelphia county Medical Society’s Bicentennial Committee in 1975.

Radbill was perhaps better known as a medical historian and collector of bookplates and old and rare medical texts than as a pediatrician. He described his fascination with books as beginning while he was in college and credits the old medical texts he began to collect with prompting him to take up the study of the history of medicine. He believed that the study of medicine’s past was useful to its practice in the present and encouraged many of his professional colleagues to examine the history of their specialties. Sometimes, he was able to combine these concerns, helping to organize the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Pediatric History Club, organizing several exhibits on the history of medicine and of pediatrics at meetings of the American Medical Association and the American Association for the History of Medicine, and participating enthusiastically in all activities of the Section on Medical History of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Radbill acted as an expert on medical history and the history of pediatrics, particularly in the context of institutional care, at both medical meetings and at meetings of associations such as AAHM. He lectured on medical history and on pediatrics both past and present at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and at Philadelphia General Hospital and published numerous articles on medical history in both medical journals and historical publications. Topics included the history of child abuse, teething, measles, institutional care of children in Philadelphia from the eighteenth century onwards, the practice of pediatrics in ancient Mesopotamia and medieval Europe and the lives of medical luminaries such as Benjamin Rush and Robley Dunglison. Radbill had contacts with many of the most prominent historians of medicine as well as with other doctors interested in medical history.

Radbill’s collecting interests did not confine themselves to the United States. He collected bookplates and traded in stamps, documents, coins and medical texts with scholars and collectors from throughout Europe as well as Japan and China. His main collecting interests were bookplates and medical texts, and he formed close friendships with a number of other collectors on other continents, supplemented with several trips to Europe. He and other American collectors aided those in Europe with mailings of food, coffee, and luxuries such as stockings in the postwar period as well as swapping collectibles. Radbill concerned himself with the needy in Philadelphia as well, combining a fondness for his old neighborhood of Eastwick with a concern for the development of health care for the city’s needy in his chairmanship of the Philadelphia District, West Area Health and Welfare Council Subcommittee on health Services for Eastwick in 1958 to 1959, as part of the Eastwick redevelopment project. He also involved himself deeply in the affairs of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, to which he was elected a fellow in 1943. In addition to his participation in the College’s Section on Medical History, for which he served at different times as both clerk and chairman, he was a member of the Council and the Bicentennial committee and was a longtime member of the Library Committee. He was concerned with shaping the direction of the development of the library as well as with specific administrative matters. Radbill’s contributions to both his vocation and his avocation were recalled by other physicians, Fellows of the College, and by other medical historians at a memorial gathering at the College shortly after his death in November 1987.


.4 Linear feet (2 half document boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection of Samuel X Radbill's correspondence concerning bookplates was donated to the Historical Collections of the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by William H. Helfand on 25 May 1990.

The collection was processed and cataloged in 1992.
Samuel X. Radbill correspondence concerning bookplates I
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States