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Records of the Office of the Librarian I

Identifier: CPP 13/001-01

Scope and Contents

This collection of records of the Librarian of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, spanning 1855 to 1909, consists of correspondence, lists of accessions and subscriptions, and miscellaneous material. Included in the collection are the papers of librarians Thomas Hewson Bache (1855-1863), C. S. Boker (1864), J. H. Slack (1865-1867), Robert Bridges (1868-1881), Frank Woodbury (1881-1882), and Charles Perry Fisher (1882-1932).

Included in the correspondence are numerous letters from book dealers, such as B. Westermann and Morris S. Wickersham, as well as letters from the librarians of other institutions, such as Edwin H. Brigham of the Boston Medical Library Association. Also included are numerous letters from John Shaw Billings, who was in charge of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office of the U.S. Army until 1883, when he became curator of the Army Medical Museum and Library. Most of the correspondence concerns the purchase, sale, or trade of books and journals. Also included in the correspondence are letters from Alfred Stille, a member of the Library Committee, and John H. Packard, secretary of the College from 1862 to 1876.

Several of the letters in the collection are of special interest; a letter of 5 December 1855 concerns Mrs. Moreton Stille's donation of her late husband's library, and a letter of 2 January 1856 provides a list of books donated by Alfred Stille. In a letter dated 27 December 1865, librarian J. H. Slack provides an update on the number of books in the Lewis Library. Also of note is librarian Robert Bridges' letter of March 1868, in which he recounts the story of three boxes of books, destined for the College Library, that were travelling on the ship "Persia". The ship was "cast away on Fire Island", but the boxes were rescued; Bridges reported that the books, "though wet were not much injured".

Series 2, spanning 1859 to 1908, provides additional information on the College Library. Included are lists of subscriptions to journals, card catalog subscriptions, journal exchanges, and book purchases. Miscellaneous material is contained in Series 3; of note are two blueprints, one for a proposed pneumatic tube system (1908), and the other for a reading room desk (1909).


  • 1855-1909


Biographical / Historical

The Office of the Librarian of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia was established in 1854, Before 1851, the chairman of the Library Committee was responsible for the administration of the Library, and from 1851 to 1854, the Secretary of the College acted as librarian, In 1863, the Librarian became an officer of the College, and the by-laws of this year established his official duties: the "preservation, arrangement and cataloguing of the books belonging to the Library of the College", This position was part-time; the Librarian was required to be present in the Library for an hour before each meeting and an additional hour each week.

A major change in the Library's administration occurred in 1882. At this time, two new positions, "Honorary Librarian" and "Assistant Librarian" were created. The Honorary Librarian served as an "ex officio" member of the Library Committee and was responsible for the Library's funds and employees. The Assistant Librarian, who worked full-time and did not have to be a Fellow of the College, was responsible for the daily administration of the Library. His other duties included acting as secretary of the Library Committee and keeping records of all books purchased or donated to the Library.

In the 1914 by-laws, the title of Assistant Librarian was changed to Librarian. Also in 1914, the Librarian became the "Superintendent of the College building", This responsibility was omitted from the 1925 by-laws, and by 1935, the by-laws were again amended to state that the Librarian "shall keep a record of all acquisitions of the Library, with the names of the donors".

A new position, Curator of the Historical Collections of the Library, was added to the staff in 1953. In 1982, the title of "Librarian" was changed to "Director of the Library". In 1990, the responisibilities of the Director of the Library were divided between the Director of the Library for Public Services and the Director of the Library for Historical Services.


.4 Linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The source of this collection of papers from the Office of the Librarian is unknown. The collection was processed and catalogued in 1991.
Records of the Office of the Librarian I
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

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