Rare Books in Historical Collections and Archives

The Robert B. Greenblatt, MD Library began in 1834 when Dr. Louis A. Dugas, one of the founding faculty members of the Medical College of Georgia, was sent by his colleagues to Europe to purchase books for a library to be used by the faculty and students of the newly established medical school.  Dugas appointed himself as the overseer of the library. He cataloged the books and incorporated a set of rules regarding the use of the books. A digitized copy of his 1857 library record book may be viewed here in Scholarly Commons, the GRU institutional repository.

Through the years, Dugas traveled back to Europe at least twice to purchase more books. One of his selections was Gerald of Cremona’s 1608 Latin translation of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine. Ibn Sina, known to the western world as Avicenna, was born in 980 in Central Asia. He was a renowned physician, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer in his time and was a prolific writer. His Canon of Medicine, written in Arabic, was a massive medical encyclopedia. It was widely translated and used in the study of medicine. Latin translations of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine were the textbooks for medical education in Europe from the 12th to the 18th Centuries.

The influential Canadian physician, Sir William Osler, described the Canon as “the most famous medical textbook ever written” noting that it remained “a medical bible for a longer time than any other work.” (Sir Osler’s book The Principles and Practice of Medicine is considered to be the most influential medical work of the 19th Century.)

The Greenblatt Library’s original copy of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine, published in 1608 and translated by Gerald of Cremona, is housed in the Historical Collections and Archives (HCA), located on the second floor, room 225. HCA is open to the public, Monday-Friday, 8:00-4:30. Please contact Renée Sharrock at rsharrock@gru.edu or 706-721-3444 for more information.

Title page from Avicenna's Canon of Medicine
Title page from Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine