Resources in the Countway Library of Medicine

Center for the History of Medicine
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
10 Shattuck Street
Boston, MA 02115

617.432.4737 (fax)

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm; closed University holidays.

The Countway Library of Medicine's historical collections hold copies and editions of many of the major American and European works in mental illness and psychiatry, with particular strengths in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Works by Phillippe Pinel, Samuel Tuke, John M. Galt, W.A.F. Browne, Thomas Story Kirkbride, Isaac Ray, L. Vernon Briggs, William A. White, E. C. Spitzka, Emil Kraepelin, and J. M. Charcot are all widely available.

In addition to searches by author's name in the HOLLIS catalog, subject headings such as "insanity (law)", "mental illness", "psychiatry", "asylums", "psychiatric hospitals" and "psychology, pathological", and also the medical subject headings "mental disorders" and "psychiatry" can provide a good overview of the holdings.

To search specifically for narratives of asylum patients, search under the heading "mental illness--personal narratives" in HOLLIS.

Many historical works are now freely available in digital form through the Google Books project or the Internet Archive.  The Countway has been participating in a large-scale digitization project, the Medical Heritage Library and psychiatry is one of the subject areas in which we have concentrated our efforts, so you may well find a good number of digital surrogates of books available.

The Countway collections include a large assortment of 19th century asylum and hospital annual reports, although the holdings tend to be not well cataloged and described.  You can search HOLLIS for the names of individual asylums but will also find general collective records by searching the catalog under the title "collection of various [state] institutional and hospital reports"; while some Massachusetts-area reports will be found in the library, most of the asylum reports are held offsite at the Harvard Depository.  Contact the staff at the Countway's Center for the History of Medicine for detailed information about the holdings and questions about retrieval.

Medical journals will be a rich resource for historical information, and the Countway's collections are extensive, and include runs of the American Journal of Insanity, the Journal of Mental Science, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, and the Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry.  Many volumes of the Countway's historical journals were digitized through the Google Books project and links from the HOLLIS catalog should be visible.  To locate citations to articles in medical literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries, use the Index Catalogue.  IndexCat can be searched by author's name but also by subject, such as "insane" or "insanity".  Some of the subject terms can be obscure; consult a member of the Countway's staff if you're having trouble finding what you need or want assistance with this resource.

The Countway also holds manuscript and archival collections related to mental illness and psychiatry, including collections of personal and professional papers of major figures such as James Jackson Putnam, Morton Prince, Edward Jarvis, E. E. Southard, and Louville Eugene Emerson, along with the 1854 survey of the Massachusetts Commission on Lunacy and the minutes of the Boston Society of Psychiatry and Neurology.  The Countway also holds a collection of transcripts of interviews from an oral history project with colleagues and associates of C. G. Jung; books, pamphlets, poems, and other items related to Charles Guiteau, the assassin of President James Garfield, and his trial; and extensive holdings of books, pamphlets, and manuscript material relating to the phrenology movement, including letters and one of its foremost proponents, J. G. Spurzheim.  Basic information on manuscript and archival holdings can be found in HOLLIS; many collections have links to full finding aids in Harvard's OASIS utility.