Boston Medical Library Art and Artifact Collection

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Boston Medical Library Art and Artifact Collection

Collection Items

"It's too late, Dr., ye are."
The obstetrical scene depict is dated November 30, 1864. Dr. S. W. Abbott, a former surgeon with the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, stated in 1893 that Sargent drew this while in camp in front of Petersburg. Nine days afterward he was killed by a…

Silhouette of Johann Gaspar Spurzheim
Like the Alvan Fisher oil portrait, this silhouette of J. G. Spurzheim appears to have been produced during his final years on his tour through the United States. The object in his hand is, of course, a skull.

Paper knife
Philadelphia's analogue to Holmes was neurologist and novelist S. Weir Mitchell (1829-1914). The two were well-acquainted and corresponded from the 1850s until Holmes' death. Weir Mitchell sent this ivory paper knife to Holmes in 1882 and composed…

Portrait of Oliver Wendell Holmes
Holmes said of this portrait, which was acquired by the Boston Medical Library at the time of his book collection and displayed in the original Holmes Hall, “It is there; the age is there; the wrinkles are there. It is a likeness. It is the…

Chambered nautilus shell
The nautilus shell, formerly on display in the Boston Medical Library’s building at 8 The Fenway, was probably originally in Holmes’ study. A second nautilus shell is housed with other Holmes items at Harvard’s Houghton Library.

Watercolor sketch of old Holmes house
Holmes was born and grew up in the “gambrel-roofed house,” facing Cambridge Common, where the Littauer building now stands. In 1870, he and his brother sold the house to Harvard University and in—to use Holmes’…

Cast of the fist of Oliver Wendell Holmes
Made at the request of librarian James Read Chadwick, the bronzed fist of Holmes was displayed in the original Holmes Hall of the Boston Medical Library’s building following the memorial meeting on October 30, 1894. The sculptor, Truman Howe…

Bust of Oliver Wendell Holmes
The BPL original was “ordered by the Mayor of Boston, on authority of the City Council, and was paid for by the city,” according to Annual Report of the Trustees and received at that time (January, 1896). The Boston Medical Library copy…

Stereographic view of Old Elm, Boston Common
Around 1861, Holmes devised what would later be known as the “American” type of stereoscope—an inexpensive handheld device with slots to hold the stereographs at different distances and a hooded eyepiece overall, distinct from the…

Photographic studies for a bust of Oliver Wendell Holmes
Sculptor Truman Howe Bartlett made these photographs and measurements of Holmes at the age of 75 with the intention of making a bust, but the project was abandoned as “the necessary sittings were irksome to the subject.” After…
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