Press release

Wellcome Library and Jisc announce partners in 19th-century medical books digitisation project

The Wellcome Library and Jisc today announce nine partner institutions whose 19th-century book collections will be digitised and added to the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK MHL), an online resource for the study of the history of medicine and related sciences.

The libraries of six universities have joined the partnership - UCL (University College London), the University of Leeds, the University of Glasgow, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, King's College London and the University of Bristol - along with the libraries of the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Approximately 15 million pages of printed books and pamphlets from all ten partners will be digitised over a period of two years and will be made freely available to researchers and the public under an open licence. By pooling their collections the partners will create a comprehensive online library. The content will be available on multiple platforms to broaden access, including the Internet Archive, the Wellcome Library and Jisc Historic Books.

The project's focus is on books and pamphlets from the 19th century that are on the subject of medicine or its related disciplines. This will include works relating to the medical sciences, consumer health, sport and fitness, as well as different kinds of medical practice, from phrenology to hydrotherapy. Works on food and nutrition will also feature: around 1400 cookery books from the University of Leeds are among those lined up for digitisation. They, along with works from the other partner institutions, will be transported to the Wellcome Library in London where a team from the Internet Archive will undertake the digitisation work. The project will build on the success of the US-based Medical Heritage Library consortium, of which the Wellcome Library is a part, which has already digitised over 50 000 books and pamphlets.

Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, said:

"We are pleased that these nine institutions have chosen to add their valuable collections to the Medical Heritage Library. As well as our partners Jisc and Research Libraries UK, we will be working closely with our Academic Advisory Group to produce an online resource that is both a repository for a superb wealth of content and an effective research tool for a broad range of users."

Peter Findlay, digital portfolio manager, Jisc, said:

"We are delighted that the Wellcome Library team has been able to identify such valuable collections, which will be digitised to a high standard, freed from the confines of their original format and made openly available for teaching, learning and research. By working closely with the partner institutions to build the UK Medical Heritage Library, we are converting books into searchable data so that users can explore every aspect of 19th-century medicine and develop new insights into this period of unprecedented medical discovery."

The UK MHL initiative started in 2013 when the Wellcome Library embarked on a project with the Internet Archive to digitise their collection of 19th-century medical books. The project was extended earlier in 2014 with the support of Jisc and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. It was co-designed with Research Libraries UK and is informed by an Academic Advisory Group to ensure that the best collections are included.

For the Wellcome Library this forms part of a larger ambition to digitise and make freely available over 50 million pages of historical medical books, archives, manuscripts and journals by 2020.

About Jisc

Jisc offers digital services and solutions for UK education and research. The charity does this to achieve its vision for the UK to be the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world.

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About the Royal College of Surgeons of England

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care.

Registered charity number: 212808. For more information please call +44 (0)20 7869 6047/6052

About the Royal College of Physicians (RCP)

As the oldest medical college in England, the RCP represents nearly 30 000 hospital doctors in 30 specialties. We support hospital doctors during every stage of their career and thus improve the quality of patient care. The RCP library dates to the RCP's foundation in 1518 and contains over 50 000 current and historical items.

About the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE)

The RCPE is an international, independent standard-setting body and professional membership organisation. Our aim is to improve and maintain the quality of patient care by supporting physicians wherever they practice. The RCPE's unique Sibbald Library was started in 1682 with a shelf of donated books and now contains over 60 000 books and 1500 journal titles.

About the University of Bristol

The University of Bristol is one of the most popular and successful universities in the UK. It is a member of the Russell Group of UK research-intensive universities and the Worldwide Universities Network. The medical holdings of the University of Bristol Library embrace collections of materials from the historic libraries of the Bristol Medical School (established in 1833) and hospitals, medical societies and practitioners of Bristol and Bath.

About the University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow is a broad-based, research-intensive institution with a global reach, and has been teaching medicine since 1714. The University Library's 19th-century medical collections cover all subject areas and are particularly strong in anatomy, surgery, clinical medicine, public health, sanitation and homeopathic medicine.

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About UCL (University College London)

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities. UCL currently has almost 29 000 students from 150 countries and in the region of 10 000 employees.

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About the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with 3900 students and more than 1000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School's Library holds an excellent collection of 19th-century books and pamphlets on related topics, with particular emphasis on smallpox and vaccination, public health and tropical medicine.

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About King's College London

King's College London is a multi-faculty research-led university of over 26 000 students. Its long tradition of medical teaching and research embraces the medical schools of St Thomas', Guy's and King's College hospitals and the Institute of Psychiatry, all of whose historical library collections have been preserved.

About the University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a leading research powerhouse. The Library collections at Leeds underpin a wide range of research including work on the history of science and medicine, medical ethics and social history.

About the Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library is one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history. It houses 2.5 million items of extraordinary range and diversity and has a growing collection of material relating to contemporary medicine and biomedical science in society.

The Library is situated within Wellcome Collection, the free visitor destination for the incurably curious and is part of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health.