The make-up of Simms Collection
Simms collected an assortment of approximately 6,000 books throughout his lifetime; these were donated to Queen’s University, beginning in 1960, and they relate to a variety of disciplines.
The texts, however, held in the captivating Simms Collection relate exclusively to medicine and medical history; a wide range of subject matter is covered, including:
- and publications dealing with the physiology of an array of human (and even animal) living matter.
Once described as one of the most selective and extensive of collections in private hands, the enchanting Simms medical collection comprises approximately 3,600 volumes of material, published in English, French and Latin. The preponderance of material relates to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – including first and early editions – but there are texts as early as the seventeenth century. The collection includes texts, monographs and some serials, in addition to works on the history of medicine and medical biography. Many of the titles included in the collection can be found listed in Morton & Moore's, A Bibliography of Medical and Biomedical Bibliography (1983).
Simms collection attests to the proliferation of medical texts in Irish print during the nineteenth century and affirms Lake’s contention that medical publications were written by medics for fellow members of the medical profession, and not for the general public (p. 579). She records that over:
“700 medical texts were produced by Irish medical practitioners living and working in Ireland in the nineteenth century. In addition to purely medical texts, medical practitioners wrote prolifically on the medical profession itself and, particularly, in the early part of the century at least, on the need for reform. They also wrote reports on public health administration, medical biography, medical history, as well as reports on the various hospitals and medical institutions that continue to be founded” (Lake, p. 579).
The Simms collection adheres to many of these characteristics of nineteenth century medical publishing. It is all the more fascinating, however, because its material spans three centuries and therefore charts the changing face of medicine as a profession, science as a discipline and the inexorable connection between medical practitioners and advances in scientific discovery.
The Simms medical collection is, without question, remarkable, mesmerizing, abundant and yet, also, an untapped resource, sadly, not used or accessed as much as its fabulous content warrants! It is a magnificent collection of medical treasures that will be of interest to students of medicine and those interested particularly in the history of medicine. Across the collection, there is much to sample, deliberate on, examine, research and get lost in! The time period covered by the collection is between 1539 to 1924 so it is an impressive survey.
The collection is truly fascinating owing to the extensive assortment of medical texts, the existence of spell-binding plates and illustrations, unique covers and fascinating content.
The collection can be searched using our library catalogue: https://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/InformationServices/TheLibrary
Elizabeth Lake, "Medicine," in James H. Murphy (eds.), The Oxford history of the Irish book. Volume IV: The Irish book in English 1800-1891 (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 575-584.