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Guide for Teaching and Research in Medical and Health Humanities: Primary Sources at Colby

Guide for Critical Medical Humanities Courses

About Primary Sources

A primary source is an artifact/object that has not been modified by any interpretation and offers the researcher a chance to form their own original thought and use new information in their research. Primary sources are original materials, regardless of format.

Letters, diaries, minutes, photographs, artifacts, interviews, and sound or video recordings are examples of primary sources created as a time or event is occurring. Oral histories, newspaper or journal articles, and memoirs or autobiographies are examples of primary sources created after the event or time in question but offering first-hand accounts. 

Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.

Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of the format available. (Handwritten notes could be published; the published book might be digitized or put on microfilm, but those notes are still primary sources in any format).

Medical Primary Sources in SC&A

About SC&A

Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) promotes the use of Colby’s rare books, literary manuscripts, and college archives. To get access to any of the materials listed on the page please contact Materials are not for general circulation.

NOTE: Due to COVID protocols, access to Special Collections & Archives is limited to current students, faculty, and staff by appointment only. To make an appointment contact us at or 207-859-5150.

More Medical Primary Sources in SC&A

Selected Additional Titles in Special Collections & Archives


Special Collections & Archives also has many contemporary ‘zines on mental health, disability, and illness, primarily created by women & POC, that may also be of interest.

  • [Collection of botanical medicinal packets], approximately 1900-1910.Malden, MA ; Peioria, IL ; New York City : S.W. Gould & Brothers ; Allaire, Woodward & Co. ; S.B. Penick & Co.
  • Andrew Fyfe. A compendious system of anatomy : in six parts; illustrated with twelve large copperplates. Philadelphia : Printed by Archibald Bartram, for Thomas Dobson, 1805.
  • Austin Flint. A textbook of human physiology : designed for the use of practitioners and students of medicine, New York : D. Appleton and Company, 1876.
  • Dr. Benjamin Rush.  Medical inquiries and observations: upon the diseases of the mind, Philadelphia: Published by Kimber & Richardson, no.237, Market Street. Merritt, printer, no.9, Watkins Alley, 1812.
  • Calvin Cutter.  First book on anatomy, physiology, and hygiene : for grammar schools and families : with eighty-three engravings, Boston : Benjamin B. Mussey, 1850
  • Charles West. Lectures on the diseases of women. Third American, from the third and revised English edition. Philadelphia : Henry C. Lea, 1867.
  • Dr. John Williams, Dr. John Williams' Last legacy, and useful family guide. New-York : [publisher not identified], 1827.
  • Erasmus Darwin. Zoonomia, or, The laws of organic life : A new edition, with an introductory address, and a short appendix, by Charles Caldwell. 2 vols. Vol 1: New-York: Printed by T. & J. Swords, 1796. Vol 2: Philadelphia : Printed by T. Dobson, at the Stone house no. 41, South second street, 1797.
  • Georg Friedrich Franck von Franckenau, [Onychologia curiosa], sive, De vngvibus : tractatio physico-medica, non tantum eorvm physiologiam, vbi et de cornibvs, sed et pathologiam ac therapiam tradens, observationibus oppido raris, Jenæ : Sumtibus Johannis Bielkii, 1696.
  • Gunning S. Bedford. ​​A lecture, introductory to a course on obstetrics and the diseases of women and children, in the University of New York. New York : New York University, Medical Dept., 1846-1847.
  • Jacob Bigelow.  American medical botany: being a collection of the native medicinal plants of the United States, containing their botanical history and chemical analysis, and properties and uses in medicine, diet and the arts, with coloured engravings, Boston : Published by Cummings and Hilliard, at the Boston Bookstore, no. 1, Cornhill. [Cambridge] : University Press, Hilliard and Metcalf., 1817-20.
  • James Syme. The principles of surgery, Philadelphia : Carey & Lea, 1832.
  • John Hecker. The scientific basis of education: demonstrated by an analysis of the temperaments and of phrenological facts, in connection with mental phenomena and the office of the Holy Spirit in the processes of the mind, New York : A. S. Barnes & Co., 1868.
  • Josiah C. Nott. Types of mankind or, Ethnological researches : based upon the ancient monuments, paintings, sculptures, and crania of races, and upon their natural, geographical, philological and Biblical history, illustrated by selections from the inedited papers of Samuel George Morton and by L. Agassiz; W. Usher; and H. S. Patterson, Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott, Grambo & co., 1854.
  • Jules Hatin. A manual of practical obstetrics : arranged so as to afford a concise and accurate description of the description of the management of preternatural labours; preceded by an account of the mechanisms of natural labour, by Julius Hatin ; trans. from the French by S.D.Gross. With an appendix, containing a physiological memoir upon the brain. From the French of M. Magendie, by Joseph Gardner. Philadelphia : J. Grigg, 1828.
  • Montfort B. Allen. The glory of woman, or Love, marriage, and maternity : containing full information on all the marvelous and complex matters pertaining to women including creative science, bearing,  nursing and rearing children, hereditary descent, hints on courtship and marriage, promoting health and beauty, vigor of  mind and body, etc., etc. : together with the diseases peculiar to the female sex, their causes, symptoms and treatment, the whole forming a complete medical guide for women, Chicago : Monarch Book Co., [1896].
  • New Orleans (La.). Sanitary Commission. Report of the Sanitary Commission of New Orleans on the epidemic yellow fever of 1853. Pub. by authority of the City Council of New Orleans. New Orleans : Printed at the Picayune office, 1854.
  • Richard Quain. A dictionary of medicine : including general pathology, general therapeutics, hygiene, and the diseases peculiar to women and  children, by various writers ; edited by Richard Quain. New York : D. Appleton, 1884.
  • Robert Burton. The Anatomy of Melancholy: what it is, with all the kinds causes, symptomes, prognostickes & seuerall cures of it. In three partitions, with their severall sections, members & subsections, philosophically, medicinally, historically opened & cut-vp. By Democritus Junior; with a satyricall preface, conducing to the following discourse. Oxford: Printed for Henry Cripps, 1638.
  • S.G. Howe, An address delivered at the anniversary celebration of the Boston Phrenological Society, Dec. 28th, 1835, Boston : Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1836.
  • Samuel D. Gross. A system of surgery : pathological, diagnostic, therapeutic and operative, Philadelphia : Blanchard and Lea, 1862.
  • Seth Pancoast. The ladies' new medical guide : an instructor, counsellor and friend in all the delicate and wonderful matters peculiar to women, fully explaining the nature and mystery of the reproductive organs in both sexes--love, courtship, marriage, pregnancy, labor and childbirth, Philadelphia : J.E. Potter & Co., 1890.
  • Sir Thomas Elyot. The castell of helth, corrected and in some places augmented by the firste authour therof, Sir Thomas Elyot knyght, the yere of our lord 1541. Imprinted at London in Fletestrete, by Thomas Powell, [1541?]
  • Sir William Lawrence. Lectures on physiology, zoology, and the natural history of man, delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons, by W. Lawrence. Salem, Foote and Brown, 1828.
  • William Buchan. Domestic medicine, or, A treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases by regimen and simple medicines : with an appendix, containing a dispensary for the use of private practitioners to which are added, observations on diet, Boston : Printed for J. Bumstead, 1813.
  • William Steward. The first edition of Steward's Healing art : corrected and improved by the original hand : to which he has added, all his late improvements and new discoveries, both in physick and  surgery, from the year 1812, to the year 1826, including his  whole system upon physick and surgery; to which he has added, a concise herbal, containing a full description of herbs, roots and plants, Saco, Maine : Printed by Putnam & Blake, 1827.
  • William Woodville.  Medical botany: containing systematic and general descriptions, with plates, of all the medicinal plants, indigenous and exotic, comprehended in the catalogues of the materia medica, as published by the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Edinburgh : accompanied with a circumstantial detail of their medicinal effects, and of the diseases in which they have been most successfully employed, London : Printed and sold for the author by James Phillips, 1790-93.
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