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Leyden Medical Dissertations, 1593-1746

The Sloane collection of printed books includes a large number of medical dissertations submitted at Dutch universities (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Harlingen, and above all, Leyden), in particular, a magnificent set of Leyden medical dissertations and disputations, covering the period from 1593 to 1746. There are 53 volumes in total (within the same pressmark range: 1185.g., 1185.h., 1185.i), all bound in white vellum, each volume holding some 20 to 75 documents, nearly all of them in excellent condition. Most of these works were collected by Hans Sloane and they bear the individual Sloane pressmarks (later replaced by British Library pressmarks). More information can be found in the Sloane Printed Books catalogue

 Scope and highlights of the Collection

The British Library collection of Leyden dissertations is by no means a full set, but it provides undoubtedly as extensive a range as one is likely to find in any other library, whether in or outside the Netherlands. In fact, as is shown by the STCN-records (Short Title Catalogue Netherlands, the bibliography of Dutch printed works from 1540 to 1800, which is in progress and to which the British Library is contributing records of its holdings of imprints from the Netherlands), a substantial number of dissertations in this set of volumes is not available in the Leyden University Library, the Amsterdam University Library, or the Royal Library in The Hague. The earlier dissertations/disputations have become exceptionally rare.

Of the 1,709 titles in the British Library's collection, there are 247 dissertations written by students from the British Isles - English (182), Scottish (45), Irish (18), Welsh (2: Welsh students appeared happy to be referred to as Anglus, only very occasionally opting for Cambro Britannus) - that is, some 14% of the total production of medical writings at Leyden University during the period covered.


The Leyden medical dissertations, 1593-1746 in the British Library have been catalogued by Dr. Jacob Harskamp and are listed in his published catalogue, Dissertatio medica inauguralis ... : Leyden Medical Dissertations in the British Library 1593-1746: Catalogue of a Sloane-Inspired Collection (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1998). It also includes indexes of:

  • authors;
  • printers;
  • subjects (compiled by Professor Vivian Nutton);
  • congratulatory poetry; and
  • a geographical index.

At the British Library in London, one copy of this catalogue can be found on the shelves in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room (shelfmark: RAR610.72) and another is available for delivery to any reading room from storage (shelfmark: 2725.g.3400).


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