Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Osler Library: Abū Alī al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), al-Qānūn fi āl-tibb (The Canon of Medicine). Manuscript.


The Osler Library was opened in 1929, ten years after the death of its principal benefactor, Sir William Osler (1849-1919). Osler was a prominent member of McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and pathologist at the Montreal General Hospital. His original bequest to McGill was a carefully assembled collection of 8,000 books, and it has been developed by purchase and by gift to now number over 80,000 books, serials and historical theses.

The Library is Canada’s foremost scholarly resource in the history of medicine and one of the most important libraries of its kind in North America. In addition to the library’s holdings of rare books, there is a strong circulating collection of current secondary works and modern editions of historic texts, as well as a reference collection, archives, manuscripts, photographs, portraits and artifacts.

Among its rare collections is a unique 13th century manuscript of al-Ghafiqi, a beautifully illustrated herbal. Other notable holdings include: the works of Sir Thomas Browne, author of the 17th century classic Religio Medici, a set of some 22,000 French 19th century medical theses, and nearly 1,000 medical theses from the University of Edinburgh, the opthalmological collection of Casey Wood, and Frank Dawson Adams’ collection on the history of geology. Also included are extensive manuscript and archive collections of medical people and institutions connected with McGill, including the American Osler Society.

Harvey, W Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis

At the present, the chronological scope for primary works of the collections is up to 1913 inclusive, with the Life Sciences Library housing and developing post-1913 materials. Further collections are transferred to the Osler as the scope changes.

Included in the library is also a collection of approximately 600 medical artifacts, including furniture and items owned by Sir William Osler. The library itself was originally designed by Percy Nobbs and was located in the Strathcona Medical Building, surrounded by wood paneling. It was reassembled in the McIntyre Building, and recently renovated to bring the facilities up to state-of-the-art conditions, including climate control.


McIntyre Medical Building, 3rd floor


Web site: Osler Library of the History of Medicine

The primary reference source for the collection is Bibliotheca Osleriana, Osler’s annotated catalogue. Other publications about Osler are published occasionally by the Library, including the Osler Library Newsletter, published twice yearly.





mary.yearl [at] mcgill.ca (Mary Hague-Yearl), 514-398-4475 ext. 09847

Head Librarian



Board of Curators of the Osler Library

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