Special collections of historical interest at the Central Library

The Central Library has a number of special collections of historical interest originating from the College's department and medical schools. They include both early printed books (pre-1850) and later publications. Search the collections using Library Search.

Holders of current library admission cards may request a maximum of 4 items at any one time by contacting the Information Hub. Items are held in the Store and are collected at the following times:

  • Monday - Friday - requests are collected at 11.00 and 16.00 and are usually available by either 12.00 or 17.00 respectively. Requests made after 16.00 on Friday are collected at 11.00 on Monday and are usually available by 12.00.
  • Saturday - Sunday - there is no fetching service at the weekend. Requests made are collected at 11.00 on Monday and are usually available by 12.00.

Items must be consulted in the 24 hour loan room and users must adhere to the consultation guidelines.

For information about the history of the College contact Corporate Records Unit and College Archives.

Showcase area

Annan Collection

The collection

Robert Annan, a Fellow of the Royal School of Mines, presented his private collection of works on the history of metal mining and metallurgy to the College in 1972. The collection consists of early printed books, manuscripts and modern books. Annan made the donation on condition that the collection be added to, and it now numbers some 1200 volumes. Of particular note are: 1495 printing of Albertus Magnus: De Mineralibus, First edition of Georgius Agricola: De Re Metallica (1556), Alvaro Alonso Barba: Arte de los Metales (1640),William Hardy: The Miner’s Guide (1748). Manuscripts include a warrant concerning mining rights signed by Lord Burghley in 1587 and the complete set of cost books of Wheal Buller Mine, Redruth, 1848-75. Items added beyond Annan’s original collection include issues of the Russian mining journal Gorn’ij Zhurnalshch for the period 1825-49.

The collection covers metal mining and metallurgy (excluding ferrous metals and coal) and includes archaeometallurgy, early literature of metal mining, contemporary descriptions of mining, mining laws and customs (especially German, English and Spanish), modern histories and industrial archaeology (mostly British). c.1200 books (c.400 pre-1850) and 12 manuscripts. Of international significance. 1495 to present.

Associated publications

Annan, R. “Early literature of metal mining”, Transactions of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy , vol.70 part 4 (1960-61), p.161-175.
Annan, R. Historic books on mining and kindred subjects . London: HMSO, 1968 [Exhibition at the Science Museum]
Whitworth, A. “The Annan Collection”, Topic [Imperial College News] 2.5 (1 December 1975), p.5-6.
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Catalogue of the Annan Collection … ; compiled by Penelope F.M. Jepson; prepared for publication by Janet M. Smith. London: Imperial College Library, 1995. ISBN 0852871740.

Charing Cross collection

Books by people connected with Charing Cross Hospital and its medical school. c.250 items of local significance and beyond 19th century to present.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital early medical books

18th to 20th century printed works on anatomy, including W. Cheselden’s Osteographia (1733), and other medical subjects, chiefly by authors connected with Westminster Hospital and Medical School. Some works include fine engravings. Also some manuscripts. c.40 vols. of local interest and beyond. 1733-1928.

Early geology books

Early editions of geology books from the former Watts Library (Department of Geology), predominantly from the libraries of professors of geology in the department, particularly that of Professor J.W. Judd. Contains 16th to 18th century books include a lapidary and works on earthquakes and volcanoes, while many of the 19th century items are editions of standard textbooks. c.350 items of international significance. 1565-1909.

Early life sciences books

Works on natural history, botany and entomology, predominantly of the 19th century. Earlier titles include N. Grew’s Anatomy of plants (1682), H-L. Duhamel de Monceau’s La Physique des arbres (1758) and R-A. F. de Reaumur’s Memoirs pour servir a l’histoire des insectes (1737-48). There are some French, German and Latin works of the 19th century, though most works are in English including translations of G.L.L. Buffon’s Histoire naturelle (1812) and H. Baillon’s Histoire des plantes (1871-88). 116 vols. of national significance. 1733-1978.

H.G. Wells collection

First or early editions of the literary and scientific works of H.G. Wells, together with a substantial collection of the more general and political writings. 265 vols. of international significance. 1886-1984.

John M. Corin memorial collection

Fine editions (19th and 20th century) of English literature purchased for the Haldane Library in memory of John M. Corin, Financial and College Secretary 1949-61. Prose and poetry from Euripides in English translation to Blunden. 39 vols. of local significance. 1824-1961.

Materials history of science collection

Historical and classical books on metallurgy and related subjects. 200 vols. of local significance. 1880-1930.

National Heart And Lung Institute historical collections

Rare book collection

Works on chest medicine and surgery from 1609 to 1964. Seventeenth century works include A. du Laurens’ De mirabili strumas sanandi vi solis (1609) and the 2nd edition of William Harvey’s De motu cordis et sanguinis (1639). Eighteenth century publications include M. Dupre de Lisle’s Traite des maladies de la poitrine (1769) and E. Gilchrist’s The use of sea voyages in medicine (1771). Also included in this collection are works on thoracic surgery donated by A. Tudor Edwards and modern books and reprints donated by Sir R.A. Young. c.500 vols. of international significance. 1609-1964.

The Laennec collection

The first and subsequent editions and translations of l'auscultation mediate of R.T.H. Laennec, inventor of the stethoscope. c.50 vols. of international significance. 1819-1960.

Associated publications

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine. National Heart and Lung Institute … Historical collections. Leaflet [c.1995].

St Mary’s Hospital collections

Anatomical works

The earliest work in these collections is the 1657-62 Geneva edition of Hippocrates' complete works and among other 17th century publications are Robert Boyle's Memoirs for the natural history of humane blood (1683/4). Eighteenth century books include the text of the comparative anatomist F. Vicq d'Azyr's Traite d'anatomie (1786) and the second volume of the important tenth edition of C. Linnaeus' Systema naturae (1760). Among significant 19th century works are Sir Astley Cooper's Anatomy and surgical treatment of inguinal and congenital hernia (1804-07), W. Brinton's Diseases of the stomach (1859) including the original description of linitis plastica, and several works and textbooks of J. Quain. Atlases include B.S. Albinus' Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1749), the third volume of the 1700 edition of Bonetus' Sepulchrum sive anatomia practica and A. Scarpa's Tabulae neuroligicae (1794). Several of the atlases contain coloured engravings. c.300 vols. of international significance. 1657-1963.

St Mary's Campus collection

Works by past and present staff of the hospital and medical school. c.400 vols. of local significance.19th century to present.

T.H. Huxley book collection

Thomas Henry Huxley left his working library to the Departments of Biology and Zoology for their use and it was subsequently housed in the Central Library. The collection consists of books and pamphlets (mostly periodical offprints) on natural history and life sciences, especially palaeontology, biology and botany, and includes works on exploration, ornithology and entomology.

The earliest publication is G.L. Blasius’ Anatome animalium (1681), other early works including the second edition of J. Swammerdam’s Historia insectorum generalis (1693), and the 1744 London edition of Aelian’s De natura animalium. Notable works include O.F. Mueller’s Vermium terrestrium et fluviatilium (1773-4), B. de Reste’s Histoire des peches (1791-1801) and various publications by G. Cuvier, including his continuation of the works of the Comte de Buffon (1827-28). The majority of works are of the 19th century and include the Works of John Hunter (1837), a number of textbooks and many German publications. Many works are finely illustrated, notably those of J. Jonstonus, including his Historiae naturalis de serpentibus libri duo (1757), P.S. Pallas’ Spicilegia zoologica(1767-80) and Miscellanea zoologica(1778), H.E. Strickland’s The dodo (1848) and Louis Pasteur’s Etudes sur le vin (2nd ed., 1867). c.1500 items of international significance. 1681-1927.

Unwin collection

Works on civil and mechanical engineering from the library of W. C. Unwin, Professor of Engineering and Head of the Civil and Mechanical Engineering depar tment 1884-1904.