The Wellcome Library is founded on the collection formed by Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), whose personal wealth allowed him to create one of the most ambitious collections of the 20th century. Henry Wellcome's interest was the history of medicine in a broad sense and included subjects like alchemy or witchcraft, but also anthropology and ethnography. Since Henry Wellcome’s death in 1936, the Wellcome Trust has been responsible for maintaining the Library's collection and funding its acquisitions. The Library is free and open to the public.
Henry Wellcome began collecting books seriously in the late 1890s, using a succession of agents and dealers, and by travelling around the world to gather whatever could be found. Wellcome's first major entry into the market took place at the auction of William Morris's library in 1898, where he was the biggest single purchaser, taking away about a third of the lots. His interests were truly international and the broad coverage of languages and traditions is one of the Library's strengths. Significant collections acquired during this early period included the library of J. F. Payne, medical historian and Librarian of the Royal College of Physicians, purchased in 1911, and the major part of the library of the Munich historian Ernst Darmstaedter, bought in 1930 .
When Henry Wellcome died, the bulk of his estate and his collection was bequeathed to a body of trustees, who formed the Wellcome Trust. Their primary duty was to use the income generated by the company to support ongoing biomedical research, but they were also charged with fostering the study of medical history through the care and maintenance of the collections. A programme of sorting and rationalising was therefore begun, which lasted throughout the 1940s and beyond.
The Library's story during the later decades of the 20th century has been one of continuing growth and development. A significant addition during the 1980s was the purchase of the manuscripts, and about 10,000 printed books, from the Medical Society of London Library.
The Wellcome Trust's activities around the history of medicine, and on the public understanding of science, were brought together in 1998 to create a new Medicine, Society, History Division. Recognising a wider remit than history of medicine only, the Library is part of Wellcome Collection and aims to promote both the history and understanding of medicine.
Arabic medical manuscripts of the Wellcome Library; a descriptive catalogue of the Haddad collection (WMS Arabic 401-487). (CD-ROM included).(Brief Article)(Book Review)
Mar 01, 2006; 9004147985 Arabic medical manuscripts of the Wellcome Library; a descriptive catalogue of the Haddad collection (WMS Arabic...
Interview: Walter Hickel discusses Francis Crick's papers and drawings, many of which are now available online
Feb 14, 2005; FRANK STASIO Talk of the Nation (NPR) 02-14-2005 Interview: Walter Hickel discusses Francis Crick's papers and drawings, many of...