York County Hospital first opened in 1740, with the eventual opening of the library in 1810. The library was founded by private subscription, of whom the subscribers were overwhelmingly medical practitioners. The library provided a focus for the collation and dissemination of medical knowledge and provided a valuable resource for the medical pupils who attended the hospital.
In February 1832 a number of physicians and surgeons became the founder members of the York Medical Society. The Medical Society was conceived as a vocationally specific space for the purpose of “promoting and diffusing medical knowledge”. The Society took an active role in management of the medical library and deposited books at its own expense.
In 1834 the Library realised its full potential with the members of the Medical Society establishing a Medical School based at the Hospital. The library was central to the functioning of the Medical school, with its holdings expanded to provide an additional source of information and study for the School’s student body. York Medical School operated for 28 years until forced to close in 1862.
The library continued to be housed in the County Hospital until 1890 when it was passed to York Medical Society. Members of the Society continued to make gifts of books to the library, which was initially located at Low Ousegate and later transferred to 23 Stonegate, York.
From the total of 667 titles listed in the York County Hospital Medical Library catalogue of 1830, 568 have been identified as held in the York Medical Society Library Collection. Publication dates range from 1567 to 1829, and much of the stock still retains the original book plate of the hospital medical library.
The books were deposited at the University in 2004. They are held on deposit from the York Medical Society.
All of the material in the collection is catalogued and can be accessed via the Library's online catalogue. Items can be consulted in the Borthwick Reading Room and copies can be made subject to copyright. Material cannot be loaned outside the University of York without the permission of the stakeholders.
Health and Medicine archives at the Borthwick Institute for Archives
York Medical Society Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives
Rules and catalogue of the medical library at the York County Hospital, 1830; with an appendix to October 1837 (1837) at York Minster Library
A copy of the 1830 catalogue has now been digitised and is available through York Digital Library : Rules and catalogue of the medical library at the York County Hospital, 1830