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History of Pediatrics: Pre-Nineteenth Century

This guide is an overview of the Rubenstein Library's collections documenting the rich history of pediatrics.

Searching the catalog

Pediatrics became its own separate, widely recognized and accepted field of study in the 19th century, though there is evidence of early “pediatrists” before then. These links are sample searches in the Duke Libraries catalog based on library subject headings related to the early history of pediatrics. Pediatrics was also more closely tied to obstetrics and gynecology, so searching the catalog for these subjects can yield results as well. You can limit by location to "Rubenstein Library" to focus on historical sources. 

Print Material

Below are just a few examples of printed books related to early pediatrics.

This early printed book includes illustrations related to child care, including an early high chair and an early walker.

Considered England’s first pediatrics text, The Boke of Chyldren not only aimed to help those Phaer saw as most in need, children, with its subject matter, but also by being written entirely in English.

Written by one of the men considered to be “the father of pediatrics”, The Diseases of Children, and Their Remedies, was also written in its vernacular language for wider accessibility.

Manuscript Collections

Selected manuscript collections from the Rubenstein Library with a focus early pediatrics. This is just a sample. There are other relevant manuscript sources to explore. Try searching the catalog with suggested subject terms (links in left sidebar) or consult with our librarians.

The sixty-three manuscript volumes in this collection range from 10 to 154 pages, and were created in Japan from about 1810 to 1849, chiefly by medical students. The notebooks usually take one of two forms: transcriptions of lectures and demonstrations, and bodies of knowledge written up as manuals by well-known Japanese physicians of the time, especially Hanaoka Seishū and Takenaka Bunpō. Topics covered include herbal medicines and other prescriptions; treatments for diseases of the eyes and other parts of the head; surgery, particularly for cancers, tumors, and fistulas; breast cancer; smallpox; scurvy; osteopathy; treatment of wounds; suturing; hematology; gynecology and obstetrics; and pediatric medicine. Some notebooks contain black-and-white and color hand-drawn illustrations - many full-page - of surgeries, close-ups of suturing, bandages and wrappings, osteopathic manipulations, and medicinal plants. In most cases, the author or copyist recorded details such the place and time of the lecture and the name of the medical school. There are references in the notes to at least a dozen other contemporary or earlier physicians, and to earlier dates for the work being copied - these range from 1677 to 1796.

Volume contains two separate handwritten pieces on obstetrics, bound together with spine title "Accouchements," including a 50-page record of correspondence between two men that contains detailed case histories, followed by a 682-page exposition that was comprised of lecture notes. The 50-pages manuscript contains a manuscript record of undated correspondence between a Monsieur Lucas and Monsieur de la Motte, almost certainly Guillaume Mauquest de la Motte.

The text can be broadly defined as dealing with pregnancy and then with women and newborn children, with the emphasis (judging by subjects and amount of the text) on the former.

Digitized Content

Dickinson writes that he has purchased and perused all the doctor's works and requests his help in diagnosing and treating a child that is in excruciating pain.