Obscura Society LA: Exclusive Tour of Rare Medical Books at the Norris Medical Library - Atlas Obscura
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Los Angeles, California

Obscura Society LA: Exclusive Tour of Rare Medical Books at the Norris Medical Library

Join Obscura Society LA for a very exclusive tour of a rare historical medical book collection full of fleas, fetuses, and flora

Tucked away on the upper level of the Norris Medical Library on the USC Health and Sciences Campus, the Rare Books Room holds the Salerni Collegium History of Medicine Library, holding some 1500 volumes dedicated to the history of medicine.

The works span the centuries from the 16th to 20th centuries, including 80 rare folio volumes. The room also holds the Far West Medicine collection, comprised of 90 titles specifically dedicated to the history of medicine in California and the west.

Highlights of the collection include the anatomist William Hunter’s 1774 The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, illustrated with nearly life-sized and extremely detailed anatomical engravings of the female pregnant torso in various states of dissection. These extraordinary images by Dutch illustrator Jan van Rymsdyk were some of the first realistic depictions of female anatomy in print, and many still find their stark realism disturbing today.

Join Obscura Society LA as we explore this unique collection with curator Megan Rosenbloom. We will be shown all the books mentioned above, as well as books by the mother of nursing Florence Nightingale, books that date back to 1492, and an odd volume on monsters and medicine. Plus, we will learn about rare book collecting in general, why individual pages can be more valuable than an actual whole book, and the weird things people have used to bind books (hint: humans!).


-Event time is 12 pm - 2pm

- Please arrive promptly at noon in front of the Library. DO NOT ENTER without Obscura Society LA Field Agent Matt Blitz. He will greet you in the front. 

- Due to the delicate nature of the books themselves and the graphic illustrations within them, 18+.

- Directions to Norris Library and parking availability are below: 

You can park either on the street at a meter, or park in the parking garage at Zonal & Biggy Sts. for $8. Norris Medical Library is in the middle of the elevated quad off of the street.