University of Malta

Medical Library
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History of the Medical Library in Malta
The first dedicated medical library in Malta dates to 1687 when Fra G. Zammit donated his personal collection of about 1500 medical books to the Sacra Infermeria for use by the hospital professional staff. These were housed in an annex of the hospital, and were managed by the secretary of the Academia Medica. In 1797, because the collection was found to be in a state of ruin, the medical books were transferred to the Public Library at Il Forfantone established originally in 1555. The Public Library collection was in 1813 transferred to a dedicated building - the present Bibliotheca

zammit zammit_bk

Fra Giuseppe Zammit and a book with Zammit's signature held by the Malta Bibliotheca


In 1833-34, the President of the General Council of the University - the Hon John Hookham Frere - made a significant donation of 33 medical works comprising eighty-five volumes to the Public Library collection with the specific intention of being "for the use of the young students of the medical art". 


Subject Classification of the Books Donated by J. Hookham Frere

• Barclay, J. The Anatomy of the Bones of the Human Body, Edinburgh, 1829.
• Bayle, A.L.J. Piccolo manuale di anatomia descrittiva ovvero descrizione succinta di tutti gli organi dell'uomo, Pesaro, 1827, 2 Vols.
• Meckel, G.F. Manuale di anatomia, Napoli, 1826-7, 4 Vols.

• Berzelius, J.J. Trattato elementare di chimica teorica e pratica, Milano, 1826, 4 Vols.
• Brande, W.T. A Manual of Chemistry Containing the Principal Facts of the Science, London, 1833, 2 Vols.

• Bateman, T. Compendio pratico delle malattie cutanee ordinate secondo il sistema nosologico del Dott. Willan, Pavia, 1821, 2 Vols.

Forensic Medicine & Toxicology
• Christison, R. A Treatise on Poisons in Relation to Medical Jurisprudence, Physiology and the Practice of Physic, Edinburgh, 1832.
• Orfila, M.P. Tossicologia pratica coll'aggiunta delta medicina legate riguardante il veneficio, Livorno, 1828, 2 Vols.

History of Medicine
• Sprengel, K. Storia prammatica della medicina, Venezia, 1812, 12 Vols.

Materia Medica & Therapeutics
• Frank, P. Maniera di curare le malattie umane, Pisa, 1815, 11 Vols.
• Thomson, A.T. Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, London, 1832, 2 Vols.
• Lugol, J.C.A. Memoire su l'emploi de l'iode, Paris, 1829.

Medical Ethics
• Angeli, L. Il medico giovane al letto dell' ammalato istruito nei doveri di medico politico e di uomo morale, Padova, 1825, 2 Vols.

• Mason Good, J. The Study of Medicine, London, 1829, 5 Vols.       '

• Burns, J. The Principles of Midwifery including Diseases of Women and Children, London, 1832.

Natural History
• Smith, J.E. An Introduction to the Study of Botany, London, 1833.
• Blumenbach, C.F. Manuale della storia naturale, Milano, 1826, 6 Vols.

• Mackenzie, W. Practical Treatise on the Diseases of the Eye. London, 1830.

• Ballard, C.M. Traite des maladies des enfants nouveaunes et a la mamelle. Augmentie d'un memoire medico-legal sur la viabilite du foetus, Paris, 1833.

• Bremser, M. Traite zoologique et physiologique sur les vers intestinaux de I'homme, Paris, 1828.

Pathology General
• Baille, M. The Morbid Anatomy of Some of the Most Important Parts of the Human Body, London, 1833.
• Craigie,; Died:Elements of General and Pathological Anatomy, Edinburgh, 1828.
• Hartman, F.C. Istituzioni dipatologia generale, Padova, 1828.
• Thomson, J. Lezioni sull'infiamazzione, Pavia, 1819-22, 4 Vols.

Pathology Special
• Hodgson, J. Trattato delle malattie delle arterie e delle vene, Milano, 1823, 2 Vois.
• Brodie, B.C. Lectures on the Diseases of the Urinary Organs, London, 1832.

• Arnott, N. Elements of Physics or Natural Philosophy, London 1833, 2 Vols.

• Alison, W.P. Outlines of Physiology and Pathology, Edinburgh & London, 1833.

• Sprengel, K. Istoria delle principali operazioni di chirurgia.  Firenze, 1815, 2 Vols.
• Larrey, J.D. Clinique chirurgicale exercee particulierment dans les camps et les Hospitaux Militaires depuis 1792 jusq'en 1829.  Paris, 1829, 5 Vols.
• Lawrence, W. Trattato delle ernie, Milano, 1820, 2 Vols.

Medical & Surgical Dictionaries
• Aquilino, B. Dizionario etimologico di tutti i vocaboli usati nella medidna, chirurgia, veterinaria, farmacia, chimica, storia naturale, fisica e astronomia. Napoli 1822, 2 Vols.
• Cooper, S. Dictionary of Practical Surgery, London, 1830.



John Hookham Frere: Born: London 21/05/1769; died: 07/01/1846. Education: Eton and Cambridge University, London. Career: embarked on a diplomatic career becoming Foreign Under-Secretary [1791-1802], envoy to Lisbon [1800-1802], Minister to Madrid [1802-1804, 1808]; Privy Councillor [1805-1808]. Settled in Malta in 1821 on account of his wife’s frail health. Turned to cultural study and works. As part of the university reforms, Governor Francis Rawdon, Marquis of Hastings appointed Frere as Chairman of the University General Council, a tenure retained until 1833. At end of the tenure, Frere donated to the Bibliotheca a number of medical books for the use of the medical students of the university. Frere purchased the donation consisting of 33 works in 85 volumes at a cost of £100.

References: P. Cassar: The John Hookham Frere Memorial Medical Library and the Origins of the Malta Medical School. University Press, Malta, 1985, +37p; E.G. Montanaro: John Hookman Frere (1769-1846). Civilization. An Encyclopedia on Maltese Civilization, History and Contemporary Arts. 1984, 3(4):p.767-769

The need to make available medical texts to practitioners was strongly felt and efforts were made to augment the medical literature. By 1824, the medical officers had founded a good medical library in the general hospital for use by the medical personnel.  In 1806, the British garrison set up a subscription general library first situated in one of the rooms of the Public Library, but after 1854 was housed in a building on the left-hand side of the Main Guard in Valletta. This contained books covering a wide range of topics. There were also books on medicine, surgery and the accessory sciences. Subscription was against payment for all the officers and gentlemen holding a civil appointment. No fee was requested from private individuals who wished to subscribe, though temporary subscribers were obliged to pay a monthly fee. Besides books, the Garrison Library also provided a good supply of newspapers and periodicals that were made available in a reading-room.  The Garrison Library continued its service until 1964 when its collection was distributed between the University and Public Libraries.  The role of the Garrison Library was then taken over by the British Council Library. The British Council was set up in Malta in 1939 being first housed in the Auberge d'Aragon in Valletta and eventually moving to Independence Square in Valletta. This worldwide organisation was set up with the aims of helping in the educational and cultural activities in foreign countries. In Malta, it contributed by distributing scholarships and sponsored overseas visits to Maltese students, by donating books to various local libraries, and by bringing over specialists to lecture in Malta in various topics. Its library held a large number of fictional and reference books. It included medical reference books and periodicals for the use of doctors and medical students.

Medical associations also attempted to make available medical literature for their members. The main aim of the Societa Medica d'Incoraggiamento founded in 1837 was the diffusion and advancement of knowledge in medicine and the allied sciences through the circulation of medical literature and personal clinical observations. By 1843, the society had sixty-four books on its shelves. Similarly the Camera Medica set up in 1885 and the Malta Branch of the British Medical Association set up in 1888 both aimed at promoting the medical and allied sciences and providing foreign scientific journals to local doctors. The collection of bound journals and periodicals of the BMA [Malta Branch] were in October 1955 deposited on permanent loan in the budding Medical School Library.

In June 1834, the Malta University undertook to establish a general library that by 1838 was housing 103 works including 63 works dealing with medicine, physics, chemistry and botany. In January 1839, the University's collection was merged and transferred to the Public Library - an arrangement that lasted only until November 1842. The University was to remain without an organised library of its own for more than a century, its holdings being limited to occasional purchases and bequests. A Research Library was formed in 1947 with the help of a grant from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, but until 1950 the number of books on science "did not amount to much" since these were considered "too costly" and beyond the limited resources of the University budget.   In 1954, the University authorities entered negotiations with the Ministry of Health for the latter to provide temporary provision of space to deposit the medical section of the University Library. Facilities were provided in one of the rooms of the newly built outpatients' block of the hospital and the Medical Library was set on the 23rd August 1955. This University collection was further augmented by the deposition as a permanent loan of the bound journals and periodicals of the BMA [Malta branch]. The science section of the University Library was transferred to a library set up in Evans Building, while the Medical Library was transferred from the Outpatients' Block of St Luke's Hospital to the newly built Medical School premises on the 7th March 1963. In 2007, the Medical School Library, together with the library of the Institute of Health Care, transferred part of its holdings to the new Medical School at Mater Dei University Hospital. The Medical Library holdings are partly held at the main University Library, the Medical School Library at Gwardamangia, and the Medical School Library at Mater dei University Hospital.

Last Updated: 20 January 2010

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