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Sheridan Libraries Open ‘The Dawn of Neurosurgery’ Exhibition Highlighting Rare Books Related to Early Attempts to Understand the Brain in Renaissance Europe

October 18, 2013
MEDIA CONTACT: Brian Shields

The Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University are pleased to announce the opening of The Dawn of Neurosurgery: Rare Books from the Collection of Eugene S. Flamm, a new rare book exhibition at the George Peabody Library. The exhibition contains highlights from the world’s foremost private collection of Renaissance books, charting the prehistory of what we now call neurosurgery, and was guest curated by the collector Dr. Eugene S. Flamm.

Dr. Flamm, a renowned neurosurgeon and avid antiquarian book collector, has spent several decades collecting the essential earliest printed books that chronicle the birth and evolution of his own surgical specialization. His generous loan of these materials to Johns Hopkins University, and his service as guest curator, have made this exhibition possible.

“We are thrilled to host this exhibition,” said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums. “Despite the relative youth of neurosurgery, its history stretches back to humankind’s earliest attempts to understand the inner workings of the brain. These volumes, meticulously collected and curated by Dr. Flamm, offer a fascinating window into the development of a life-saving discipline.”

With the advent of printing in the 15th and 16th centuries, faithful reproduction of information and illustrations became possible on a scale previously unimaginable, aiding and augmenting the exchange of scholarly information at an exponential level. The 65 items on display span several hundred years of medical science, representing , among other things, the first era of scientific peer review.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • The first dated printing of the Hippocratic oath, which appeared in a 1483 compendium of medical knowledge compiled at the first European medical school in Salerno, Italy.
  • A first edition of Andreas Vesalius’ groundbreaking study of human anatomy based on dissection, the De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543).
  • One of the very first illustrations of battlefield surgery, printed in red and black to add equal emphasis to the wounded soldier’s head and flames in the background consuming a besieged city, Feldtbüch der Wundartzney (1526).

“Considering the leadership that Johns Hopkins has always shown in the field of neurology, it only seems appropriate that the university hosts Dr. Flamm’s magnificent collection of books,” said Earle Havens, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts. “His connoisseurship has been unflagging, hence the amazing quality of the books themselves, many of them preserved in their original Renaissance bindings and adorned with fine woodcuts and engravings.”

Eugene S. Flamm is president of the Grolier Club, America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts in the graphic arts. Flamm is also the Jeffrey P. Bergstein Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Chairman for the Montefiore Medical Center.

“Although I do not rely upon these books to plan today’s operations, I believe it is extremely important for physicians and surgeons to have the perspective of the long history of man’s attempt to help others with all aspects of disease,” said exhibition curator Eugene Flamm. “This adds insight into the complexity of the problems we face and reinforces the often forgotten role of surgeons working with the limited resources available to them, be it in the 16th or the 21st century.”

The Exhibition opening will be Sunday October 20 beginning at 2 pm, and will feature remarks from Dr. Flamm at 3 p.m., followed by a reception.

A slideshow of images from the exhibition can be seen at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brodylc/sets/72157636625206483/

The Dawn of Neurosurgery runs through Sunday, March 2, 2014 at the George Peabody Library, 17 E. Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD 21202. The George Peabody Gallery is open Monday through Friday 9 – 5, Saturdays 9 – 1, and Sundays 12 – 5. Admission is free.


The Sheridan Libraries encompass the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the Brody Learning Commons, the Albert D. Hutzler Reading Room in Gilman Hall, the John Work Garrett Library at Evergreen Museum & Library, and the George Peabody Library at Mt. Vernon Place. Together these collections provide the major research library resources for Johns Hopkins University. The mission of the Sheridan Libraries is to advance research and teaching by providing information resources, instruction, and services. The libraries were rededicated in 1998 to reflect the extraordinary generosity of Mr. and Mrs. R. Champlin Sheridan.



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