Vi har haft en intensiv vår med många fina evenemang och aktiviteter. Särskilt vill jag nämna den alldeles fantastiska konstutställningen Toxic Transits i Tingssalen. Den utforskade samspelet mellan mänskliga kroppar, metaller och mineraler, och miljö. Verken som visades inkluderade till exempel tårar som kristalliserats till juveler, och mässingsplåtar som avbildar traditionella kongolesiska ärrtatueringar. Utställningen går fortfarande att ta del av. Tyvärr inte längre på Hagströmerbiblioteket, men dock genom en bok av kuratorerna Beatrice Brovia och Nicolas Cheng. Boken heter också Toxic Transits och går att köpa genom oss. Den är dessutom nummer 28 i Hagströmerbibliotekets skriftserie. Även nummer 27 i serien släpps inom kort. Den är skriven av Olle Hagman och heter ’Se till och gör en då!’: Om den första inopererade pacemakern och om patienten som fick den. Den är ett slags fördjupad patientberättelse med dubbla perspektiv, dels författarens, dels Arne Larssons. Larsson var alltså den första patient som fick en inopererad pacemaker. Det uppstår ett väldigt fint samspel mellan dessa två berättelser. Ja, där var några små inblickar i vår verksamhet, samt kanske även lästips för hängmattan? Många sköna bad önskar vi på Hagströmerbiblioteket!


Hjalmar Fors


Welcome to the Hagströmer Lecture 2024!

Speaker: Anita Guerrini
Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

How do we balance our need for advances in medical treatment and desire for scientific knowledge with ethical obligations to humans and animals alike? Starting with Jenner’s invention of the smallpox vaccine in the 1790s, medical historian Anita Guerrini looks at the intersection of debates over vivisection, vaccination, and immigration – and the deployment of animals as bodies and metaphors.

Time: May 7, at 17:00

Place: Eva & Georg Klein Lecture Hall, Floor 3 in Biomedicum, Campus Solna

Lecture followed by reception. RSVP by May 6 to, 08-524 860 12


Toxic Transits 

Participating Artists: Sammy Baloji, Judit Fritz, Alma Heikkilä, Cecilia Jonsson, Jennie Leino, Suska Mackert, Alice Pallot, Bernhard Schobinger.

Historical books from the Hagströmer library’s collections from across disciplines - from alchemy, to botany, metallurgy, geology, and toxicology - are included in the exhibition.

Curation: Beatrice Brovia & Nicolas Cheng

The exhibition Toxic Transits investigates the relations between toxicity, body, and environment in a more-than-human world. Central to the exhibition is its exploration of toxicity as both an agent and concept that disrupts dichotomous worldviews, revealing how the human body and non-human natures are intimately co-constituted.

The artworks in the exhibition, set in dialogue with historical books and material from the Hagströmer Medico-Historical library’s collections, reveal deep-running interconnections between life and non-life; exposure and protection; tenderness and morbidity. The exhibition is an invitation to think with toxicity, to follow its transits and what they make visible in the proximities between bodies and environments.

Contact person Anna Lantz,, 070-555 2736


Inauguration speech for the exhibitionClarity and Truth, the Life of Jacob Berzelius in Biomedicum, Karolinska Institutet, 18 December, 2023

We have worked in this beautiful building five years now. It’s full of life, full of science, full of productive chance encounters.

But I remember my old office in the Retzius lab, with French balcony windows that I could open in summer to feel the breeze on my face. I could hear the birds chirping in the birch tree outside, and sometimes Lennart Nilsson would be on his hands and knees on the lawn outside using some new optical contraption to photograph the bumblebees.

It’s just nostalgia of course. Our memories are often deceptive. The curtains in my old office were so ugly I stuffed them into the electrical utility closet. The walls were incredibly ugly too, but I couldn’t stuff them away.

I think anyone who steps into Biomedicum is struck by the care and thoughtfulness that has gone into the architecture. The building clearly works, where so many others do not.

Part of it is down to physical organization. The atrium and the cafeteria downstairs. The single point of entry. The slits. The open-door policy.

But also the interior design. Clearly someone with good taste has selected the materials and the colors. The wood, the textiles, the leather. The beautiful, muted shades of brown, green and violet.

Why are the colors and the materials so important? As scientists, we tend to focus on the rational. The well-crafted argument, the precise measurement, the exact figure. But we are also artisans engaged in a craft, using and transferring tacit knowledge. We use our hands a lot. We work in small teams, humans interacting closely, intensely with each other. Our teams are diverse, mixing ages, genders, nationalities, and social backgrounds. As a consequence, even though we tend not to talk about it much, science is profoundly emotional.  It’s hard emotional work — adapting, competing, collaborating, figuring each other out. I think that’s why the beauty of the physical environment is so important to us, whether we realize that or not.

One way to structure and navigate complex human relationships is through collective memory. Shared memories can support shared values. But memories — especially collective ones — are fragile constructions that require nurturing and support. Losing your memory — especially collective ones — can be devastating.

In his book One hundred years of solitude, Gabriel Garçia Marques tells of the orphan Rebecca who brings to the sleepy village of Macondo a plague of insomnia. But ”No one was alarmed at first. On the contrary, they were happy at not sleeping because there was so much to do in Macondo in those days that there was barely enough time.”

But soon, the insomnia leads to amnesia. Villagers first lose memory of their childhoods. It gets worse and eventually they begin to forget the names of everyday objects. To remember, they start to place written labels on everything: ”table, chair, clock, door, wall, bed, pan”. Thus, writes Marques, ”they went on living in a reality that was slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they forgot the values of the written letters”.

So, the dangers of amnesia are obvious. But memories can also overwhelm. Jorge Luis Borges once told the story of Ireneo Funes[1], who fell off a horse and hit his head badly. Upon recovery, Funes found that he would now remember everything: the shape of the clouds at every moment, and the configuration of every leaf on every tree he had ever seen. It was a curse of course. Funes was incapable of making any generalizations. A dog in the morning was for him utterly distinct from the same dog seen in the afternoon.

But I’m rambling. I found a few reports[2] in the scientific literature of actual people diagnosed with hyperthymesia: the inability to forget. Most of those reports are sketchy. There are many more of course, reporting the inability to remember.

Even worse, in my opinion, is wilful amnesia, the active lack of curiosity about our past. It is a trait that has been unfortunately all too common at this institute. We have an entire museum of Swedish medical history stuck in a storage facility. An entire museum! Our library of old books, Hagströmerbiblioteket, is beautiful but hard to reach and open only occasionally.

Consistently, another striking design feature of this building, was the complete absence of any memories. You step inside and you might as well think Karolinska was founded five years ago. Today, that changes. I hope today can be the start of a new era, where Karolinska Institutet can come to terms with, and celebrate all of its memories, as inspiration for the public and the next generations of scientists. I hope one day all our historical artefacts, memories of two hundred years of Swedish medical science, can be on display to excite and provoke and educate the public. Until then, I am so very pleased to welcome you to the first permanent historical exhibit at Karolinska Intitutet: Clarity and Truth, the Life of Jacob Berzelius.

Sten Linnarsson

Image: Camillo Golgi,Sulla fina anatomia degli organi centrali del sistema nervoso.
Reggio-Emilia, Stefano Calderini e figlio, 1882, 1883, 1885.

[1] Funes, the memorious, 1944. “Two or three times he had reconstructed an entire day; he had never once erred or faltered, but each reconstruction had itself taken an entire day.”

[2] E.g. Jill Price: "Starting on February 5, 1980, I remember everything. That was a Tuesday."


Välkommen till föredrag 8 februari kl 18! 

Alkemistens barn: Urban Hjärnes oregerliga barnaskara
Alkemisten, läkaren och poeten Urban Hjärne (1641-1724) var en av sin tids mest berömda svenskar. Han fick även 26 barn med tre olika fruar. Tretton av dem överlevde till vuxen ålder.  Barnen hade något gemensamt: de bar på ett arv som var olikt alla andras. De tog avstånd från 1700-talets av upplysningsförnuft präglade offentlighet. Istället ägnade de sig med kraft och energi åt skapandet av universalmediciner, fritänkeri och av alkemi präglat industriellt projektmakeri. Flera av dem var tongivande pietister med religiösa åsikter som starkt avvek från tidens lutherska ortodoxi. I föredraget följer jag några av dem i spåren, och diskuterar hur deras intressen utgick från deras gemensamma arv från den märkvärdige och kraftfulle Urban Hjärne.

Hjalmar Fors är chef för Hagströmerbiblioteket och docent i idé- och lärdomshistoria.



Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus

Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra

Anmälan emotses före tisdag 6 februari

Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36

Förfriskningar serveras     Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Announcement: Emma Hagström Molin the 2024 Hagströmer Fellow

The 2024 Hagströmer Fellowship is awarded to Emma Hagström Molin. During her time as Fellow, Hagström Molin will study the ‘Swedish History of Medicine and Science Told Through its Archives and Libraries’. She will investigate how medical doctors and librarians began to historicize and nationalize medicine and medical knowledge towards the end of the eighteenth century. The aim of the study is to uncover how libraries and archives were created, and conceived, as repositories bearing witness to a national history of medicine.



Välkommen till visning 19 december kl 17!

Välkommen till visning den 19 december kl 17!
Caput Folium - Timo Menke
Tis. 19 december kl. 17.00-18.30.
Konstnären Timo Menke och curator Anna Lantz ger en visning av utställningen i Tingssalen.
Begränsat antal platser. Anmälan görs till
Eller 08-524 86012
Visningen är gratis och kommer hållas på svenska.
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
O.s.a. 19 december till


Välkommen till föredrag!

För en modern människa framstår tanken om att en dryck kan väcka förälskelse och kärlek som ett fantasifullt påhitt hemmahörande i sagornas och magins värld. En av de mest kända historierna om en kärleksdryck härstammar från en medeltida riddarsaga och berättar om Tristan och Isolde som av misstag råkade dricka av en kärleksdryck och blev gripna av en våldsam kärlek med ödesdigra följder

Under tiden från antiken till 1700-talet var kärleksdrycker emellertid inte bara ett ämne för sagor, utan även ett vanligt diskussionsämne i medicinsk litteratur. Med utgångspunkt i vetenskapliga dissertationer och handböcker från 1500- till 1700-talet ger föredraget en vetenskapshistorisk inblick i den tidigmoderna tidens syn på kärleksdrycker. Vari tänktes kärleksdryckens verkan bestå? Hur föreställde sig den tidigmoderna tidens människor sambandet mellan känslor och intag av födoämnen? När och varför övergav medicinen tron på kärleksdryckernas verkan?

Kristiina Savin är fil. dr i idé- och lärdomshistoria vid Lunds universitet.

ONSDAGEN 15 november kl 18.00

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus

Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra

Anmälan emotses före måndag 13 november

Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36

Förfriskningar serveras, medlemmar inträde 130 kr, icke medlemmar 180 kr


2024 Hagströmer fellowship: a residential fellowship in the history of medicine and related sciences

Dear Friends,

The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library of Karolinska Institutet and the Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation are now accepting applications for the 2024 Hagströmer Fellowship.

The fellowship provides a postdoctoral or senior researcher in the field of history of medicine and/or related sciences (early modern to twentieth-century) with financial support to explore the collections of the Hagströmer Library. The Hagströmer library contains Sweden’s largest collections in the history of medicine and related sciences, including more than 100 000 monographs published between c. 1480 and 2000, extensive manuscript collections and c. 1300 medical and scientific journals.

In addition, the 2024 fellowship provide opportunity to work in the archives of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, kept at its Center for History of Science. We encourage applications which make use of both collections.

Detailed description

The Hagströmer Fellowship is a residential fellowship (2-6 months) which supports a scholar who will travel to Stockholm to conduct research in the Hagströmer library with possibility to privileged access also at the Center for History of Science, at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences during 2024.  

A sum of EUR 10 000 from The Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation will be made available to cover accommodation, travel, cost of living in Stockholm, and additional insurance, if needed.

Visiting scholar status at the Hagströmer library grants a workplace/ personal desk at the Hagströmer Library and access to collections (Mondays to Thursdays) for the duration of the stay. Affiliation status at KI grants an email address and use of library resources at Karolinska Institutet Library (KIB), including full access to scholarly databases and journals in medical sciences. The Hagströmer library expects the Fellow to spend a minimum of two months in Stockholm, to present their work at a public lecture at the library, to use the Hagströmer Library as their primary place of work, to engage with our collections and to write a shorter popular text about their work at the library.

The 2024 Hagströmer fellow will also have access to the archives of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This encompasses the archives of the Academy itself and many of its former institutes as well as a large number of personal archives, mostly after former members of the Academy. Some special archives are for example the personal archives after Jacob Berzelius or the Nobel archives in physics and chemistry (available after special application). The collections (also of scientific instruments) are located at the Center’s premises in Frescati by the Academy main building. The visiting scholar will be given a workplace for concentrated work if needed. An overview can be found HERE!

Application procedure

The call is open between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, 2023 and should be sent by mail to the Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation (please label your email ‘The Hagströmer Fellowship’). The application should be in pdf format and must include the following documents in the following order.

1.      A two-page description of yourself and your research as well as a brief outline of which collections you intend to use at the Hagströmer library, and how you intend to make use of your studies of the collections in your research. Also state the duration of your visit in Stockholm and your planned date of arrival.

2.      A separate page with your full name and address. This page must also include the names and contact details of two references (references will only be taken on final candidates).

3.      A CV of no more than three pages outlining your major academic and other relevant accomplishments and publications.

4.      A copy of your PhD-certificate/highest formal academic degree.

The Fellow will receive a personal notification and the decision will be announced on the webpage of the Hagströmer Library Dec. 15, 2023;

The Hagströmer Library is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive research environment and encourages members of any groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in academia to apply for fellowship support.

Please share this announcement with anyone who might be interested in the library’s fellowship program. All application materials are due no later than November 30, 2023. For further information about the library visit our website or e-mail

Thank you!

Eva Åhrén and Hjalmar Fors

Medical History and Heritage/Hagströmer Library, Karolinska Institutet

Karl Grandin

Center for History of Science, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences


Välkommen till vernissage!

Caput Folium

Torsdag 5 oktober kl. 17-19

Utställningen presenteras av konstnären Timo Menke tillsammans med curator Anna Lantz.

Förfriskningar serveras

O.s.a. senast 3 oktober till  eller 070-712 9575

Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga tingshus

Annerovägen 12 Solna

Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra


Kampen mot tuberkulos

I vår tid och i vår del av världen ägnar vi inte tuberkulos någon större uppmärksamhet. För 100 år sedan plågades vår befolkning svårt av denna farsot som fortfarande i modern tid är världens mest spridda infektionssjukdom. Under första delen av 1900-talet trängdes tuberkulosen tillbaka främst tack vare vaccination och högre levnadsstandard. Trots tillkomsten av antibiotika som sulfa och penicillin fanns ingen bot och sjukdomen skördade ännu många liv. Forskarvärlden letade febrilt efter verksamma läkemedel och i slutet av 1940-talet fann man äntligen vad man sökte. I Sverige lyckades Jörgen Lehmann och Ferrosan utveckla PAS. Samtidigt kunde Selman Waksman och Albert Schatz i USA ta fram streptomycin. Denna ”tvillingfödsel” gjorde att man för första gången kunde behandla den sjukdom som alltid funnits vid vår sida. Föredraget kommer att avhandla tuberkulosens historia, behandling innan läkemedel fanns, den dramatiska historien om PAS, ett uteblivet Nobelpris samt avslutningsvis hur situationen ser ut idag. 

Johan Wennerberg är läkemedelsforskare och professor i organisk kemi. Han undervisar, publicerar och skriver också om kemi, läkemedel och medicinhistoria. Bland utgivna böcker finns bland annat Läkemedel som förändrat världen och Konst och kokkonst för Nobels medicinpristagare.

TORSDAG 21 september kl 18.00

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus

Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra

Anmälan emotses före tisdag 19 september

Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36

Förfriskningar serveras, medlemmar inträde 130 kr, icke medlemmar 180 kr


Välkommen till ett nytt läsår med Hagströmerbiblioteket!

Höstterminen har rivstartat med många bokade visningar och forskarbesök!  Snart drar vi iäven gång våra populära föredragskvällar i HBV:s regi. Först ut är Johan Wennerberg som håller sitt föredrag "Kampen mot tuberkulos" torsdag den 21 september kl 18.

Håll ögonen öppna och följ oss här på hemsidan eller i sociala media, för vi har en spännande höst framför oss här på biblioteket! 

Campi Elysii Liber Secundus. . . Olof Rudbäck d.ä. Uppsala (1696) - 1701.


Välkommen till föredrag!

Hushållet von Linné – identitet och materialitet

Carl von Linné d ä äger vid sin bortgång 12 kattuntäcken och 283 linneservetter bland mycket annat. Hur är detta förhållande intressant ur idéhistorisk synvinkel? I Annika Windahl Ponténs avhandling Kiär hustru, wackra barn, bodde i ett palais. Identitet och materialitet (2020) är det intressant för att det placerar Carl von Linné och hans hushåll i en materiell kontext: i rum fyllda med ting där den vetenskapliga verksamheten pågår. Linnés karriär utspelar sig till stora delar i ett hushåll där det finns blommiga kattuntäcken och gula stolar, där sammetsrockar finns i garderoben och konterfej på väggarna. I detta föredrag presenteras hushållet von Linné och förhållandet mellan den rumsliga och materiella kontexten och den vetenskapliga verksamheten diskuteras. 

Annika Windahl Pontén disputerade i idé- och lärdomshistoria vid Uppsala universitet i maj 2020. Hon har tidigare arbetat som projektledare för Linné2007 vid Uppsala universitet samt på flera museer som guide och projektledare, bl a Livrustkammaren, Museum Gustavianum, Linnémuseet och Uppsala Linneanska trädgårdar. För närvarande arbetar hon som besökskoordinator vid Uppsala universitet och Uppsala universitetsbibliotek. Hon har också ett intresse för 1700-talets dans och musik i allmänhet och Linné, dans och musik i synnerhet.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före tisdag 14 mars
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras, medlemmar inträde 130 kr, icke medlemmar 180 kr


Varmt välkommen till föredrag den 21 februari (film)!

Historiken bakom 1923 års Nobelpris ”För upptäckten av insulin” erbjuder såväl intressant information som lärdom. Det råder ingen tvekan om att upptäckten av insulin var av en sådan höjd att den förtjänade ett Nobelpris. Priset, som utdelades 1923 dvs. för 100 år sedan, är ett av de snabbast utdelade priserna. Upptäckten gjordes 1921 och den första patienten behandlades i januari 1922. Det är dessutom ett av de mest omdebatterade priserna. Diskussionen har hela tiden kretsat kring vilka som rätteligen borde ha fått dela utmärkelsen. I det här bildspelet ger vi med dagens perspektiv vår syn på de problem som var förenade med detta Nobelpris. I ett första avsnitt sammanfattas utvecklingen av kunskapen om diabetes fram till början av 1920-talet varefter nobelverksamhetens vid Karolinska Institutet utvärdering skärskådas. Avslutningsvis fästes blicken på senare framsteg som byggt på upptäckten av insulin och som varit av stor betydelse för behandlingen av diabetes.

För att se en liten teaser, vänligen tryck HÄR! 

Jan Lindsten är professor emeritus i medicinsk genetik vid Kliniskt Genetiska Laboratoriet, Karolinska sjukhuset. Mot bakgrund av sina erfarenheter som sekreterare för Nobelförsamlingen och den Medicinska Nobelkommittén vid Karolinska Institutet 1979-1990 har han deltagit i utarbetandet av det aktuella bildspelet. Under åren 1990-1994 var han sjukhusdirektör på Karolinska Sjukhuset, 1996-1998 dekanus för medicinska fakulteten vid Karolinska Institutet, och 2000-2008 ordförande för Karolinska Institutets kulturråd med ansvar för Hagströmerbiblioteket.

Lars Rydén är Professor i kardiologi vid Institutionen för Medicin Solna vid Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden och Dr h.c. vid Universitet i Katowice Polen samt Hedersledamot av Royal College of Physicians, London samt ett antal Europeiska Kardiologföreningar. Hans forskning har fokuserat på arytmier, pacemakerbehandling, hjärtsvikt, kardiovaskulär prevention och under senare år hjärt-kärlsjukdom I samband med diabetes. Under omkring 20 år tillhörde han Nobelförsamlingen vi Karolinska Institutet. Ombedd av Internationella Diabetes Federationen skrev han 2022 tillsammans med Professor Jan Lindsten en artikel om Nobelpriset för upptäckten av insulin, vilken lade grunden till ett bildspel om hur historiken bakom diabetessjukdomen ledde till upptäckten av insulin.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före fredag 17 februari
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras     Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr

Nobeldiplomet och medaljen som mottogs av Frederick Banting och John MacLeod (med tillstånd av Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto). 


Doktorerna på Drottningholm - välkommen till föredrag!

Drottningholms slott var under 1700-talet mötesplats för Sveriges vetenskapliga elit, inte minst läkare. Men läkarna var också trägna gäster i egenskap av livläkare och livkirurger. När kung Adolf Fredrik och drottning Lovisa Ulrika på 1760-talet inledde stora byggnadsarbeten, till exempel det nya Kina slott, anställdes hovläkaren Nils Skragge för befolkningens hälsovård. Flera av de patienter Skragge skildrade i sin bok Nosologia Drotningholmensis hörde hemma i de industrier kungaparet anlade i Kanton. Jan Malmstedt lyfter i Doktorerna på Drottningholm fram Skragges patientberättelser som bygger på brev i Hagströmerbiblioteket till Abraham Bäck som aldrig utnyttjats som källmaterial. När Gustav III övertog Drottningholm, anlade han den Engelska parken med utnyttjade av soldater i arbetskommandon. Gustav anställde för arbetarnas sjukvård Sven Anders Hedin, som skildrade de kommenderade soldaternas sjukdomar. Genom att kombinera Hedins texter med kyrkoarkivalier visar Malmstedt hur världsarvets vackra park kostat sjukdom och död. Sven Anders Hedin hade många strängar på sin lyra och skrev flera dramatiska verk, ibland med medicinskt tema. Jan Malmstedt låter oss följa med doktorerna på Drottningholm hem till deras patienter – och på teaterföreställningar med doktor Hedin som dramatiker.

Jan Malmstedt är journalist, författare och samhällsvetare. Han har skrivit ett tiotal böcker, flera med lokal- och teknikhistorisk inriktning utifrån djupgående forskning men också med journalistisk nyhetskänsla. Med anknytning till medicinhistoria har han skrivit Narkotikan i medierna—idéerna som tände debatten.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före måndag 9 januari
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Announcing the 2023 Hagströmer Fellow!

Vincent Roy-Di Piazza is a historian of science, religion and the global Northern World. He is also a specialist of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) and his posterity. Vincent recently obtained his DPhil in history of science, medicine, economic and social history from the University of Oxford in 2022. An Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a postdoctoral associate at Oxford, he has been a Fellow of the Fondazione Cini in Venice, Italy, the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and a visiting researcher at the department of history of science and ideas at the University of Uppsala.

As a Hagströmer Fellow, Vincent will conduct new research on Swedenborg’s famous treatise on copper (De Cupro, 1734) based on a rare first edition and related literature preserved in the Hagströmer collections. You can follow him on social media via Twitter: @RoyDiPiazza and on his personal website:


Välkommen till boksläpp!

Gång på gång ger vi oss in i fläckar av mörker, ledsagade av nyfikenhet och öppenhet. Ibland återfinns något helt oväntat och en ny värld öppnar sig. För konstnären Ida Rödén var fyndet en underlig sten vid Kultsjön. Stenen ledde vidare till upptäckten av den hittills okände Jonas Falck, en autodidakt vetenskapsman från Västernorrland, som rest i samma trakter i slutet av 1700-talet.

Jonas Falcks vetenskapliga iakttagelser samlar Ida Rödén tankar och upplevelser som uppstått i sällskap av Jonas Falck. Med hjälp av detaljerade teckningar av muterade djur vid Kultsjön, utdöda vattenvarelser från Fårö och egendomliga svampar runt Norra Kvarken, uppenbaras en värld fylld av möjligheter. Men sanningen är undflyende, avvikelserna är många. Ibland tar fantasin och förhoppningen över och alla svar till frågan om vem Jonas Falck var, förblir bortom räckhåll.

I samband med boksläppet ger Ida Rödén även en gratis visning av sin pågående utställning på Hagströmerbiblioteket "Jonas Falck - bland svallgrus och horisonter". Boken kommer även finnas till försäljning för reducerat pris. För er som inte har möjlighet att närvara finns boken till försäljning via denna länk: klicka här!

TISDAGEN 29 NOVEMBER KL. 17.00 - 19.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan till: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras


Karolinska institutets kraniologiska samling – samlingar med obekväm historia. Vikten av bevarande.

Den kraniologiska eller anatomiska samlingen på KI grundades ca 1830 av Anders Retzius. Hans efterföljare var Gustaf von Düben och hans son Gustaf Retzius. Samlingen drabbades av en brand 1892, vilket gjorde att delar av samlingen samt kartoteket förstördes. Efter att samlingen varit utlokaliserad under många år, återtogs den till Karolinska institutet 2015, då fler krav på repatrieringar började komma in och man behövde ha tillgång till den. Ett 30-tal repatrieringar har hittills genomförts och en inventering av samlingen har pågått sedan 2016. Denna genomgång har resulterat i en katalogisering som nu ska bli publiceras i databasen ALVIN. Under senare år har samlingen varit omskriven i media. Det har nyligen, på uppdrag av KI:s rektor, gjorts en rapport av en arbetsgrupp som belyser historia, nutid, etiska aspekter och förslag på en handlingsplan kring kvarlevorna. Denna föreläsning kommer att lyfta fram den stora mängd information som finns i den här typen av samlingar, framförallt i form av hälsostatus, unika patologier, framtida forskningsmöjligheter och i vissa fall personhistoria. Det är betydelsefullt att bevara och bearbeta även obekväma inslag i vår historia, för att belysa oförrätter men också för att ställa till rätta så mycket man kan.

Ann Gustavsson är arkivarie/antikvarie vid Medicinens historia och kulturarv på Karolinska institutet. Hon har en magisterexamen i arkeologi och en i osteologi från Stockholms universitet och har sedan 2016 arbetat med att analysera och inventera den kraniologiska samlingen på Karolinska institutet.

Föredraget anordnas av Medicinhistoriska museets vänner TORSDAG 24 NOVEMBER 2022 kl. 17.30 och äger rum på CCK, Visionsgatan 56 på gamla Karolinskas område. Gå förbi Radiumhemmet. Fri entré. Anmälan om deltagande till eller 0708-75 43 77.



Berättelsen om veterinärmedicinaren Elis Sandberg och kalvthymusextraktet THX är en unik och dramatisk svensk medicinhistoria. Den spänner över nästan fyra decennier, befinner sig i olika bryt- och brännpunkter och sätter förstoringsglaset på avgörande frågor i samhällsutvecklingen. Det handlar om synen på patienten, om lidande och död, men också om konflikterna mellan alternativmedicin och evidens, stad och landsbygd, allmänhet och etablissemang. Det är en berättelse om Sveriges väg in i moderniteten.

Den första THX-patienten, en grannes ko, tillfrisknade snabbt och gjorde Elis Sandberg övertygad om att han hade löst cancerns gåta. Från 1950-talet och framåt fick mellan 50 000 och 150 000 människor injektioner med extraktet. Hela tiden i konflikt med den svenska medicinalstyrelsen och stora delar av läkarkåren. Som mest fanns 25 THX-kliniker spridda över Sverige och Sandberg var en rikskändis. Det här är utan konkurrens vår största medicinska konflikt genom tiderna och den kom att påverka svensk sjukvård i grunden. En veterinärmedicinare från Småland banade väg för en ny syn på den sjuka människan i Sverige.

Maria Josephson disputerade i idé- och lärdomshistoria vid Uppsala universitet 2011. Sedan dess har hon varit verksam som forskare och lärare vid Uppsala universitet, Linköpings universitet samt Södertörns högskola. Hon är för närvarande knuten till Karolinska Institutet och arbetar där med medicinhistoria och vetenskapligt kulturarv.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före måndag 21 november

Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Welcome to the Hagströmer Lecture 2022!

The pandemic of Covid-19 has seen a renewed interest in medical history and the sort of expertise only professional historians can offer. But how can historical perspectives inform scientific responses to emerging infectious diseases and could an appreciation of the deep history of pandemics have contributed to better responses to Covid-19? Drawing on their extensive research on the history of epidemics and pandemics, the two distinguished speakers will put recent experiences into historical perspective, while posing questions for the future.


David Morens, M.D., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease

Emerging epidemics: 5,000 years of existential threats

David M. Morens is Senior Advisor to the Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, U.S. National Institutes of Health, which he joined in 1998. He is trained in pediatrics, preventive medicine, infectious diseases, and virology. Dr. Morens has served as a Public Health Service officer in various capacities at the Center for Disease Control. He was also Professor of Tropical Medicine; Microbiology; Epidemiology, and Public Health at the University of Hawai‘i School of Medicine. Dr. Morens has authored hundreds of scientific articles in major biomedical journals. His career interest for over 45 years has been the study of emerging infectious diseases. He speaks and writes frequently on numerous aspects of emerging diseases, on viral disease pathogenesis, and on the history of medicine and public health.  

Mark Honigsbaum, PhD, University of London

Remembering Pandemics, Imagining Covid-19

Dr Mark Honigsbaum is a medical historian, journalist and academic with wide-ranging interests encompassing health, technology, science and contemporary culture. A regular contributor to The Lancet and The Observer, he is the author of five books including Living With Enza: The Forgotten Story of Britain and the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918 (2009) and The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris (2019) which was named a “health book of the year” by the Financial Times and “science book of the year” in The Times. A former Wellcome Research Fellow, Mark is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Journalism at City, University of London, where he teaches an MA specialism in health and science reporting and is researching the relationship between pandemics and cultural memory.


Jessica Norrbom, PhD, Karolinska Institutet

Jessica Norrbom is a researcher and lecturer at KI:s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, specialized in molecular exercise physiology. She also has a large interest in popular science communication and was awarded “Enlightener of the year 2021” for her work with debunking health myths through books and podcasts 

Pandemic Futures, Pandemic Pasts



Lecture followed by reception. RSVP by November 9 to 08-524 86012



Nervgas och radioaktiva ämnen, toxiner och tallium, hemliga agenter och terrorister. Att giftmörda någon visar sig vara svårare än vad man kan tro, och tillvägagångssätten är många och påhittiga. Vad sägs om ombyggda paraplyer eller förgiftade cigarrer? Varför inte lite radioaktivt te eller en dusch dödlig parfym? I denna föreläsning tar Ulf Ellervik upp kända och okända fall och ger en beskrivning av det politiska giftmordets historia, rik på kulturella referenser, gripande livsöden och kemi.

Ulf Ellervik är professor i bioorganisk kemi vid Lunds universitet. I sin forskning använder han kemi för att förstå hur celler kommunicerar med varandra. Det långsiktiga målet är att hitta nya läkemedel. Ulf Ellervik debuterade 2011 som populärvetenskaplig författare med boken Ond kemi, som fick det första pi-priset. Hans böcker myllrar av historiska och kulturella kopplingar mellan naturvetenskap och humaniora.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före måndag 10 oktober
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr

(Fotograf Freddy Billqvist)


Välkommen till vernissage 10 oktober!

Ida Rödén, f. 1981. MFA vid California College of the Arts, San Francisco, 2011. BFA vid konsthögskolan i Umeå, 2009. Har ställt ut nationellt och internationellt på bland annat Björkholmen Gallery, OpenART Örebro, Bildmuseet i Umeå, Sundsvalls museum, Kunsthal Charlottenborg i Köpenhamn, FILE Festival i Sao Paolo, CoCA i Seattle, Wattis Institute och Southern Exposure i San Francisco.

Det är möjligt att Jonas Falck inte existerade, men utställningen visar även ett rikt urval av bibliotekets samling böcker författade av Linnélärjungar såsom Pehr Kalm, Pehr Löfling, Peter Forsskål, Carl Peter Thunberg, Anders Sparrman, Pehr Osbeck och Johan Peter Falck, vilka skildrar deras ofta spännande och strapatsrika vetenskapliga expeditioner i Europa, Afrika, Asien och Amerika.

MÅNDAG 10 OKTOBER 2022, kl. 17.00 – 19.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Bus 515 (Odenplan) stop Haga Södra
Utställningen presenteras av konstnären Ida Rödén tillsammans med curator Anna Lantz.
Anmälan senast 7 oktober till 08-524 86012
Jonas Falck – bland svallgrus och horisonter
Hagströmer Library 10 oktober – 18 november 2022


Verket Nya Liv i byggnaden Life City av David Molander

Nya Liv – är ett 35 meter långt konstverk i 13 delar som sträcker sig  genom byggnaden Life City i Hagastan Stockholm. Konstverket bygger på begreppet Life Science / Livsvetenskap och bildmaterialet kommer främst från Hagströmmerbibliotekets samlingar, men även flera andra källor som Subic lab, Human Protein Atlas, och google earth. Konstnären David Molander jobbar ofta just med collage där han ombearbetar materialet till helt nya bilder. Bland detaljerna kan man se avbildningar av livets uppkomst på jorden,  hjärnröntgen, mikroskopiska illustrationer av celler, vulkanska system, riktiga och påhittade djur, numeriska ekvationer, den så kallade ödlekvinnan. I en av delarna har konstnären använt utraderade porträtt av kända botaniker som ersatts av  speglar så att betraktaren själv tar deras plats i skapelsens krona. Du är välkommen att gå in och titta på verket i byggnaden på Solnavägen 3 som är öppet under kontorstid.

En film som visar verkets tillblivelse kan ses här.

Zoombar bild av verket kan ses här.  

Text och bild: David Molander


Hagströmer fellowship in the history of medicine and/or related sciences

The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library of Karolinska Institutet and the Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation are now accepting applications for the 2023 Hagströmer Fellowship.

The fellowship provides a postdoctoral or senior researcher in the field of history of medicine and/or related sciences (early modern to twentieth-century) with financial support to explore the Hagströmer Library’s collections. The library contains Sweden’s largest collections in the history of medicine and related sciences, including more than 100 000 monographs published between c. 1480 and 2000, extensive manuscript collections and c. 1300 medical and scientific journals. The fellowship also provides opportunity to participate in the vibrant history of science and medicine community of the Stockholm-Uppsala region.

The Hagströmer Fellowship is a residential fellowship (2-6 months) which supports a scholar who will travel to Stockholm to conduct research in the library's collections during 2023.
A sum of SEK 100 000 from The Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation will be made available to cover accommodation, travel, cost of living in Stockholm, and additional insurance, if needed.

Visiting scholar status at the Hagströmer library grants a workplace/ personal desk at the Hagströmer Library and access to collections (Mondays to Thursdays) for the duration of the stay. Affiliation status at KI grants an email address and use of library resources at Karolinska Institutet Library (KIB), including full access to scholarly databases and journals in medical sciences. Additional affiliation with partnering departments or research centers at Stockholm or Uppsala university can be arranged.

The Hagströmer library expects the Fellow to spend a minimum of two months in Stockholm, to present their work at a public lecture at the library, to use the Hagströmer Library as their primary place of work, to engage with our collections and to write a shorter popular text about their work at the library.

Application procedure
The call is open between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31, 2022 and should be sent by mail to the Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation (please label your email ‘The Hagströmer Fellowship’). The application should be in pdf format and must include the following documents in the following order.

A two-page description of yourself and your research as well as a brief outline of which collections you intend to use at the Hagströmer library, and how you intend to make use of your studies of the collections in your research. Also state the duration of your visit in Stockholm and your planned date of arrival.
A separate page with your full name and address. This page must also include the names and contact details of two references (references will only be taken on final candidates).
A CV of no more than three pages outlining your major academic and other relevant accomplishments and publications.
A copy of your PhD-certificate/highest formal academic degree.
The Fellow will receive a personal notification and the decision will be announced on the webpage of the Hagströmer Library Nov. 30, 2022;

The Hagströmer Library is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive research environment and encourages members of any groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in academia to apply for fellowship support.

Please share this announcement with anyone who might be interested in the library’s fellowship program. All application materials are due no later than October 31, 2022. For further information about the library visit our website (here) or e-mail


Välkommen till ett nytt läsår med Hagströmerbiblioteket!

Höstterminen har rivstartat med många bokade visningar och forskarbesök. Nu drar vi också igång våra populära föredragskvällar i HBV:s regi. Först ut blir årets Hagströmer Fellow, fil. dr. Raissa Bombini, som redan den 24:e augusti kommer att hålla föredraget Precious stones in late medieval and early modern plague medicine.

Konstens år på Hagströmerbiblioteket fortsätter. Till och med den 30 september visas konstnären Jenny Åkerlunds utställning Vitreous bodies. Den kommer att följas av en utställning av Ida Rödén om den fiktiva Linnélärjungen Jonas Falck. Missa inte vernissagen!

Den 22-25 september kommer Hagströmerbiblioteket och vår vänförening att delta i Bokmässan i Göteborg. Vi är en del av Forskartorget, som är Bokmässans största populärvetenskapliga scen. Undertecknad och förstebibliotekarie Eva Nyström kommer även att hålla föredrag om Hagströmerbibliotekets Linnémanuskript. Tingshuset håller stängt under denna vecka, men möt oss gärna i Göteborg!   

Även bakom kulisserna händer det intressanta saker. Vi har renoverat plan 4 i Tingshuset, och kommer förhoppningsvis snart att kunna erbjuda större grupper att ha möten hos oss, och kommer kanske även kunna stå som värdar för mindre konferenser. En annan nyhet är att Karolinska Institutets Bibliotek under våren lämnade över sina sista historiska samlingar till oss och till KI:s arkivenhet. Därmed är den arbetsdelning mellan oss och KIB som började med vårt grundande år 1997 äntligen helt fullbordad.

Väl mött på Hagströmerbiblioteket!

Hjalmar Fors

PS: missa inte Skrik från förr, på SVT, där David Lagercrantz programleder en dokumentärserie om historiska mord. Delar av serien spelades in på Hagströmerbiblioteket i våras.

Photo: Greger Hatt


Välkommen till föredrag!

Precious stones in late medieval and early modern plague medicine
Within a short time of the Black Death arriving in Italian ports, in 1347, it spread across the European continent with unprecedented mortality, leaving a trail of desolation. As a response to this scenario, from the very early months of the epidemic, treatises on the disease began to appear in centres of medicine, such as Paris and Montpellier. The treatises aimed to explain the aetiology of the disease, hitherto unknown, to propose prophylactic practices and possible treatment, with phlebotomy and the use of medicines. As part of the suggested remedies, precious stones such as emerald and sapphire were mentioned repeatedly, not without logic to their use, which was based on the versatility and the polysemy of gems, in association with their magico-medical and symbolic-religious qualities.  In the following centuries, gemstones continued to be mentioned in plague treatises, although with a different logic apparatus. This lecture will approach the use of gemstones and other minerals as plague remedies and amulets during the late Middle Ages and early Modern times, as part of the prevention and cure regimes of medical treatises, and the changing logic behind their use.

Raissa Bombini is a Visiting Scholar at Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, Karolinska Institutet, and at the Department of History of University of Stockholm, Sweden, having received the Hagströmer Scholarship 2021 from The Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation. Raissa has a PhD in History of Science from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. She is currently Associate Editor of the Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science and a member of the Center Simão Mathias for Studies in History of Science

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
OBS! The lecture will be given in English
Anmälan emotses före 22 AUGUSTI
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr

Image from: Gart der Gesuntheit zu Latein Hortus sanitatis (Strassbourg, Matthias Apiarius, 1536) - Hagströmer Library


Glad midsommar!

Tack alla vänner och besökare för ett fint år!
Bibliotekets läsesal är stängd från 27 juni - 16 augusti. 
Väl mött till hösten!


New exhibition at the library - opening 31 May!

Jenny Åkerlund (b. 1984) holds an MFA from Malmö Art Academy. Her work has, among other places, been exhibited at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Goya Curtain, Tokyo, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Pantin, Galleri Tom Christoffersen, Copenhagen, Galerie Jeanroch Dard, Paris and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.

The exhibition shows a rich selection of works from the Hagströmer Library’s collection of books in ophthalmology and related subjects. Among other things, Georg Bartisch’s Ophthalmodouleia from the year 1583 is presented, which is illustrated with hand-coloured woodcuts which depict various treatment methods for curing eye diseases. Other works consist of some of the 17th and 18th century’s most fascinating microscopy books, including Robert Hooke´s influential Micrographia from 1665 and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s Epistolae ad societatum regiam anglicam from 1719. Some of the most magnificent ophthalmological atlases of the 19th century are also on display, including Hermann von Helmholtz’s Beschreibung eines Augen-Spiegels zur Untersuchung der Netzhaut im lebenden Auge from 1851, whose images are produced using an ophthalmoscope, Helmholtz’s groundbreaking invention from the same year. With the ophthalmoscope, he was able to study the anatomy of the eye on living patients for the first time. Among the more modern works in the exhibition are some writings by Allvar Gullstrand, who in 1911 became Sweden’s first Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine. The exhibition also shows a number of borrowed objects from the Museum of Medical History in Uppsala and the Museum of Medical History in Stockholm, including unique wax models made at La Specola in Florence and donated to KI in 1825. Curator: Anna Lantz, Hagströmer Library, Karolinska Institutet.

TUESDAY 31 MAY 2022, 17.30 – 19.30
Hagströmer Library Haga Tingshus
Bus 515 (Odenplan) stop Haga Södra

The exhibition will be presented by the artist Jenny Åkerlund together with curator Anna Lantz.

RSVP by May 28 to 08-524 86012

Vitreous bodies - Hagströmer Library 31 May – 30 September 2022


Varmt välkommen till föredrag!

Precious stones in late medieval and early modern plague medicine
Within a short time of the Black Death arriving in Italian ports, in 1347, it spread across the European continent with unprecedented mortality, leaving a trail of desolation. As a response to this scenario, from the very early months of the epidemic, treatises on the disease began to appear in centres of medicine, such as Paris and Montpellier. The treatises aimed to explain the aetiology of the disease, hitherto unknown, to propose prophylactic practices and possible treatment, with phlebotomy and the use of medicines. As part of the suggested remedies, precious stones such as emerald and sapphire were mentioned repeatedly, not without logic to their use, which was based on the versatility and the polysemy of gems, in association with their magico-medical and symbolic-religious qualities.  In the following centuries, gemstones continued to be mentioned in plague treatises, although with a different logic apparatus. This lecture will approach the use of gemstones and other minerals as plague remedies and amulets during the late Middle Ages and early Modern times, as part of the prevention and cure regimes of medical treatises, and the changing logic behind their use.

Raissa Bombini is a Visiting Scholar at Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, Karolinska Institutet, and at the Department of History of University of Stockholm, Sweden, having received the Hagströmer Scholarship 2021 from The Catarina and Sven Hagströmer Foundation. Raissa has a PhD in History of Science from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. She is currently Associate Editor of the Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science and a member of the Center Simão Mathias for Studies in History of Science

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
OBS! The lecture will be given in English
Anmälan emotses före 25 maj
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr

Image from: Gart der Gesuntheit zu Latein Hortus sanitatis (Strassbourg, Matthias Apiarius, 1536) - Hagströmer Library


Linneana! Linné och 1700-talet i arkiven och praktiken

Ett tvådagarssymposium i Orangeriet, Linnéträdgården, Uppsala 19–20 maj 2022

1700-talet har lämnat många spår, men hur ska man närma sig dem för att förstå dess värld, dess smaker, dofter, erfarenheter och sätt att resonera? I detta tvådagars­symposium tar vi vår utgångspunkt i de materiella spåren efter Carl von Linné och hans krets. Genom linneanska manuskript om medicin, botanik, moral och resande närmar vi oss 1700-talet ur olika vinklar, och utforskar det förflutna genom alla sinnen; visuellt, kroppsligt och sensoriskt.

Symposiet är kostnadsfritt – kaffe inkluderat men lunch på egen hand.

Anmälan görs till  Ange om du skall delta båda dagarna eller endast dag 1 eller dag 2. Ange även om du har allergier eller särskilda kostbehov. Observera att deltagarantalet är begränsat. Anmäl er tidigt, för att försäkra er om plats!

Ett samarbete mellan:

Inst. för idé- och lärdomshistoria, Uppsala universitet, och Medicinens historia och kulturarv / Hagströmerbiblioteket, Karolinska Institutet.

Dag 1. Materiella spår:  Linné i bibliotek och arkiv

TORSDAG 19 maj, kl. 09.00–15.00

09.00–09.15      Registrering

09.15–09.30      Hjalmar Fors (Karolinska Institutet), Välkomstanförande Kulturarv som text och praktik.

09.30–10.00      Eva B. Nyström (Karolinska Institutet), Linnés Systema naturae i manuskript och tryck.

10.00–10.30       Nils Uddenberg, Att systematisera sjukdom: Pehr Osbecks föreläsningsanteckningar över Systema morborum.

10.30–10.45      Fikapaus

10.45–11.15         Emma Hagström-Molin (Uppsala universitet), Proveniens och historiografi i svensk medicinhistoria.

11.15–11.45          Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Cambridge), ”Renerna kiäns som då de går ville": Carl Linnaeus's draft index to                              Iter Lapponicum (1732–1735).

11.45–13.15        Lunch

13.15–13.45        Isabelle Charmantier (Linnean Society, London), The Linnaean Collections at the Linnean Society of London.

13.45–14.15        Helena Backman (Uppsala universitet), Utblick: Linneanska samlingar på UUB och annorstädes.

14.15–14.25       Bensträckare

14.25–15.00       Avslutande diskussion (ordf. Hjalmar Fors).

Dag 2. Materiella praktiker:  Identitet och återskapande

FREDAG 20 maj, kl. 09.30–16.30

09.30–10.00       Hanna Hodacs (Uppsala universitet), Introduktion och välkomstanförande.

10.00–10.30        Kristiina Savin (Lunds universitet), Religion och moral i Linnés Nemesis divina.

10.30–11.15          Hanna Hodacs (Uppsala universitet), Kaffe- och tesurrogat under 1700-talet: Avsmakningssession.

11.15–11.45           Eva C. Nyström, Johann Bartsch: Medarbetare och vän till Linné i Nederländerna.

11.45–13.15          Lunch

13.15–13.45           Linda Andersson Burnett (Uppsala universitet), Breven mellan Daniel Solander och Carl von Linné i global och                                   kolonial kontext.  

13.45–14.30         Nils-Otto Ahnfelt (Uppsala universitet) och Hjalmar Fors (Karolinska Institutet), Doft och smak hos 1700-talets                                     läkemedel: Avsmakningssession.

14.30–15.15         Anna Svensson (Uppsala universitet), Färgväxter.

15.15–16.00         Annika Windahl Pontén (Uppsala universitet; med stöd av Roger Tallroth och Cajsa Ekstav), Beständigt menuett och                            polska: Dansförevisning med prova-på session.

16.00–16.30         Avslutande diskussion (ordf. Hanna Hodacs).




Om sporavtryck och förgätmigej - en botanisering i Johan Salbergs bok- och handskriftsamlingar

Hagströmerbiblioteket besitter en omfattande samling material donerat av provinsialläkaren Johan Salberg (1741 - 1810), bestående av över 200 böcker från hans stora bibliotek och en hel del egna handskrifter. Dessa täcker ett helt liv av läsning, anteckningar och samlande, från hans första inköp och föreläsningsanteckningar under Linné som student i Uppsala till de administrativa och ekonomiska bördorna för en provinsialläkare och gymnasielektor i det då perifera Härnösand. Av det mycket spännande som finns att lyfta fram i detta rika material fokuserar denna föreläsning på det botaniska materialet i hans samlingar.

Anna Svensson är forskare vid Institutionen för idé- och lärdomshistoria vid Uppsala universitet, där hon nyss påbörjat projektet "Botaniska marginalia: Pressade växter i böcker som en nyckel till en nytolkning av botanikens historia" (Vetenskapsrådet). Hon disputerade 2017 på Avdelningen för historiska studier av teknik, vetenskap och miljö, KTH.

ONSDAG 30 MARS 2022 kl. 18.00
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra
Email: – Telefon: 070 555 27 36

Förfriskningar serveras 
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Welcome to a free guided tour of our exhibition

Dürer to Daumier: Artists of science in the collections of the Hagströmer Library
The Hagströmer Library is Sweden’s premier medical and scientific rare books library. Many important artists are represented in its collections. Some, like Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528) and Honoré Daumier (1808 – 1879), are world famous and often featured in books and museum exhibitions. Others are now largely forgotten, known mainly to scholars and collectors.

This exhibition highlights the work these important artists did on medical and scientific themes, demonstrating the many printing techniques—woodcut, copperplate engraving, and lithography—they and their collaborators used in the making and reproduction of images, each with its own advantages and uses.

Curator: Anna Lantz

Max 25 persons/ tour
Advance registration only:, 08- 524 868 28
The tour will be held in English

THURSDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2022 kl. 17.00-18.30
Location: Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Bus 515 (Odenplan); Stop Haga Södra

Photo: Greger Hatt


Anatomical images become art in the Berzelius Laboratory - Anatomiska bilder blir till konst i Berzeliuslaboratoriet

The Hagströmer Library provides the art on display in the Department of Neuroscience's newly renovated premises on the 6th floor of the Berzelius Laboratory. The theme is classical anatomy and early microanatomy (histology). Beautiful and striking images from works by Andreas Vesalius, Camillo Golgi, Ramon y Cajal, Paolo Mascagni and other historical researchers are what meet visitors and students. The selection was made by Professor Björn Meister in collaboration with the Hagströmer Library, which was also responsible for reproduction and framing.

The Department of Neuroscience is responsible for teaching anatomy, histology and neuroscience in several educational programs at Karolinska Institutet. Every year, more than 2,000 students pass through the department, and many others use or pass through the premises. We have received a very positive response from staff, visitors, and students, says Björn. You can often see people stopping in the corridor to look at different images. All images are illustrations from scientific books, and they are not only in the corridor but also in the teaching rooms and in the room for tutors, ie. students who have completed the course in anatomy with good results and who work as teachers in anatomy. Each semester, 40 students are offered to become tutors in anatomy. It is very popular among students to work as teachers in order to deepen their knowledge of anatomy. We often get double the number of applicants, says Björn.

Hagströmerbiblioteket står för konsten vid undervisningsavdelningen i institutionen för neurovetenskaps nyrenoverade lokaler på plan 6 i Berzeliuslaboratoriet. Temat är klassisk anatomi och tidig mikroanatomi (histologi). Vackra och slående bilder ur verk av Andreas Vesalius, Camillo Golgi, Ramon y Cajal, Paolo Mascagni och andra historiska forskare är det som möter besökare och studenter. Urvalet har gjorts av professor Björn Meister i samarbete med Hagströmerbiblioteket, som också stått för reproduktion och inramning.

Institutionen för neurovetenskap är ansvarig för undervisning i anatomi, histologi och neurovetenskap inom flera utbildningsprogram vid Karolinska Institutet där studenter från läkarprogrammet och ämnet anatomi dominerar. Fler än 2.000 studenter passerar varje år institutionens undervisningsorganisation och det är stundtals mycket folk som rör sig i lokalerna. Vi har fått väldigt positiv respons från personal, besökare och studenter, berättar Björn. Man kan ofta se personer stanna upp i korridoren för att betrakta olika bilder. Samtliga bilder är illustrationer ur vetenskapliga böcker och de finns förutom i korridoren även i kursexpeditionen och i rummet för tutorer, dvs. studenter som genomgått kursen i anatomi med bra resultat och som verkar som lärare i anatomi. Varje termin erbjuds 40 studenter att bli tutor i anatomi. Det är mycket populärt bland studenter att verka som lärare och fördjupa sina kunskaper i anatomi. Vi får ofta det dubbla antalet sökande, säger Björn.

Text: Hjalmar Fors, 28 January 2022


Season´s Greetings and Best Wishes for the New Year from the Hagströmer Library!

This lady is an anatomical manikin made from ivory, and she is pregnant. Made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there exists about 180 of these manikins in museums, libraries, and private collections. Their exact function is unknown, but they clearly provided anatomical instruction. They often came in pairs, one female and one male, and it is quite likely that they were used to give instructions to newlyweds of the upper echelons of society. Ours was probably made by the Nuremberg ivory turner Stephan Zick (1639-1715). Perhaps she was made to be a wedding gift, or to be used by midwives to teach women about their bodies? She was handed over to us for safekeeping by the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Karolinska Institutet earlier this December. We do not know when she arrived at KI but judging from the age of the repurposed instrument box in which she came, she may have been with us a hundred years or so.

Do not forget to keep an eye out for events and exhibitions in Haga Tingshus and online during 2022! And if you have not already: please visit our temporary exhibit Dürer to Daumier: Artists of science in the collections of the Hagströmer Library.

Welcome back in 2022!


Välkommen till föredrag!

Släktträd används idag rutinmässigt för att modellera och visualisera evolutionär utveckling, särskilt inom biologi och lingvistik. Men så har det inte alltid varit. I detta föredrag tecknas släktträdens historia inom de moderna vetenskaperna. Fokus ligger på modellens tidiga användande i Frankrike omkring år 1800, alltså kort efter det feodala arvssamhällets avskaffande. Det var inte förrän genealogin avskaffades som princip för samhällsordningen, som vetenskapsmän började upptäcka genealogin som princip för naturens ordning.

Petter Hellström är vetenskapshistoriker och universitetslektor vid Institutionen för pedagogik, didaktik och utbildningsstudier, Uppsala universitet. Han disputerade 2019 på avhandlingen Trees of Knowledge: Science in the Shape of Genealogy.

TISDAG 14 DECEMBER 2021 kl. 18.00
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra.
Email: – Telefon: 070 555 27 36

Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Välkommen till visning!

Många framstående konstnärer är representerade i Hagströmerbibliotekets samlingar. Några, som Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528) och Honoré Daumier (1808 – 1879) är berömda världen över och förekommer ofta på utställningar och i böcker. Andra är nu i stort sett bortglömda och främst kända för forskare och samlare. Utställningen handlar om några av dessa konstnärer och deras verk, och de grafiska tekniker som de använde vid framställning och reproduktion av bilder, var och en med sina egna fördelar och användningsom- råden.

Curator: Anna Lantz

Endast guidade visningar!
ONSDAG 1 DEC. KL. 18-19.30, max 20 pers. 
ONSDAG 2 FEB. KL. 18-19.30, max 20 pers. 
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan); Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan till:, 08- 524 868 28
Kostnad: 100 kr, kontant eller kort.

Vill Du boka en egen visning för Dig och Ditt sällskap? Kontakta:, 08- 524 868 28.


Välkommen till föredrag!

Många framstående konstnärer är representerade i Hagströmerbibliotekets samlingar. Några, som Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528) och Honoré Daumier (1808 – 1879) är berömda världen över och förekommer ofta på utställningar och i böcker. Andra är nu i stort sett bortglömda och främst kända för forskare och samlare. Föredraget handlar om några av dessa konstnärer och de grafiska tekniker som de använde vid framställning och reproduktion av bilder, var och en med sina egna fördelar och användningsområden. Föredraget baseras på utställningen ”Dürer to Daumier. Artists of science in the collections of the Hagströmer Library” som hade vernissage på biblioteket i oktober, curator Anna Lantz.

Anna Lantz, konstvetare och bokhistoriker arbetar som curator på Hagströmerbiblioteket.

TORSDAG 11 NOVEMBER 2021 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan); Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före fredag 5 november
Email:; Telefon; 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr, icke medlemmar 180 kr


Vetenskap och vård: Karolinska sjukhuset 1940 – 2018

Karolinska sjukhuset öppnade sina dörrar den 28 september 1940, och var då ett toppmodernt skrytbygge av sällan skådat slag. Dess uppdrag var tredelat: här skulle forskning, vård och undervisning av högsta kvalitet bedrivas fram till att verksamheten flyttade till NKS 2018. I föredraget presenteras den nyutkomna boken om KS historia samt det samarbete som låg till grund för projektet. 

Helena Ek är idéhistoriker med inriktning på medicinhistoria. Hon disputerade vid Stockholms universitet 2017 på en avhandling om 1800-talets psykiatriska praktik i Sverige.  

ONSDAG 13 OKTOBER  2021 kl. 18.00

OBS! via Zoom, länk mailas efter anmälan

Anmälan emotses före måndag 11 oktober

Email:  Telefon; 070 555 27 36



Ett år har gått sedan det sist var sommar, och vi har verkligen saknat vår viktigaste resurs: våra besökare och vänner! Men till hösten hoppas vi kunna öppna för visningar igen. Den 25/8 öppnar läsesalen, och vi kommer även att fortsätta erbjuda digitala visningar och hybridvisningar (alltså när en del av besökarna är på plats, och en del finns med på videolänk). Fler filmer för KI:s youtubekanal är också på gång, liksom webbutställningar. Vi hoppas också kunna återuppta våra populära föreläsningar i Hagströmerbibliotekets Vänners regi.

Ser man tillbaka på läsåret 2020/21 har fokus varit på katalogisering, digitalisering, städning och gallring. I den nationella databasen Libris hade vi förut cirka 500 poster, men har nu 6299. Där finns nu all referenslitteratur från de senaste 30 åren, viktiga delsamlingar (Linné, Scheele, Berzelius mm) och många sällsynta böcker som inte finns på andra svenska bibliotek. Under året har vi också kommit igång med att publicera material i Alvin, en plattform för digitala samlingar och digitaliserat kulturarv. Ett särskilt fokus har varit texter av och kring Carl von Linné. I samband med inventering av materialet har vi med viss förvåning kunnat konstatera att HB har en av världens största samlingar med manuskript kopplade till Linné och Linneanerna. Endast, Uppsala Universitet, Linnaean Society i London och möjligen även K. Svenska Vetenskapsakademien har större samlingar. Vilka samlingar som är mest intressanta är något vi får tvista om. I Alvin har vi även publicerat medicinhistoriska museet Eugenias bildsamling av svenska sjukhus och mer är på gång, bland annat KI:s porträttsamling.

Läsåret 2021/22 blir konstens år på Hagströmerbiblioteket. 1/9 har vi vernissage för en ny utställning med arbetsnamnet Dürer till Daumier:  Vetenskapens konstnärer i Hagströmerbibliotekets samlingar Den är skapad av vår kurator Anna Lantz och visar illustrationer i böcker och grafiska blad ur bibliotekets egna samlingar. Senare under vintern presenterar vi två utställningar i samarbete med konstnärerna Jenny Åkerlund och Ida Rödén. Åkerlunds verk av glas och papper baseras på teman som optik och oftalmologi. Rödéns arbeten kretsar kring den fiktive Linnélärjungen Jonas Falck.

Ha en riktigt skön sommar, och väl mött på Hagströmerbiblioteket i höst!

Hjalmar Fors


Anna Maria Vaiani

These beautiful engravings were done by Anna Maria Vaiani (ca 1604-1655), one of only a few known women artists represented in the Hagströmer Library collections. She was an Italian printmaker, flower painter, and miniaturist from Florence. The images are from the first printed treatise on floriculture, Flora overo cultura di fiori written by Giovanni Battista Ferrari (1584–1655) and printed in Rome 1638. It is a rare and interesting book, with illustrations depicting some of the rare and exotic flowers in the luxurious Barberini gardens on the Quirinale in Rome.

Text and photo: Anna Lantz


Papers holding the world together - A conference on the written heritage of Carl Linnaeus and the Linneans, May 11, 2021

Works by, and about Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) and the Linneans form an important subset of the Hagströmer library collections. Linnaeus was by profession a medical doctor and this was also true for many of his close friends, collaborators, and students. As time passed a great number of documents and books with Linnean provenance ended up in the two major medical libraries of Stockholm, the library of Karolinska Institutet, and the library of the Swedish Society of Medicine.  It is these two libraries that form the core of the Hagströmer. Despite of their importance, these collections are largely unknown to most historians of natural history and medicine. They are, indeed, even rarely accessed by scholars of Linnaeus.

On May 11, 2021 a zoom conference was hosted by the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library of Karolinska Institutet,. Organized by Hjalmar Fors and Eva B. Nyström, the conference invited a group of prominent scholars to discuss Linnean manuscripts and printed works extant in the Hagströmer collections.



1300-1315 Hjalmar Fors, Introduction: The Linnaean written heritage and the collections of the Hagströmer Library.

1315-1335 Linda Andersson Burnett, The letters between Daniel Solander and Carl Linnaeus in global and colonial context. Commentators: Hjalmar Fors and Eva B. Nyström.

1335-1355 Emma Hagström-Molin, Provenance and Validity in the Hagströmer Library. Commentators: Linda Andersson-Burnett and Annika Windahl-Pontén.

1355-1410 Pause

1410-1430 Eva C. Nyström, Johann Bartsch. Co-worker, proofreader and friend to Linnaeus during his stay in the Netherlands. Commentators: Nils Uddenberg and Eva B. Nyström.

1430-1450 Anna Svensson, A sketch of Johan Salberg through his bibliographical collections and practices. Commentators: Nils Uddenberg and Eva B. Nyström.

1450-1505 Pause

1515-1535 Staffan Müller-Wille, From travel diary to species catalogue: How Linnaeus came to see Lapland.  Commentators: Hjalmar Fors och Eva B. Nyström.

1525-1545 Annika Windahl-Pontén, Custom is a second nature: A theme in lecture notes on Linnaeus’s dietetics. Commentators: Linda Andersson-Burnett and Eva C. Nyström.

1545-1600 Pause

1600-1620 Hanna Hodacs, Surrogate tea versus plant transfer: negotiating taste, nature and medicine in the 1740s. Commentators: Anna Svensson and Emma Hagström-Molin.

1620-1640 Eva B. Nyström, Linnaeus´ Systema naturae in manuscript and print. Commentators: Emma Hagström-Molin, Anna Svensson and Staffan Muller-Wille.

1640-1730 General discussion. Chair: Hjalmar Fors

Photo: Letter from Carl Linnaeus to Abraham Bäck, 13 November 1761 (KIB MS 27:119).


Välkommen till föredrag!

Karl XI:s död var en i en serie katastrofer som inträffade i det svenska riket 1697. Landet var drabbat av en stor svältkatastrof och strax efter kungens död brann Tre kronor ner. Föredraget diskuterar hur människor i samtiden tolkade kungens kropp, hans sjukdom och död i förhållande till dessa kriser. Vad som blir tydligt är att kungens kropp, just för att den var kunglig, hade mycket att säga inte bara om hans individuella vandel, utan också om folkets moraliska status och hur enväldet egentligen fungerade.

Karin Sennefelt är professor i historia vid Stockholms universitet och arbetar för närvarande på ett forskningsprojekt om kroppens betydelse i luthersk kultur under 1600-talet.

Vänligen notera att föredraget sker via Zoom.
Vid frågor vänligen kontakta Anna Lantz 070-555 2736

För att följa föredraget via Zoom klicka här! 


Art at the Hagströmer Library 2021!

Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden and Honoré Daumier are just some of the world-famous artists whose works are included in the Hagströmer Library's collections. Our collections have also inspired prominent contemporary artists such as Ulla Wiggen, Helene Schmitz, Nikolina Ställborn, Uriel Orlow and David Molander.

In 2021, the Hagströmer Library will focus on art and artists. Beginning in the spring with an exhibition of illustrations in books and prints within the library's own collections, featuring some of art history's most famous figures, created by our curator Anna Lantz.

During the autumn, we present new exhibitions in collaboration with two female artists: Jenny Åkerlund and Ida Rödén. Åkerlund's works of glass and paper are based on themes such as optics and ophthalmology. Rödén's work revolves around the fictional Linnaeus disciple Jonas Falck.

Keep an eye out for events and exhibitions in Haga Tingshus and online during the year!
Follow us on our blog and on YouTube.

Konst på Hagströmerbiblioteket 2021!

Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden och Honoré Daumier är bara några av de världsberömda konstnärer vars verk ingår i Hagströmerbibliotekets samlingar. Våra samlingar har också inspirerat framstående samtida konstnärer som Ulla Wiggen, Helene Schmitz, Nikolina Ställborn, Uriel Orlow och David Molander..

2021 riktar Hagströmerbiblioteket fokus på konsten och konstnärerna. Vi inleder under våren med en utställning som visar illustrationer i böcker och grafiska blad ur bibliotekets egna samlingar, av några av konsthistoriens mest kända gestalter, skapad av vår curator Anna Lantz.

Under hösten presenterar vi nya utställningar i samarbete med två kvinnliga konstnärer: Jenny Åkerlund och Ida Rödén. Åkerlunds verk av glas och papper baseras på teman som optik och oftalmologi. Rödéns arbeten kretsar kring den fiktive Linnélärjungen Jonas Falck..

Håll utkik efter evenemang och utställningar i Haga Tingshus och online under året!
Följ oss i vår blogg och på KI:s YouTubekanal.


God Jul och Gott Nytt År!

Season´s Greetings and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Snow Crystals. Lionel S. Beale, How to work with the microscope (London 1868). Hagströmer Library, Karolinska Institutet.


What do armadillos and squirrels have in common?

Over the past year, we have learned of the possible consequences of eating or having close contact with exotic animals like pangolins and bats. New viruses and bacteria can develop and spread at food markets when animals and meat are handled carelessly. Leprosy is a specific infectious disease that is often thought to be a thing of the past, but mycobacterium leprosa is a bacteria that still exists in many countries and that spreads through both zoonotic and anthroponitic processes (i.e. from animals to humans or vice versa). What is less well-known is that, apart from certain species of ape, armadillos and squirrels also carry the bacteria and become sick. If you want to read more about leprosy, I refer you to my blog entry of 4 May 2016.

The armadillo – certainly not man’s best friend

You could say that the leprosy bacteria has found the perfect host in the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus). The animal has a long lifespan, a low body temperature and lives close to human habitation. While it is not found in Europe, it is common in Central and South America. Scientists believe that humans once infected the animal and now it is returning the infection through a variety of routes. These animals are used as pets (for racing) but can also end up on barbecues due to their tasty meat after having been shot and run over. They are nocturnal and in the USA are called “Mexican road-bumps”. The infection risk has been known about since the 1970s, although it seems no one quite realised just how common it is for people to be infected. When the spread of the disease and the habitation of the animal were compared, there was a considerable geographical overlap in the graphs. Awareness has risen in recent years.

Social worker José Ramirez lives and works in Mexico and has written a book about the many years of suffering he endured after contracting leprosy, an unlikely diagnosis that was not established until the end of the 1960s – 7 years after onset. From that point on he spent many years at Carville leprosy hospital, which was effectively a leper colony. The doctors there were sceptical about his having leprosy since he had not travelled to the countries where the disease was endemic. The most likely disease vector was an armadillo. Different medicines were still being tested at this time, and powerful painkillers often had severe side-effects. One such that made it into production was the drug Thalidomide, which led to serious birth defects when taken by pregnant women. The treatment has improved over the years, but driving the bacteria from the body was once a long and arduous process, which, for the unlucky, caused severe harm before taking effect. This is still the case in many developing countries, where sufferers can sustain damage to the nerves, skin and, eventually, the bone. These days, combination preparations are used involving different types of antibiotics to achieve greater efficacy and avoid resistance. After many years of treatment José Ramirez recovered largely unscathed, since which time he has devoted his professional life to informing people about leprosy and supporting sufferers.

Professor Stewart Cole has worked at Institut Pasteur for many years and in 2007 was made  professor and director of the international health and research body Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. As some of the leading leprosy researchers of today, he and his team have used advanced DNA techniques and molecular-biological research to map the bacteria and categorise 154 strains from around the world.

The poor red squirrel

A few years ago, National Trust researchers in the UK found that the population of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) on the British Isles have leprosy. After researching its genome, they concluded that it is a mediaeval variant of the bacteria that produces similar symptoms as those seen in humans: lumps, growths, patchy skin, etc. The squirrels lose the tufts of hair on their ears. Since squirrels were used for food (their meat is said to resemble chicken) and for their fur, there was once much more contact between us and them. Today, however, the species is protected and almost extinct, which is also a consequence of having been out-competed by the invasive North American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). It is no longer common for squirrels to infect humans.

The beneficence of J.E.Welhaven

For his entire working life at St Jörgen’s leprosy hospital in Bergen, priest Johan Ernst Welhaven (1775 - 1828) did his best to care and make life easier for the seriously ill patients there. Apart from curing their souls, the much beloved priest collected clothes, food and medicine, which he distributed to the sick. This gave him good insight into healthcare and enabled him to get to know the patients, about whom he also made careful notes. It is not inconceivable that life-long hospitalisation awaited the incurably sick, who often lived for a fairly long time. Many of these hospitals also served as poor houses and medical institutions for the multimorbid and elderly. In the Middle Ages, Landskrona once boasted such a hospital – effectively a Swedish House of the Holy Spirit (a kind of hospital prevalent in mediaeval Europe) – but towards the end it mostly took care of other patients than those with leprosy. The Hagströmer Library holds a book containing unique hand-coloured drawings of 32 patients from the leprosy hospital in Bergen, probably drawn by Welhaven himself.

Readers interested in interdisciplinary subjects concerning veterinary versus human medicine and medical history can find out more in the anthology Humanimalt, published in 2020. This is one of a series of three books from Exempla publishers, the others being Främmande Nära and InomUtom, which are due for publication next spring and autumn respectively.

Ann Gustavsson, 15 October 2020

Armadillo. From Willem Piso & Georg Marggraf & Johannes De Laet: Historia naturalis Brasiliae. Leiden & Amsterdam (1648). Hagströmer Library.
Drawings of patients. From Johan Ernst Welhaven: Beskrifning öfver de spetälske i S:t Jörgens hospital i staden Bergen i Norrige (1816). Hagströmer Library.

Avanzi, Charlotte (2016) Red squirrels in the British Isles are infected with leprosy bacilli, Science 11/11.
Avanzi, Charlotte (2018) Genomics: a Swiss army knife to fight leprosy. Thèse No 8482. Lausanne: La faculté de sciences de la vie.
Gustavsson, Ann (2005 - 2006). Landskrona hospital. Leprahospital eller fattighus? Master’s dissertation in osteoarchaeology, Stockholm University.
Ramirez, José P. (2009) Squint. My Journey with Leprosy. Mississippi: The University Press of Mississippi.

Learn more: Professor Stewart Cole giving a talk, listen here!

Ann Gustavsson is an archivist/curator at Karolinska Institutet’s Medical History and Heritage Unit. She has a master’s degree in archaeology and another in osteoarcheology. With a background in cultural studies, she went on to read ancient history and archival science. Her speciality is pathological lesions in bone. Ms Gustavsson is currently inventorying, analysing and digitizing Karolinska Institutet’s anatomical skull collection.

Translation: Neil Betteridge



Hagströmer Library's catalogue online. From Autumn 2020, our catalogue is available via the Hagströmer Library's website, where you will also find our virtual book museum. Please visit our catalogue and virtual museum here!

Mini tours of the Hagströmer Library on KI's youtube channel. View our mini tours by clicking here and then on the playlist Karolinska Institutet Medical History and Heritage. Or search for ‘Hagströmer Library’ on Youtube.

Library tours via video link. From Autumn 2020, we offer library tours via video link (zoom or teams). The price for this is the same as for regular viewings.

Responses to our live online tours:
"We have received a completely positive response to the tour of the Hagströmer"
Charlotta Forss, organizer of the workshop Health and Society in Early Modern Europe, Stockholm University, June 10, 2020.

Love it! "It's like a Dogma movie."
Participant of tour for the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, October 5, 2020.


After being closed during the spring, the Hagströmer Library has opened for certain public activities during the autumn of 2020, of course observing the prevailing infection control recommendations. We offer face masks, disposable gloves and hand sanitizer to all visitors. All bookings are made via:

Library viewings in Tingshuset. During the autumn, we accept a limited number of pre-booked groups of up to a maximum of 10 people. Contact us for information.

Reading room opening hours. During the autumn of 2020, the reading room is only open for pre-arranged visits. We want to advise that we may have to say no to visitors on occasion as the space in the reading room is limited.

Booking of conference rooms in Haga Tingshus. Groups from Karolinska Institutet can, as usual, book floor 4 for workshops or mini-conferences to the extent that we have staff who can receive and see out. However, the number of participants is limited to 10 because there are limitiations in the house that make it impossible for larger groups to keep sufficient distances.

Exhibitions in the Library. This spring's standing exhibition with rare books in botany, pharmacy art and surgery selected by Ove Hagelin will remain during the autumn.

Lectures and Presentations. No public lectures will be held in Haga Tingshus during Autumn 2020.


Summer greetings from Hagströmerbiblioteket!

It is summer once more. During this very strange spring we have been forced to cancel lectures, guided tours, the open reading room hours and much more. But let us focus on the positive. The restrictions of our public activities have given us more time to work with our collections. We have also taken the opportunity to restore and paint the windows and door facing the motorway, take a look if you happen to drive by

Come September, something important will happen. We will make our library catalogue with more than 45000 entries available online on the Hagströmer library website. In cooperation with Karolinska Institutets Bibliotek we will, later during the autumn, make several thousands of books searchable through Libris, the national Swedish library database.

There will be more exciting news from the library later in the autumn as well, and we hope to resume part of our usual public activities. In fact, already a few months ago we started to receive researchers by appointment only. In August we hope to be able to resume our guided tours and open the reading room for visitors. Welcome back after the summer!

Glad sommar önskar Hagströmerbiblioteket!

Det är nu sommar igen efter en märklig vår. Föreläsningar, visningar, den öppna läsesalen och forskarbesök, allt har vi behövt ställa in. Men för att fokusera på det positiva. Begränsningen av vår utåtriktade verksamhet har gett oss tid att ägna tid åt arbete med samlingarna.  Under våren har vi också passat på att få alla fönster mot motorvägen målade. Passa på att kika om ni kör förbi!

En stor nyhet kommer att lanseras i september.  Vi kommer att tillgängliggöra vår bibliotekskatalog med mer än 45000 poster online via Hagströmerbibliotekets hemsida. I samarbete med KIB kommer vi också troligen senare under hösten att göra flera tusen böcker sökbara via Sveriges nationella biblioteksdatabas Libris.

Fler spännande nyheter kommer att avslöjas i höst, och även den vanliga verksamheten hoppas vi kunna återuppta, åtminstone del. Redan i maj smygöppnade vi för i förväg avtalade forskarbesök. I augusti hoppas vi kunna starta visningar för små grupper igen, och öppna läsesalen, om än inte i full skala. Välkomna tillbaka efter sommaren!


Juan de Valverde and his anatomical atlas

Juan de Valverde´s (ca 1525 -ca 1587) anatomical atlas Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano first printed in 1556 was one of the most popular and widely read anatomical books during the sixteenth century. It was issued in more than ten editions in Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Dutch, being an indication of it´s great popularity. The Hagströmer Library is fortunate to have a total of four copies, the rare first edition of 1556 and three later editions printed in 1579, 1586, and 1589. This blog will briefly present Valverde and his anatomical book, focusing on some of the fascinating illustrations in the first edition, which featured copper plates that were later re-engraved or copied in all the later editions and in other books as well.

Very little is known of Valverde´s life. He was born in Amusco, a small village in the province of Palencia in Northern Spain and studied philosophy and the humanities at the university in either Valladolid or Palencia. After graduation he continued his studies abroad like many other young students at the time. In 1541 he arrived in Padua in Northern Italy where one of the best medical universities in Europe was located and where Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) taught anatomy. Valverde´s first year there is largely unknown, but he probably studied under both Vesalius and Realdo Colombo (c. 1515-1559) who was appointed to the second Chair of Surgery there. The meeting of Columbo and Valverde had a decisive impact on Valverde´s future success. During the following years he followed Columbo first to Pisa where Columbo was appointed to the Chair in anatomy and Valverde worked as his assistant, and then in 1548 they travelled to Rome where Valverde´s career continued to flourish. By 1555 he was teaching medicine in the Hospital of Santo Spirito and when St Ignatius of Loyola, co-founder of the Jesuit order and who later was canonized died in 1556, Valverde performed the autopsy. His medical prestige within Vatican circles was high and he became physician to Cardinal Juan Alvarez de Toledo, Archbishop of Santiago and first General Inquisitor of Rome, to whom Valverde also dedicated his book in 1556.

Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano was printed in Spanish by Antonio Salamanca and Antonio Lafrery in Rome 1556. It contains forty-two full-page engravings depicting skeletons, muscle manikins and different body parts. The drawings were made by Gaspar Becerra (1520-1570), a Spanish architect, sculptor, painter, and anatomist who worked with Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and the engravings were made by Nicolas Beatrizet (1515- ca 1589), a Frenchman who came to Rome in order to study the great works by Raphael, Michelangelo and others. Most of the illustrations in Valverde´s book are copied from the woodcuts in Vesalius´s famous Fabrica of 1543, as the muscle manikins, skeletons, and brains, which were copied in many anatomical books for centuries due to their high artistic quality and great popularity. Valverde writes in the foreword:

Although it seemd to some of my friends that I should make new illustrations without using those of Vesalius, I did not do so in order to avoid the confusion that could follow, not knowing clearly in what I agree or in what I disagree with him, and because his illustrations are so well done it would look like envy or malignity not to take advantage of them. Mainly becau- se it has been so easy for me to improve them as it shall be difficult for any other who would like to depart from them to make them that good.

One of the new illustrations, i.e. not copied from the Fabrica, is the spectacular échorché figure of a man holding his own skin in one hand and a knife in the other. The image is clearly influenced by the figure of St Bartholomew in Michelangelo´s fresco The Last Judgement from 1536-1541 in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, where Becerra worked as his assistant. St Bartholomew was a Christian saint who according to legend was skinned alive and then beheaded, and therefor often depicted holding the attributes of his martyrdom, the skin and a knife in his hands. The facial features in the skin, both in the engraving and in the fresco are by some said to bear the features of Michelangelo himself. The fresco was one of the most famous artworks in Europe at the time and certainly both Valverde and Becerra were aware of that many readers would recognize the affiliation between the two figures. Other new and striking images are the three men who seem fully content to display the inside of their abdomen, while curiously looking at each other. The top left figure is wearing a lion skin reminiscent of Hercules dressed in the Nemean lion´s skin, one of the many gods from Greek mythology popular in Baroque art. Maybe equally interesting are the odd images depicting figures in roman(?) armours opened at the stomach revealing the intestines of the bearer.

For all interested in the technique and craftmanship of these engravings, it is a wonderful and most interesting experience to put the five books next to each other, Vesalius´s Fabrica of 1543 and the four editions of Valverde´s book in order to carefully study the images side by side.

To see more images from Valverde´s book click here!

To see St Bartholomew in Michelangelo´s Last Judgement click here!

Anna Lantz, 29 May 2020

Choulant, Ludwig, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (New York and London, 1945).
Clair, Colin, Christopher Plantin (London, 1960).
Cushing, Harvey, A Bio-Bibliography of Andreas Vesalius (New York, 1943).
Guerra, Fransisco, ‘Juan Valverde de Amusco’, Clio medica, 2 (1967).
Okholm Skaarup, Bjørn, Anatomy and Anatomists in Early Modern Spain (London and New York, 2015)


Ocular fundus

Chromolithograph. Eduard von Jaeger, Beiträge zur Pathologie des Auges. Mit Abbildungen in Farbendruck, Wien, 1855-56.


Magnus Celsius and his Anatomical Engravings

The first dissertation printed in Sweden illustrated with engravings is De cerebro humano printed in 1646. It is a small dissertation in quarto format of only sixteen pages illustrated with four engravings depicting the human brain. The first plate is signed in Latin `Magnus N. Helsing fecit´ giving us a clue to the artist´s identity, Magnus Nicolaus Celsius. He was a skilled engraver who later would illustrate three more dissertations and one treatise. Since a full discussion of all his engravings in these works would require a rather long text, the aim of this blog post is to give a short presentation of Celsius himself and of his engravings in De cerebro humano of 1646.

Magnus Nicolaus Celsius (1621-1679) was a Swedish mathematician, astronomer, and botanist, a versatile polymath active at Uppsala University during most of his life. He was the first of many in the Celsius family to become a scientist. Two of his sons were professors at Uppsala University and he was the grandfather of Anders Celsius who proposed the Celsius temperature scale, and there were others as well. After several years of studies at the university he became lecturer in 1655, and after being extraordinary professor for some years he became ordinary professor of mathematics in 1668, and between 1674 and 1675 he served as rector. Two years later he was ordained a priest and became a vicar in Old Uppsala before he passed away in 1679. Today Celsius is foremost known for deciphering the Hälsinge runes in the 1670s.

Celsius work as an engraver is one of his lesser known activities. Only a few engravings by him are known today and they were all made between 1646 and 1661 as illustrations in the four dissertations and the treatise mentioned above, printed at Uppsala University. Where he learned to engrave and where the impulse to do so might have come from is unknown, although he also made his own mathematical and astronomical instruments, suggesting a wider interest and skill for metalwork. There were others making engravings for dissertations at the university in the seventeenth century as well, but all of them except one are printed between the late 1660s and 1690s, several years after Celsius made his last engraving.

De cerebro humano was his third dissertation as a student at the university, where he enrolled in 1641. His uncle Olaus Unonius, professor of logics and metaphysics, was praeses and could preside over a dissertation in anatomy, here the human brain. As mentioned above it has a total of sixteen pages of text and four illustrations. The first four pages constitute the title and the dedication, followed by eleven pages of text ending with gratulations to the young student on the last page. There are different opinions regarding who wrote the dissertation, but we do know that Celsius made the engravings. Two of the images are full page engravings while the other two are smaller and fitted onto one and the same plate. Besides being the first known engravings Celsius did and the first engravings in a dissertation in Sweden, they are also the first illustrations in an anatomical dissertation in the country.

A study of the engravings and their relation to the text is very interesting, since it reveals that Celsius is firmly working within the established tradition of anatomical illustration dating back to Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) and his revolutionary work Fabrica of 1543, whose illustrations influenced later anatomical works for centuries. This is evident in that all four figures, besides being numbered all have small key letters referring to the text where that specific part is discussed and marked by the same letter, and also in that all the figures themselves derive from images in the Fabrica. Either Celsius had direct access to the great work, or more likely to one of the many anatomical books where Vesalius´s woodcuts were copied, maybe held in the university library or in one of the professors´ private libraries.

Of further note is that Celsius has engraved his own name on two of the plates, `Magnus N. Helsing fecit´ on the first plate, and `Mag. N. H. fecit´ on the last plate, at the time his name was Helsingius but later he would change it to Celsius. There is no reason not to assume that Celsius engraved all three plates himself even though he did not sign his name on the second plate. A closer examination reveals that Celsius´s figures in these three plates, as well as the later ones, often are made by a combination of line engraving and etching.

De cerebro humano is known in only a few copies in Sweden, of which some are held at the Hagströmer Library, the National Library of Sweden, and the Uppsala University Library. 

Anna Lantz, 1 May 2020  

View all the images discussed in this text: here

Primary sources
Unonius, Olaus, Disputatio physica de cerebro humano, quam ... sub clypeo ... Olai Unonij Gev. ... publicè defendendam proponit Magnus Nicolai Helsingus ... ad diem 16 decembris in audit. vet. maj. horis consvetis (Upsaliæ: imprimebat Eschillus Matthiæ, anno 1646) 

Vesalius, Andreas, Andreae Vesalii Brvxellensis, scholae medicorum Patauinæ professoris, de humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Basileae: ex officina Ioannis Oporini, anno salutis reparatae M D XLIII. Mense Iunio, 1543)

Secondary sources
Annerstedt, Claes, Upsala universitets historia D. 1 1477-1654 (Uppsala: Universitetet, 1877)

Annerstedt, Claes, Upsala universitets historia. D. 2, 1655-1718, 2 vols (Uppsala: Universitetet, 1909)

Lidén, Johan Hinric, Catalogus disputationum, in academiis et gymnasiis Sveciæ, atque etiam, a Svecis, extra patriam habitarum, quotquot huc usque reperiri potuerunt; collectore Joh. Henr. Lidén, sectio I-V (Upsala, 1778-1790)

Meijer, Bernard and others eds., Nordisk familjebok, 38 vols (Stockholm: Nordisk familjeboks förlag, 1904 - 1926), IV (1905)

Nilsén, Göran and others eds. Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 34 vols (Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1918 - 2019), VIII (1929)

ANNA LANTZ, MA, curator of rare books and prints at the Hagströmer Library is an art historian and book historian specialising in early modern medical illustrations and printmaking techniques.


Berengario da Carpi in the Hagströmer Library!

One of the very rare books in the Hagströmer Library is Isagoge breves printed in 1522, known in less than ten copies in the world. Two of these are to be found in Sweden at the Hagströmer Library and at the university library in Uppsala as part of the Waller collection. It is a descriptive anatomy and a manual on how to dissect the human body illustrated with woodcuts, presenting the most comprehensive and independent understanding of human anatomy at the time. The author is Jacopo Berengario da Carpi (ca 1460- ca 1530), one of the most important Italian anatomists before Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) and Isagoge breves is one of his best known works and a great scientific achievement.

Berengario´s life
Berengario grew up in Carpi in the region of Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy where his father was a barber-surgeon. He spent his youth in the company of Alberto Pio, son of the Lord of Carpi and they had the same teacher in Aldus Manutius, the great humanist printer, who lived and taught there in the 1470s. Berengario probably never went to medical school before going to Bologna for his doctorate in the 1480s, instead he learned both anatomy and dissecting from his father and his own practical experience. In 1489 he received his degree in Bologna, and the years directly thereafter are quite unknown. Because of political events and the troubled history in the area he probably had access to plenty of dead and wounded bodies to dissect and practice anatomy on and gained medical success by his skill in surgery and practical medicine. In 1502 he became Lecturer in surgery in Bologna, a position he held until 1527 and when the plague broke out there in 1508 Berengario was also appointed what today would be called Commissioner of Health in order to fight the plague. 

He had a large clientele and built himself a fortune as physician to the rich and powerful in Bologna and the surrounding areas. In 1516 he bought a palazzo where he held his art collection which included a roman torso, a painting by Raphael, works by Benvenuto Cellini, and others. Around this time Berengario was called to Florence by the pope Leo X to treat one of his friends there and he also successfully treated the pope´s nephew Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino, for an injury to the head. Later in 1526 Berengario spent some time in Rome on the request of another pope, Clement VII in order to treat people suffering from syphilis, using mercury(!). Cellini, who met him there writes: “a very shrewed person he was, too, he did wisely in leaving Rome; for not many months after, all those whom he had treated were a hundred times worse than before, and he would have been killed had he stopped”. Cellini also complains that Berengario was expensive and charged his clientele huge amounts for his service. Altogether he seems to have been quarrelsome and ferocious, sometimes threatened by severe punishment and even death, but his influential friends usually saved him. When he died in Ferrara around the year 1530 he was a wealthy man known all over Italy.

Isagoge breves of 1522
The main source for anatomical knowledge in the early 16th century were the writings of Galen who were active in the 2nd century AD, and whose works had dominated anatomical knowledge and learning ever since. His texts were used at universities all over Europe and their authority were never disputed nor contradicted. Berengario who knew them well and published several books on anatomy himself often referred to Galen in his texts, one of them being Isagoge breves. Isagoge breves is an instruction book in anatomy and dissection, a manual for students, with extremely detailed information on the anatomy of the entire human body, as he knew it. In this work Berengario is among the first to trust his own scientific inquiry and thereby putting some of the authority of Galen´s texts into question. Furthermore the illustrations were the most comprehensive attempt of making anatomical images from nature instead of the traditional schematic figures. Some even claim his anatomical figures to be the first ever made drawn from nature. He writes himself that a good anatomist “does not believe anything in his discipline simply because of the spoken or written word: what is required here is sight and touch.”. At the time he had the most independent knowledge and accurate scientific understanding of the human anatomy and Isagoge breves was an important contribution to the development of modern anatomy. Immediately after it was printed it became the most authoritative book on the subject before Andreas Vesalius´ Fabrica of 1543, a truly remarkable achievement.

The title page has a beautiful floral border and as in many books at the time both the colophon and the printers mark are found at the very end of the book. In total there are nineteen full page and two smaller anatomical woodcuts in the book and only a few of them will be briefly discussed here. The majority of the illustrations depicts muscle manikins, all together nine images. These figures are all placed in front of a landscape background making an aesthetically bold and graphic statement. The second manikin is the most dramatic with its strong rays of light in a dark sky behind the figure. Another noticeable manikin is holding a rope in his hand, maybe indicating that ropes were often used for suspending the corpse for muscle studying, and that most of the corpses used by anatomist were from dead criminals executed by hanging.

There are two images of skeletons in the book. One is depicted seen from the front with picturesque houses and trees in the background, seemingly smiling and in movement with the arms moving from side to side. The other skeleton is depicted from the back standing in front of grave (?) surrounded with rocks and shrubberies with a town at the horizon, holding one skull in each hand as if juggling. In effect the three skulls in this image are all depicted from different angles, whereby both the top, back, and side of the skull is shown. These two skeletons with their vivid and lively appearance might be based on to the iconography of the dance of death, which was a well-known motif with a long tradition in Italian art, and in other parts of Europe as well. The other illustrations in the book depict arms, legs, and the female reproductive organs among other things. The artists name is unknown, but several names has been suggested. Regardless who the artist was, these illustrations had a great impact on later anatomical images such as the famous muscle manikins placed in beautiful landscapes in Vesalius´ Fabrica.

Isagoge breves is a small and portable book of ca 205 x 140 mm, making it easy to carry around and to use, which might be one of the reasons why there are so few copies still in existence today. The first edition of 1522 which has been discussed here was printed in Latin by Benedictus Hectori in Bologna, but several editions were printed thereafter which are also rare. For all who wish to see all the images referred to in this text please visit Friends of Hagströmer Library on Facebook (Hagströmerbibliotekets vänner), for those who wish to study the entire work page by page, the Wellcome Library has digitized their copy of the book, and for those lacking knowledge in Latin there are at least two English translations of Isagoge breves, one made in 1660 and another in 1959. Please see the links and the references below!

Anna Lantz, 23 April 2020


View the images discussed in this text: here

View Isagoge breves online: here

Berengario da Carpi, Jacopo, Isagoge breves, perlucide ac uberime, in Anatomia[m] humani Corporis. (Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 30 December 1522)

Berengario da Carpi, Jacopo, A short introduction to anatomy (Isagogae breves) Jacopo Berengario da Carpi translated with an introduction and historical notes by L.R. Lind and with anatomical notes by Paul G. Roofe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959)

Carlino, Andrea, books of the body: anatomical ritual and Renaissance learning translated by John Tedeschi and Anne C. Tedeschi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999)

Choulant, Ludvig, History and bibliography of anatomic illustration by Ludwig Choulant, translated and annotated by Mortimer Frank. Further essays by Fielding H. Garrison, Mortimer Frank [and] Edward C. Streeter, with a new historical essay by Charles Singer, and a bibliography of Mortimer Frank (New York: Schuman's, 1945)

ANNA LANTZ, MA, curator of rare books and prints at the Hagströmer Library is an art historian and book historian specialising in early modern medical illustrations and printmaking techniques.


Happy Birthday Ove!

Best wishes on Your 80th birthday, we all hope You and Irene have a wonderful day!
From the staff at Medical History and Heritage and the Hagströmer Library.

Text + photo: Anna Lantz


Spring 2020!

For all of You interested in the Hagströmer Library collections, this spring we will publish blogposts once a week presenting books and other items from the collections! To receive our Newsletter, please sign up with Your email adress at the top right hand corner on this page (FOLLOW). You can also follow Friends of the Hagströmer Library on social media, where even more books will be discussed! Welcome!

Do You have a question for us? Please send us an email:

For Friends of the Hagströmer Library on social media, please follow these links:




Anna Lantz, 16 April 2020



Due to Covid-19, the activities at the Hagströmer Library are limited during the spring. This means that the lectures on April 27 and May 12 will be moved to the autumn instead and that no guided tours or other public activities will take place until May 15, initially. The reading room is also closed until then. More information about the activities at the library will be announced in due course. For other library services or questions please contact us at: or 08-5248 6828

Anna Lantz


Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis

In the middle of the 1840s Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865) was appointed assistant lecturer at the First Obstetrical Clinic of the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna. At that time mortality from puerperal sepsis was very high, especially in maternity hospitals. Between the years 1841 and 1843 as many as sixteen percent of the parturient women there died. Semmelweis noticed that those attended by midwifes, as opposed to medical students, had a much lower death rate with an average of only ca. two percent. This led him to surmise, correctly, that the medical students who came directly from the autopsy dissection room carried infective material with them, and a few years later he instituted a policy at the maternity division which required hand washing with chlorinated limewater. Within one month the mortality rate from puerperal fever fell to about three percent. After publishing many shorter accounts of his findings, he finally published his complete discussion in Die Aetiologie. Der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers in 1861. Semmelweis discovery of the etiology and prevention of childbed fever was truly revolutionary, saving lives and preventing suffering of women in childbirth.

The Hagströmer Library collection holds the following works by Semmelweis:
Die Aetiologie. Der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers, 1861.
Zwei offene Briefe an Dr. J. Spaeth, Professor der Geburtshilfe an der k.k. Josefs-Akademie in Wien, und an Hofrath Dr. F. W. Scanzoni, Professor der Geburtshilfe zu Würzburg, 1861.
Zwei offene Briefe an Hofrath Dr. Eduard Casp. Jac. v. Siebold, Professor der Geburtshilfe zu Göttingen, und an Hofrath Dr. F. W. Scanzoni, Professor der Geburtshilfe zu Würzburg, 1861.
Offener Brief an sämmtliche Professoren der Geburtshilfe, 1862.

Anna Lantz, 12 March 2020



Universitetsbiblioteket i Lund fick 2007 ta emot en sällsam och ovanligt spännande donation från Berit Harrison i Klörup. Hennes make, direktör Bertil Harrison köpte redan som 10-åring sin första bok om duvor och samlade sedan fram till sin död 2002 all litteratur som stod att finna rörande duvor, duvsport och duvavel. Samlingen växte till den främsta i sitt slag, kanske omkring 4000 tryck som upptar närmare 40 hyllmeter. Den innehåller allt från till synes obetydliga små handledningar till överdådiga praktverk, som t.ex. Madam Knips duvbok, från 1809, med planscher som hör till de finaste i alla fågelböcker, och böcker där flera är de enda kända exemplaren och andra av största sällsynthet.  Harrison ansåg sin samling duvlitteratur som den största existerande. Kungl. Bibl. tilldelade 1969 Bertil Harrison Snoilskymedaljen för sin samlargärning

LARS CHRISTIANSEN är präst i Svenska kyrkan och leg. psykoterapeut. Lars har arbetat som sjukhuspräst i Stockholm, i akutsjukvård, geriatrik och psykiatri under nästan 30 år, men är också kännare och samlare av litteratur om fåglar som husdjur.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före 28 februari
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Konsert på Hagströmerbiblioteket

Att mitt bland de gamla bokrariteterna i Hagströmerbibliotekets prunksal få se och lyssna till de unga musikerna i LILLA AKADEMIEN så virtuost traktera sina olika instrument blev en bejublad konsert bland höstens evenemang, som vi nu gärna vill få fler att uppleva genom ett nytt framträdande.

LILLA AKADEMIEN är en specialiserad och omsorgsfullt utformad musikskola, som grundades 1998 av den pedagogiska visionären och musikern Nina Balabina, vars konstnärliga ledare hon varit sedan starten. Idag är Lilla Akademien en väletablerad musikskola med omkring 730 barn och elever på de olika utbildningarna, i åldern 4-25 år. På några få år har Lilla Akademien vuxit till att bli en av de mest betydelsefulla och inflytelserika musikinstitutionerna i Skandinavien för utbildning av unga musiker, där en gedigen musikutbildning av hög kvalitet integreras med akademisk utbildning.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före 14 februari
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr



Ingen vet mer om Jacob Berzelius och hans samtid än Jan Trofast. Hans senaste bok, Jakob Berzelius, Klarhet och sanning. Männis- kan bakom de vetenskapliga framgångarna (2018) är på 650 sidor. Men Trofast hittar hela tiden nytt material och arbetar just nu på ytterligare en bok i 400-sidors-klassen om Berzelius, en av sin tids främsta kemister. Jan Trofast kommer att väva samman den fram- stående kemistens vetenskapliga verksamhet med hans liv och umgänge. Genom den stora samlingen bevarade brev och reseanteck- ningar – både personliga och vetenskapliga – får vi följa Berzelius från barndomsåren och lära känna honom som människa. Fram träder inte bara en eldsjäl i det vetenskapliga arbetet utan också en kulturkritiker och engagerad medmänniska.

Jan Trofast är teknologie doktor i organisk kemi, vetenskaplig rådgivare inom life science, och kemihistoriker med inriktning på Jacob Berzelius och hans samtid.

Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före 6 februari
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Spring 2020!

We are back!
Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this spring.
(F. Liceti, De monstrorum natura, caussis, et differentiis, Patavii, 1634)


Magnus N. Celsius och hans anatomiska gravyrer

Varmt välkommen till föredrag!
Magnus N. Celsius (1621 - 1679), farfar till Anders Celsius, var professor i matematik vid Uppsala universitet och även dess rektor. Idag är han kanske mest känd för att ha tolkat hälsingerunorna på 1670-talet. Få känner till hans verksamhet som gravör. Vid 1600-talets mitt graverade han bilder till fyra dissertationer och en avhandling, varav de äldsta utgör de första gravyrerna någonsin i en svensk dissert- ation. Några illustrerar universalgeniet Olof Rudbeck d.ä:s dissertation om blodomloppet, som upptäckts av William Harvey 1628, och ytterligare några illustrerar Rudbecks avhandling om hans egen upptäckt av lymfkärlssystemet. Gemensamt för dem alla är att de handlar om anatomi och har anknytning till den medicinska fakulteten vid Uppsala universitet, och att de tillkom med stöd från en krets ur Sveriges intellektuella elit som värnade om att utveckla den medicinska kunskapen och utbildningen i Sverige, Axel Oxenstierna, drottning Kristina och Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie.

ANNA LANTZ, konstvetare och bokhistoriker arbetar på Hagströmerbiblioteket sedan 2009. Där specialiserar hon sig på böckernas illustrationer, de grafiska teknikerna och deras historia.

ONSDAG 4 DECEMBER 2019 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan emotses före fredag 29 november
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr



Carleton Gajdusek var ett av 1900-talets stora genier. Han upptäckte galna kosjukan hos ett kannibalfolk på Nya Guinea. Under decennier bidrog han till att lägga grunden för dagens kunskap och forskning om prionsjukdomarna – en mellanform mellan liv och död. Gajdusek upptäckte 14 stenåldersspråk och dokumenterade några av världens sista grupper av stenåldersmänniskor. Han dokumenterade smittoämnen, kultur, teknik, ekonomi och psykologi hos isolerade folkslag. HAGSTRÖMERBIBLIOTEKET har en av världens största samlingar av hans dagliga journalanteckningar - en unik och idiosynkratisk redogörelse för tankar, vetenskap, sex och dagligt liv som löper från slutet av 1930-talet till 2007. Han tilldelades Nobelpriset i fysiologi eller medicin 1976 tillsammans med Baruch S. Blumberg för deras arbete på kuru, den första prionsjukdomen som upptäckts. Gajduseks familj bestod av sextiotalet adoptiv- och fosterbarn - de flesta pojkar. I slutet av 1990-talet avtjänade han 1,5 års fängelse för att ha haft sex med en av sina fostersöner. Enligt egen utsago var han en pedofil. Gajdusek dog i Tromsö 2008 vid 85 års ålder.

BOSSE LINDQUIST är dokumentärfilmare och författare. Han har undersökt och skildrat den nordiska vita-bussexpeditionen till nazi-Tyskland, den internationella förnekelsen av röda khmerernas mord i Kambodja, den svenska steriliseringstiden och många andra ämnen. Hans senaste bok är ”Macchiariniaffären - sanning och lögn på Karolinska”, Bonniers 2018.

TORSDAG 14 NOVEMBER 2019 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr



Lilla Akademien är en specialiserad och omsorgsfullt utformad musikskola, som grundades 1998 av den pedagogiska visionären och musikern Nina Balabina, vars konstnärliga ledare hon varit sedan starten. Lilla Akademien erbjuder en kreativ atmosfär där varje elev får möjligheten utveckla sin fulla potential och bli det som antikens greker avsåg med en ”musiker” – en ansvarstagande, tolerant, intellektuell öppen och nyfiket kreativ del av samhället. Idag är Lilla Akademien en väletablerad musikskola med omkring 730 barn och elever på de olika utbildningarna, i åldern 4-25 år. På några få år har Lilla Akademien vuxit till att bli en de mest betydelsefulla och inflytelserika musik-institutionerna i Skandinavien för utbildning av unga musiker, där en gedigen musikutbildning av hög kvalitet integreras med akademisk utbildning.

TORSDAG 24 OKTOBER 2019 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Email: Telefon: 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Robert Koch - 1905!

In 1905 Robert Koch was awarded The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for his investigations and discoveries in relation to tuberculosis." His discovery of the tubercle bacillus was announced 1882 in Berliner klinische Wochenschrift. Two years later in 1884 he published a fuller account in a paper Die Aetiologie der Tuberkulose in Mittheilungen aus dem kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamte 2, where he reported how he succeeded in producing experimental tuberculosis in animals after cultivating the bacillus.
Hagströmer Library Collection.

Anna Lantz, 11 October 2019


Karl Landsteiner – 1930

Landsteiner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1930 “for his discovery of human blood groups”, which was published in a paper Ueber Agglutinationserscheinungen normalen menschlichen Blutes in Wiener klinische Wochenschrift 14, Jahrgang 1901. Hagströmer Library Collection.

Anna Lantz, 10 October 2019


Camillo Golgi!

Camillo Golgi shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Ramon y Cajal in 1906 “in recognition of his work on the structure of the nervous system”. This work by Golgi “Sulla fina anatomia degli organi centrali del sistema nervoso” is an extraordinary association copy as the front flyleaf has an inscription from Golgi himself to Gustaf Retzius “Herrn Professor Dr. Gustaf Retzius Hochachtungsvoll C. Golgi”. It has 24 folding chromolithographed plates and was printed in Reggio-Emilia in 1885. Hagströmer Library Collection.

Anna Lantz, 9 October 2019


DNA - Watson, Crick, and Wilkins!

In 1962 Watson, Crick, and Wilkins were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of the nucleid acids". Their paper regarding the identification of the double helix structure of DNA, and the copying mechanism of genetic material was published in "Nature" 1953. The Hagströmer Library has both the rare offprint of their article, previously owned by Professor Arne Engström who held the speech when they received the Nobel Prize, and an extract of the paper from "Nature" which Ove Hagelin asked Watson to sign when they met in 2001 when all still alive Nobel Prize winners in Medicine were invited to Karolinska Institutet at the 100-year-anniversary of the Nobel Prize.

Anna Lantz, 8 October 2019


The 1st Nobel Prize in Physics!

In 1901 Wilhelm Roentgen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the X-rays. The Hagströmer Library has both the first edition of the offprint of his "Eine Neue Art von Strahlen" printed in 1895 (Image 1), and the first edition of the two papers "Ueber eine neue Art von Strahlen" and "Ueber eine neue Art von Strahlen II" published in the journal "Sitzungs-berichte der Würtzburger physikalisch-medicinischen Gesellschaft zu Würzburg", from 1895-96 (Image 2).

Anna Lantz, 7 October 2019



Alltsedan utdelningen av de första Nobelprisen 1901 har beslut om mottagare baserats på utredningar av de svenska forskare som bäst känner det aktuella forskningsfältet. Under föregående århundrade kom antalet forskare involverade i denna utveckling att öka logaritmiskt. Prisens världsunika renomme beror på den generellt höga kvaliteten hos de utredningar som gjorts. Norrby har i tre publicerade böcker och en kommande bok granskat utredningsmaterial som är mer än 50 år gammalt. Härigenom har kunnat ges en historiskt unik presentation av hur kunskap växer, t ex inom området molekylär biologi, och bakgrunden till att en viss upptäckt har uppmärksammats vid en given tidpunkt.

ERLING NORRBY är virolog. Han var professor i denna disciplin vid Karolinska Institutet 1972-1997. Härefter var han under 6 år ständig sekreterare vid Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien. Hans nuvarande verksamhet är förlagt till Centrum för Vetenskapshistoria vid denna akademi.

TORSDAG 26 SEPTEMBER 2019 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), buss 515 (Odenplan)  Hållplats Haga Södra
Email:  Telefon; 070 555 27 36
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr     Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Global Health in the Anthropocene? History and Planetary Health

Almost a year since delivering the 2018 Hagströmer Lecture at the Karolinska Institutet, it seems timely to reflect briefly on why I chose the topic of planetary health, and to touch on some subsequent developments.

Even as concerns about the health effects of climate change were growing in the 1990s, I was writing about histories of human acclimatisation and racial immunity in the colonial tropics, culminating eventually in my books, The Cultivation of Whiteness (2002) and Colonial Pathologies (2006). From 2004, I began research in the histories of disease ecology, largely a twentieth-century version of environmental health, resulting in publication of six or more articles. Accordingly, when Tony Capon, the world’s first ‘professor of planetary health’, asked me and my colleague Dr James Dunk to consider in 2016 the historicity implied in the new ‘planetary health’, we seized the opportunity. It was clear from the beginning that planetary health was, in part, a scaled-up and more systemic mode of understanding disease ecology, a novel framing of the relations of human health and planetary environments or ecosystems, the antecedents of which I had long been studying.

By the time I came to give the lecture in Stockholm, I regretted my use of the term ‘Anthropocene’ in its title. I realised that the epidemiologists and other public health experts expatiating since the late 1980s on the damage that global warming and environmental degradation were doing to human health had not needed the concept of the Anthropocene. One of the leading proponents of what came to be called planetary health, A.J. McMichael used the increasingly popular word only in his last, posthumously published book. Before then, systems ecology had provided sufficient analytic power to render the Anthropocene redundant in his arguments. Thus, I was glad I managed at the last minute at least to insert a query after the term, before the notice was distributed.

After presenting the lecture, I was provoked to write, along with Dunk, Capon, and Professor David S. Jones, a short historical essay for the New England Journal of Medicine (August 22, 2019), urging physicians to bring planetary environmental degradation back into their calculus of health and disease, and offering validation of political advocacy by the medical profession. During the previous few months, numerous international reports had documented the climate emergency that now confronts us. Scarcely a week goes by without epidemiologists and public health experts warning that we have all the evidence we need to compel action against global environmental degradation. Ever larger segments of the health profession therefore have been galvanized into overt political advocacy.

One might say that to lecture in 2018 on the past, present and future of planetary health itself was timely; but then again, in view of the gravity and constant intensification of climate change, and the ineffectiveness so far of any political responses, such events unfortunately might come to seem abiding, even timeless.

Warwick Anderson
University of Sydney

Hagströmer Lecture 2018 on Youtube here!



Den rika Wallersamlingen vid Uppsala universitetsbibliotek innehåller ett fantastiskt källmaterial för alla bok- och medicinhistoriker. Upphovsmannen till samlingen var läkaren Erik Waller (1875-1955) från Västergötland. Redan i unga år började han samla böcker, porträtt och handskrivet material som hade med medicin- och vetenskapshistoria att göra, och han kom att bli en av världens främsta privata samlare på dessa områden. 1950 donerade han sin boksamling om cirka 20 000 böcker till Uppsala universitetsbibliotek och 1955 köpte biblioteket in övriga delar av hans samling.

KRISTER ÖSTLUND är filosofie doktor i latin och 1:e bibliotekarie vid Uppsala universitetsbibliotek. Han deltog under åren 2000-2008 i katalogiseringen och digitaliseringen av Erik Wallers autografsamling.

TORSDAGEN 23 MAJ 2019 KL. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra.
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras, Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor



Kirurgins historia har skildrats i flera olika böcker. Kirurgernas historia har däremot aldrig blivit föremål för en samlad framställning. Här berättas för första gången om kirurgerna som yrkeskår genom historien. Det finns väl ingen nuförtiden som inte anser att kirurgerna är fullvärdiga och respekterade ledamöter av läkarkåren. Så har det emellertid inte alltid varit. Kirurgerna har genom århundradena kämpat hårt för att uppnå denna status. Föredraget kommer att handla om hur kirurgernas utbildning förändrats genom historien och hur de organiserat sig i olika sammanslutningar för att tillvarata gemensamma intressen. Läsaren får också stifta bekantskap med ett antal kirurger som presenteras i korta levnadsteckningar.

BO S. LINDBERG är pensionerad överläkare och författare till ett flertal medicinhistoriska artiklar och böcker, bland annat Anders Fredrik Regnell: Läkare, botanist och donator (2011), Salomon Eberhard Henschen: En biografi (2013), Inte vid helt sunda vätskor: Gustav Vasa och hans söner ur ett medicinhistoriskt perspektiv (2017) och Peregrinatio medica - svenska medicinares studieresor i Europa 1600 - 1800 (2019).

TORSDAGEN 25 APRIL 2019 Kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra.
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras, Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the white plague

Tuberculosis is one of the specific infection diseases that has claimed – and is still claiming – many lives. It is called the white plague, a name that was very probably coined to contrast it with the Black Death, as the bubonic plague was known. And while sufferers turn very pale, the notion of whiteness can also be associated with youth and innocence. Children are more susceptible to infection than adults. After a sharp decline of the disease in Europe with the arrival of antibiotics and improvements in living standards after the Second World War, the disease is on the rise again, especially in eastern Europe. The problem of bacterial resistance means that the disease can become a serious threat again unless a new vaccine is found or antibiotic use is reduced around the world, as this merely increases the populations of resistant bacteria.

Symptoms and history

Pott’s disease, or Pott’s hump, is a pathognomonic (typical) abnormality associated with tuberculosis. When the vertebrae collapse and ankylosis (fusion) causes them to fix in place, the back takes on a sharp forward-leaning curvature – or hump. Often, the ribcage and collar bones take on a new shape to help the body cope with the deformation. We have three cases amongst the skeletons in the collection of the Medical History and Heritage Unit at Karolinska Institutet. Tuberculosis is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium, which was discovered in 1882 by Robert Koch (1843-1910), earning him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905. While only one in ten people with the bacteria develop tuberculosis, the disease can lie dormant in the body for decades, often breaking out when the immune system is weakened. White Fox, a Pawnee native American who arrived in Sweden in 1874 to perform, died of tuberculosis, and his remains were taken into the care of KI. The skin from his torso was repatriated later, but not before it had been analysed by microbiologists at KI to ensure that it was no longer infectious. It is interesting to note that Robert Kassman,  White Fox’s impressario/partner, died of the same disease (intestinal tuberculosis) 35 years later. Given the properties of the bacterium, it could very well have been the same strain that killed him. It is estimated that about one third of the world’s population carry the bacterium in a latent state. The bacterium is extremely robust and can survive for months outside the body, maybe even longer. My uncle contracted tuberculosis as a child in the 1930s from second-hand clothes and died at the age of two. No one else in the family was infected.

There is a bovine strain of the bacterium that can spread via meat and milk, otherwise it can infect via airborne transmission, just like leprosy. First, nodules (tubercles) form in the lungs – this is the infection tissue. The bacteria can remain in the lungs or can be spread. Pleural plaques (a kind of calcification of the soft tissue) can also form in the lungs. Two to seven per cent of tuberculosis patients develop skeletal tuberculosis. As well as the vertebrae, tuberculosis can affect the major joints (arthritis of the hip) and cause bone growth on the back/inside of the ribs. The symptoms of the disease depend on the organs affected, but generally include fatigue, anaemia, emaciation, diarrhoea and nocturnal fever-like sweats. The bacteria can settle in the stomach or intestines. Pulmonary tuberculosis nearly always induces coughing or even haemoptysis (the expectoration of blood). It is mostly contagious within families, with small children being particularly susceptible. 

Given the tuberculous deformities found in Egyptian mummies, we know that tuberculosis has existed for at least 9,000 years. The disease arrived in Sweden in the middle ages, and in France and England it was believed that sufferers could be cured by being touched by royalty.


It was once common for the sick to be treated with fresh air and nutritious food and to be put to bed outdoors. Many sanatoriums were built to help cure the sick and to keep them isolated. Doctors would aerate (pierce) or gas the diseased lung in an attempt to inactivate the disease and rest the organ; they also might fill the lung with oil. In Sweden, a cardiologist called Clarence Craaford developed a surgical method for removing parts of the ribs via the back, which could alleviate the disease. While excising parts of diseased lung tissue (lobes) was an option, in some more severe cases it was necessary to remove the lung altogether.

It took a long time for scientists to find an effective cure for tuberculosis, partly because the bacterium has a very resistant outer membrane and partly because the disease puts itself in a latent state and hides away in the body. Many people were infected without them or anyone else realising they were sick. Doctors started to use X-rays to see who had morbid abnormalities in the lungs, and to analyse expectorations under the microscope, which could reveal the type of mycobacterium they were dealing with. It takes a long time to cultivate the bacterium in the lab. Ventricle rinsing and bronchoscopy are other methods that have been used. If the tuberculous focus is elsewhere, doctors can analyse urine, pus, bone tissue or lymph glands. In 1921 Frenchmen Albert Calmette (1863-1933) and Camille Guérin (1872-1961) succeeded in producing a vaccine, initially one administered orally and then later by injection. Everyone born in Sweden between 1940 and 1975 was vaccinated, but even though the disease is starting to make a comeback in other countries (e.g. Russia), few people are inoculated today. A vaccine does not last a lifetime, and scientists are today working on a more effective agent. Using so-called tuberculin tests they can determine if someone has already been exposed to the tuberculosis bacterium or the vaccine. Chemotherapies (fully synthetic), such as PAS (para-aminosalicylic acid), sulfa, quinine and arsenic preparations, were the first medicines. PAS was developed by the Danish researcher Jörgen Lehmann (1898-1989), who was working at Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg, and the antibiotic streptomycin by Selman Waksman (1888-1973) and Albert Schatz (1922-1995). Waksman received the second Nobel Prize awarded for tuberculosis in 1952. These medicines, which appeared during the Second World War, are the most used and the most effective. At first, some antibiotics were powerfully allergenic and PAS tasted foul. But by this time, tuberculosis had already begun its decline, very much thanks to rising living standards. Famous sufferers in history include John Keats, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas.

The future

Better medicines have been developed over time, but one concern is that the bacteria can develop resistance, so today patients are given four different kinds of antibiotic at once. Treatments that once took at least two years can now be completed in six months. If the bacteria are growing resistant, which is becoming increasingly common with the over-use of antibiotics, treatment will become all the more difficult.

L´infection bacillaire et la tuberculose chez l´homme et chez les animaux, A. Calmette, 1920
Die Aetiologie der Tuberkulose. Mittheilungen aus dem Kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamte. Berlin, 1884: 1.
Section of a spine with Pott’s disease.

Photos: Ann Gustavsson


Bergmark, M. Från pest till polio. Stockholm, 1957: 172-177.

Jibréus, D. White Fox´ långa resa. Stockholm, 2013: 59, 79.

Roberts, C. A. & Buikstra J. E. The bioarchaeology of tuberculosis. A global view on a reemerging disease. Gainesville, 2003.

Hjärt- och lungfondens temaskrift om tuberkulos. Stockholm, 2010.

Åbom, P-E. Farsoter och epidemier. En historisk odyssé från pest till ebola. Stockholm, 2015: 44-77.

Bynym, W & H. Great discoveries in Medicine. London, 2011: 160-162

Ann Gustavsson
is an archivist/curator at Karolinska Institutet’s Medical History and Heritage Unit. She has a master’s degree in archaeology and another in osteoarcheology. With a background in cultural studies, she went on to read ancient history and archival science. Her speciality is pathological lesions in bone. Ms Gustavsson is currently inventorying, analysing and digitalising Karolinska Institutet’s anatomical skull collection.


Välkommen till föredrag!

Det går inte att besöka Hagströmerbiblioteket utan att komma i kontakt med Gustaf Retzius. Här finns byster och porträtt av honom och hans maka, här finns hans arbetsbord och arbetsstol, hans böcker, ja kanske till och med hans hjärna. Retzius var en av tidens skickligaste mikroskopister som publicerade sina iakttagelser i enastående vackra planschverk som förenade hantverksskicklighet och vetenskaplig precision med konstnärskap, och han nominerades inte mindre än 23 gånger till Nobelpriset. Han var gift med Lars Johan Hiertas dotter, Anna, en av landets rikaste arvtagerskor och en ledande feminist. Den kompromisslöse Gustaf Retzius kom lätt i konflikt med sin omgivning och även om han beundrades av många hatades han kanske av ännu fler. Om denna motsägelsefulla gestalt och hans fascinerande öde har Nils Uddenberg skrivit en biografi som utkommer i vår på Fri Tanke Förlag.

NILS UDDENBERG är docent i både psykiatri och empirisk livsåskådningsforskning och tilldelades år 2000 professors namn. År 2003 vann han Augustpriset i fackboks-klassen för sin biologihistoria Idéer om livet. Hans senaste stora arbete är en medicinhistoria i två band Lidande och läkedom (2015) i Hagströmerbibliotekets Skriftserie.

Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra.
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 65 48.
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Välkommen till föredrag!

Skörbjugg var en av de mest elakartade av alla sjukdomar under europeernas många upptäcktsresor. Femtio procent eller mer av sjömännen kunde dö av skörbjugg under en expedition. År 1499 miste Vasco da Gama 116 av en besättning på 170, och år 1520 omkom 208 av Magellans 230 män. Efter fyra till sju månader på sjön började symtomen visa sig. Hudblödningar, dålig aptit, viktförlust, trötthet – tänderna började trilla ut, och sedan dog sjömännen. Dödsorsaken var i regel skörbjugg.

Den skotske marinläkaren James Lind kunde 1747 visa att juice från citrusfrukter botade skörbjugg. Lind behandlade 12 sjömän som försökskaniner, ”human guinea pigs”. Det verkliga marsvinet skulle göra en mycket större insats, men det skulle dröja ända till början av 1900-talet. Kanske är en av de märkligaste aspekterna på skörbjuggens historia det sätt på vilket en bot igen och omigen upptäcktes, bara för att förkastas p.g.a. en felaktig uppfattning om det sätt på vilken den verkade, eller för att någon annan okontrollerbar faktor tycktes kunna erbjuda en bättre förklaring till dödsfallen.

ANDERS ALVESTRAND, Prof. em. vid Karolinska Institutet, och flitig understreckare i SvD.

TORSDAGEN 21 FEBRUARI 2019 Kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Some spinach a day keeps the doctor away

Eating nutritious food has always been important to good health. If we don’t get enough nutrients in our early years or if our diet is too samey, we can develop deficiency diseases that, at worst, can leave traces on our bones. There are several such marks that are relatively common when making osteological analyses, some of which can be seen in the material housed in the anatomical collection at KI’s Medical History and Heritage Unit.

Common signs of deficiency disease
Starting with the skull, malnourishment often manifests itself as visible changes in the orbital roof, where tiny holes and porosities form that in severe cases can suspend like peat moss. The condition is called cribra orbitalia, and has traditionally be interpreted as a sign of iron deficiency anaemia. Anaemia has several different aetiologies. Low birth weight can make an individual more precociously susceptible. Diarrhoea, haemorrhaging and intestinal parasites are other possible causes. Similar hole patterns can also be seen on the top of the skull, where they are called porotic hyperostosis. This kind of skeletal change is most common in children, as it generally heals in adults. This is because young individuals have a great deal of red bone marrow, which more readily reacts with this type of lesion. In recent years, researchers have looked into if it might be caused by a deficiency in something other than iron, such as vitamin B-12. Since the most sensitive time is childhood, physiological stress can leave traces in the form of visible, even ridged horizontal stripes that appear mainly on the incisors. This condition is called enamel hypoplasia and develops while the teeth are developing. It is possible to calculate at which age the stripes appeared; if they are on the milk teeth, it means the child suffered stress while still in the womb – i.e. that the mother suffered stress or some kind of deficiency while pregnant. While it is not fully known what causes the striping effect, researchers have been interrogating the possibility that it is a result of stress related to childbirth, malnutrition/stunted growth, imprisonment or other kinds of social stress. Other stripes that can appear on the long tubular bones are discoverable by X-ray and are called Harris lines.They too can be caused by disease or trauma and appear when growth is suspended, but whether this suspension is natural, given that growth can stop and spurt in different periods, is a moot point.

These days, we know that scurvy is caused by vitamin C deficiency, and most people know that sailors could lose their teeth when they were at sea for long periods of time with no access to fresh fruit or vegetables. For some sailors, vitamin C deficiency could be so severe as to prove fatal. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, helps to build a strong immune system as well as cartilage and bone tissue, but cannot be produced by the body. Scottish navy doctor James Lind (1716-1794) discovered that the juice of citrus fruits could help the complaint and started to work on prophylactic measures. Lind had several predecessors, but it was his work that led to the discovery. Thanks to Lind, many hygiene and sanitation improvements were made to life on board. He was the first person to make a thorough and documented medical study on humans. At the Hagströmer Library, we have copies of the first French edition of Lind’s Traité de scorbut. It was published in 1756 and is thought to be as rare and prized as the first English edition A treatise of the scurvy from 1753.

The critical component of vitamin C was not discovered until 1927 through the work of the Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyis (1893-1986), whose research went on to earn him the Nobel Prize in 1937.

Traces of vitamin C deficiency are seldom found in archaeological bone matter since it expresses itself in swollen mucosa, bleeding in the skin, periosteum and gums and periodontitis, the causes of which are many. Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb iron. This deficiency was probably more uncommon before the introduction of agriculture when hunter-gatherers would eat more fresh and unrefined food, such as berries, fruit and vegetables. Part of the vitamin is destroyed during cooking and boiling. Maize, which was introduced to Europe by Columbus, has often been associated in archaeological studies with a deterioration in public health. It is high in sugar and starch and has been shown to impact on both dental health and iron absorption. However, the plant has been a food staple for centuries in other parts of the world. The conclusion can be drawn that the advent of agriculture contributed to a slow decline in human health. Very much on account of the increase in wheat and maize in the diet but also of settlement, the consequence of which was the more rapid spread of disease, with the accumulation of waste and stagnant water aggravating bacterial growth and animal husbandry aiding the transmission of zoonoses.  Both lactose and gluten intolerance appeared after the arrival of agriculture, although the pattern is complex and the changes gradual. For instance, in Southeast Asia and Japan, where the staple food is rice, caries has not increased since its introduction. It’s always hard to compare hunter-gather societies and modern agriculture with the early agrarian societies. Archaeologist Charlotte Roberts stresses that one must also factor genetics and environment into understanding how the human body reacts to different conditions.

Rachitis or the “English disease”
Once, rachitis was mainly common in children. The condition is more commonly known as rickets and is caused by severe vitamin D deficiency, which eventually gives rise to soft bones, a condition that in adults is called osteomalacia. This softness is especially evident in the long tubular bones of the arms and legs, which become bent under load. The disease can also cause deformities in the pelvis, which can later lead to life-threatening complications during childbirth. The KI collection houses a couple of examples of babies who died of the disease before the age of 2, probably from a combination of infection (maybe TB) and muscle weakness. In Sweden, folk traditions were once rife about rickets and how it could be cured. Protective amulets were common as a prevention, while it was thought a special tree with a natural crevice or looped branch large enough to pull the sick child through (known as a vårdbundet or “care-bound” tree) possessed curative powers. A photograph of this practice (called smörjning) can be seen in the Digital museum. Dr Nils Rosén von Rosenstein (1706-1773) wrote a long account of childhood rickets, claiming that “the disease shows itself when the child starts to teethe. Should it then proceed to become emaciated, should the skin start to slacken and the belly to swell, particularly on the right, the head to grow large, the face to become puffy and pale with large veins in the neck, and the bone around the joints to become enlarged: it thus already has a strong touch of this disease.” The description continues in the same style. He also warns that “Women who have or have had this ailment should think well before marrying. If their pelvis has become too narrow they will either have difficult deliveries and tend to produce stillborn babies or will die in childbirth.” According to Rosén von Rosenstein the English disease had several causes, but usually the blame was placed on the parents, who had brought the disease upon the child through their advanced age or promiscuity; or on the baby having been raised in a “low-lying, damp and marshy place”. He thought that children with rickets had too much acid in the body. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Henrik Berg’s (1858-1936) Läkarbok was a standard medical work. Berg recommended, amongst other things, fresh air and sunshine, saline baths, horse-hair mattresses, dry-rubbing with wool and washing with salted aquavit. Potatoes and farinaceous food was to be reduced in favour of fresh milk, eggs, good quality bread, grain-based soups, meat soups, gruel, wholemeal bread, rusks, fruit, berries and vegetables – a diet that wasn’t always so easy for a poor family. Rickets often went hand in hand with tuberculosis.

Rickets was, as its popular epithet implies, a common disease in English industrial towns, where buildings were densely packed and very little light was let in between the houses and the factories. Many English doctors looked into a possible cause. One theory was that the muscles grew more slowly than the bones, which thus became curved. In was only in the 1700s that doctor Thomas Percival (1740-1804) discovered that cod liver oil was an effective prophylactic, but it was not until the 1900s that scientists began to understand the relationship better. In the 1930s, after further research, Nobel laureate Adolf Windhaus (1876-1959) was able to demonstrate that the substance ergosterol was converted into vitamin D when the skin was exposed to sunlight.

Eventually, children started to be given fish liver oil, then vitamin A/D – and these days only vitamin D drops. In Sweden, dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D since the 1960s. Nowadays we know much more about the body’s vitamin D needs. Ninety per cent of essential vitamin D (which is actually a prohormone) is produced in the skin through exposure to the sun. The primary function of the vitamin is to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphor in the blood to ensure effective bone mineralisation. It also helps the body to absorb calcium from the gut. It is not that common to find curved long tubular bones amongst osteological material or in anatomical collections, for even if a child is affected by the disease, the bones can remould themselves and regain their strength later in life. In today’s society, the disease is sometimes found in people who cover themselves for religious reasons and thus deprive their skin of sunlight. Symptoms can be a pricking sensation in the hands or muscle cramp. Pregnant and nursing women are particularly vulnerable. A correlation can also be seen with diets that are low in dairy products and high in fibre. A child also risks suffering vitamin D deficiency if its mother had low vitamin D levels during pregnancy; elderly and sick people who spend lengthy periods of time inside either in hospital or at home without access to the outdoors are in the risk zone. A moderate amount of sunlight is therefore vital for everyone. Many people take vitamin D supplements during the winter, and research continues on what the long-term effects of vitamin D deficiency might be.

Ann Gustavsson, 22 January 2019

Title page from Traité de scorbut by James Lind, 1756. From the Hagströmer Library collections.
Close-up of the orbital roof with cribra orbitalia. KI’s anatomical collection.
Photos: Anna Lantz and Ann Gustavsson.

Aufderheide, A.C. & Rodríguez-Martin, C.The Cambridge encyclopedia of human paleopathology. Cambridge, 2011: 305-314.
Berg, H. Läkarebok. Nya omarbetade och tillökade upplagan. Del 3-4. Göteborg, 1919.
Brickley, M, Ives, R.The bioarchaeology of metabolic bone disease. Oxford, 2008: 41-74, 75-150.
Larsen, C.S. Bioarcheology. Interpreting behavior from the human skeleton. Cambridge, 1997: 29ff, 45-46.
Ortner D.J. Identification of pathological conditions in human skeletal remains. San Diego, 2003: 383-401.
Roberts, C. & Manchester, K. The archaeology of disease. Gloucestershire, 2010: 234ff.
Roberts, C. & Manchester, K. What did agriculture do for us? In G. Barker & C. Goucher (Eds.), The Cambridge World History 2015: 55-92.
Rosén von Rosenstein, N. Underrättelser om Barn-Sjukdomar och deras Bote-Medel; Tillförene styckewis utgifne uti de små Almanachorna, nu samlade och förbättrade. Stockholm, 1764.
(Nyutgåva: Jägervall M. Nils Rosén von Rosenstein och hans lärobok i pediatrik. Lund, 1990.)
Uddenberg, N. Lidande & läkedom I. Medicinens historia fram till 1800. Stockholm, 2015: 13, 261, 285, 291,325, 327f.
Uddenberg, N. Lidande & läkedom II. Medicinens historia från 1800 till 1950. Stockholm, 2015: 148, 149f, 150f.

Learn more:
Vitamin D deficiency in modern society.

The “English disease”.

The Smörjning folk cure.

Ann Gustavsson is an archivist/curator at Karolinska Institutet’s Medical History and Heritage Unit. She has a master’s degree in archaeology and another in osteoarcheology. With a background in cultural studies, she went on to read ancient history and archival science. Her speciality is pathological lesions in bone. Ms Gustavsson is currently inventorying, analysing and digitalising Karolinska Institutet’s anatomical skull collection.

Translation: Neil Betteridge


Spring 2019!

We are back!
Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this spring.
(J. Schröder, Pharmacopoea Schrödero-Hoffmanniana ..., Geneva, 1687)


Charles De Geer

Charles De Geer var en av 1700-talets främsta entomologer och efter Linné den mest betydande svenske biologen under 1700-talet. Han var en ytterst skicklig tecknare, som framgår av de utsökt fina illustrationerna i hans monumentala Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Insectes i sju kvartoband med 238 graverade planscher. Hans bibliotek på Leufsta bruk är ett av de förnämsta i vårt land. Några av bibliotekets dyrbarheter inköptes från Olof Rudbeck d.y. och därmed några av de handskrifter av Linné vi har kvar i Sverige. Där ingick även den kända Fågelboken med handmålade planscher, samt delar av Olof Rudbeck d.ä:s bibliotek och handskrifter, som räddades undan den ödesdigra Uppsalabranden 1702, däribland den stora Blomboken.

ERIK HAMBERG, Fil.dr i idé- och lärdomshistoria och tidigare bibliotekarie vid Postmuseum, har katalogiserat de främsta naturalhistoriska klassikerna i Leufsta-samlingen, som idag av säkerhetsskäl är flyttade till Carolina Rediviva.

ONSDAGEN 5 DECEMBER 2018 kl.18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 30 NOVEMBER
Email: – Telefon: 070 555 2736
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Hagströmer Lecture 2018!

Global Health in the Anthropocene? History and Planetary Health
Speaker: Professor Warwick Anderson, University of Sydney/Harvard University

It has become clear that the health of human and other animal populations is inextricably linked to the health of the planet. This concept of “Planetary health” is increasingly used in science, philanthropy, schools of public health, and public discourse. But this is not the first time that human disease has been connected to environmental degradation and climatic conditions. This talk will explore the relations of twentieth-century medical geography, disease ecology and planetary thinking to emergent planetary health. In thus mapping the incipient conceptual terrain, we need to reflect not only on histories of planetary health, but also on history in planetary health.

PLACE: Hagströmer Library, Haga Tingshus
Bus 57 (Sveavägen) Bus 515 (Odenplan)
Stop: Haga Södra

Lecture followed by reception
If you wish to attend, please contact us by November 14
Phone: 08 524 860 12

In collaboration with: Friends of the Hagströmer Library and Karolinska Institutet


Guillaume Dupuytren

Dupuytren har gått till eftervärlden som diagnosnamn på krokiga fingrar. Han har beskrivits som en sällsynt despotisk, egensinnig, kontroversiell men nyskapande kirurg, men bakom fasaden var han hängiven sitt kall och en som verkligen månade om sina patienter, medarbetare och elever. Det finns skäl till att hans föreläsningar ibland lockade 500 åhörare. Hans Lecons orale de Clinique Chirurgicale faite à l’Hotel Dieu à Paris nedskrivna av hans medarbetare (en klassiker i fyra volymer utställd i Hagströmerbibliotekets nya utställning över Kirurgins historia) förmedlar en mycket erfaren kirurgs kunskaper med både nyfikenhet och djärvhet att pröva nya metoder. Trots arbetsbördan hade han ett spännande privatliv och umgicks i societeten med författare, kompositörer och musiker. I Balzacs författarskap figurerar han som kirurgen Docteur Desplein.

GUNNAR SVARTENGREN, specialist i handkirurgi och tidigare överläkare vid Handkirurgiska kliniken Södersjukhuset, berättar om denna fascinerande person. Som pensionär ägnar sig Gunnar förutom åt medicinhistoria, åt cykelhistoria, frihandsteckning och rodd med Beckholmsroddarna.

ONSDAGEN 10 OKTOBER 2018 kl.18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 5 oktober
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor 


MEDICINALVÄXTER - välkommen till föredrag!

Till Hagströmerbibliotekets praktfullaste bokskatter hör 1500-talets örtaböcker, rikt illustrerade med träsnitt, och 1700- och 1800-talets vackra botaniska planschverk över medicinalväxter med sina handkolorerade kopparstick och litografier.  Ett urval av dessa visades på den utställning OVE HAGELIN lade ut i Hagströmerbibliotekets praktsal när detta unika bok- och medicinhistoriska bibliotek och bokmuseum firade 20-årsjubileum år 2017, då Posten samtidigt gav ut tre nya frimärken med motiv av medicinalväxter ur bibliotekets samlingar. I sitt föredrag presenterar Hagelin de böcker och planschverk han valde ut för utställningen. Några verk kommer även visas i en mindre utställning.

Kvällen är del av ett större utställningsprojekt Herbarium, som arrangeras av Grafikens Hus och Art Lab Gnesta. Läs mer här!

ONSDAGEN 3 OKTOBER 2018 kl. 19.00 -21.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 6012
Inträde 150 kronor


Ny utställning!

Walter Herman Ryffs stora kirurgibok, Grosz Chirurgei (1559) har på titelbladet ett av 1500-talets mest realistiska träsnitt av en ampu- tation, där patienten ben sågas av, en blodig scen, och en av de tidigaste tryckt i två färger, rött och svart. I Hagströmerbibliotekets praktsal visas 43 av de mest kända böckerna i kirurgins historia av Gersdorff (1542), Paracelsus (1566), Scultetus (1655), Ambroise Paré (1585), och Lorens Heister (1739), alla rikt illustrerade med träsnitt och kopparstick. En av de stora rariteterna är Tagliacozzis i rhinoplastik (1597) om konsten att ersätta en förlorad näsa med levande vävnad från patienten själv. Men här visas även böcker av Napoleons mästerkirurg, dedicerade till Karl XIV Johan. Här presenteras även första upplagorna av anestesins pionjärer att upphäva smärta med lustgas, eter och kloroform, grunden för den moderna kirurgin, och Amerikas första stora bidrag till medicinens historia.

Visning av OVE HAGELIN

25 september kl 18-20
24 oktober kl 18-20
22 november kl 18-20

Pris: 150 kr, anmälan: 070-555 2736

Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats: Haga Södra


Inte Gutenberg, men nästan!

Johannes Gutenbergs 42-radiga Bibel från år 1455 är den första boken som trycktes med lösa typer i Europa och brukar därför kallas för ”den första tryckta boken”. Hagströmerbiblioteket har inga böcker av denne pionjär i sina samlingar, men däremot två lösa blad från en bok som trycktes av Peter Schöffer år 1485. I början av sin verksamhet arbetade han med Gutenberg i dennes tryckeri, bl.a. med tryckningen av den berömda Bibeln, men omkring år 1456/1457 startade Schöffer ett eget tryckeri tillsammans med Johann Fust som tidigare varit Gutenbergs finansiär. Till deras tidiga alster hör den berömda Psaltaren från år 1457 (Läs mer om Psaltaren: HÄR). Efter Fusts död år 1466 drev Schöffer verksamheten vidare i eget namn och fram till sin bortgång tryckte han över 250 olika verk: böcker, pamfletter, dokument, almanackor och kalendrar etc. Nästa alla verken är inom ämnena teologi eller juridik, men två av dem är örtaböcker. 

Örtaböcker är verk som innehåller namn och beskrivningar av framför allt växter och deras medicinska egenskaper. Ämnet var angeläget och böckerna användes inom läkekonsten för att med växternas hjälp bota och lindra diverse åkommor och sjukdomar. Verken tillhör en lång tradition, allt sedan antiken cirkulerade texter om medicinalväxter i Europa i form av handskrivna manuskript. Av de antika texterna kom greken Dioskorides Materia Medica från omkring år 65 e. Kr. att ha särskild betydelse och dominerade botaniken ända in på 1500- och 1600-talet. De äldsta tryckta örtaböckerna saknar i regel en namngiven författare och både texter och bilder är kopierade ur äldre verk snarare än baserade på egna erfarenheter. 

Schöffers första örtabok Herbarius latinus från år 1484 är skriven på latin, i kvartoformat och illustrerad med ca 150 träsnitt. Den innehåller mer bilder än alla tidigare tryckta örtaböcker. Följande år utgav han sin andra örtabok Gart der Gesundheit, som är i större folioformat. Den innehåller mer än dubbelt så många illustrationer, hela 379 träsnitt varav de flesta är mellan 12-18 cm och av bättre kvalitet än dem i föregångsverket. Bildernas storlek tillåter att fler av växternas detaljer kan återges. Generellt är växterna tecknade mer realistiska än dem i föregångsverket och de är inte kopierade från äldre botaniska bilder som var det vanliga förfarandet. Gart der Gesundheit var Schöffers mest ambitiösa illustrerade verk hittills och med dess bilder lade han grunden för den vetenskapliga botaniska illustrationskonsten. Boken innehåller 435 kapitel, varav nästan alla handlar om växter, men några av dem handlar istället om mineraler, djur eller uroskopi, en medeltida metod för att ställa diagnos genom att studera färgen på patientens urin, som hällts upp i en flaska och hålls upp mot ljuset.  

Konstnären är troligtvis Erhard Reuwich, som tryckte och även illustrerade Bernhard von Breydenbachs berömda Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam, 1486 (Resa till det heliga landet), den första illustrerade reseskildringen som också blev en internationell bestseller - men det är en helt annan historia!

Anna Lantz, 14 september 2018

Anderson, Frank J, An Illustrated History of the Herbals (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977).
Arber, Agnes, Herbals, their Origin and Evolution, a Chapter in the History of Botany 1470-1670 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953).
Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut, Peter Schoeffer of Gernsheim and Mainz (Rochester, N. Y: Printing House of L. Hart, 1950).
Baumann, Brigitte & Hellmut Bauman, Die Mainzer Kräuterbuch-Inkunabeln "Herbarius Moguntinus" (1484), "Gart der Gesundheit" (1485), "Hortus sanitatis" (1491), (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 2010).


The Library of Carl Curman

Carl Curman (1833-1913) was a prominent profile in Swedish medical circles, and beyond, in the 19th century. And not only that, he was also a Professor at the Academy of Art, an excellent artist in his own right, and a pioneer photographer. Locally in Stockholm he is today mainly remembered as the founder of Sturebadet (1885), a popular indoor bath and swimming pool in the center of the city. Before this he had his hand in the creation of other spas in Stockholm, but also on the west coast of Sweden, in the old community of Lysekil. Balneology (defined as “the study of medicinal springs and the therapeutic effects of bathing in them”) may arguably be considered his main interest. In Lysekil he and his wife Calla had two houses erected in a national romantic “viking” style that was fairly popular in some affluent circles at the time. There are several examples preserved and it may be noted that the house “Sagatun”, erected in 1880 in the vicinity of Stockholm, and owned by Gustaf and Anna Retzius is almost identical to Curman’s “Storstugan II”. As by chance, across the Gullmarsfjord from Lysekil, in Kristineberg, the Retziuses had a summer residence and the two couples were friends but also competitors in giving cultural soirées in the capital.

This was the short-short version of the Carl Curman biography… More detailed information can be easily found elsewhere.

Earlier this spring, Ms. Britta Wadman turned to the Hagströmer Library with a question; would we possibly be interested in a medical library that once belonged to Carl Curman? Ms. Wadman is the first female medical doctor in the family and the daughter of Dr. Hans Curman, son of Sigurd Curman (1897-1966, former head of National Heritage) who in his turn was the son of Carl and Calla Curman. The library has been inherited through the generations and has been kept in different locations over the years. When the famous Roman-inspired Curman Villa on Floragatan was built in 1880 it had a beautiful library specially designed for the book collection. In 1935 the collection was moved to Sigurd Curman’s home in the Haga Park, actually not very far from the Hagströmer Library’s present location. In 1950 it was housed in Rotsunda gård, whence it was moved to Svartmangatan in Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla stan) in 1991. A large part of the library has since been donated to the Royal Library, including letters, manuscripts, photographs etcetera, where it is labeled the Carl and Calla Curman Collection (Carl och Calla Curmans samling). Source material can also be found in Nordiska museet, the archives of the National Heritage (Riksantikvarieämbetet, RAÄ) and Tekniska museet. However, the lion’s share of medical books remained on Svartmangatan, and was now offered to the Hagströmer Library.

We were of course delighted to accept such an outstanding gift! Late in February 2018 Hjalmar Fors, Gertie Johansson and myself arranged the moving of the books to their worthy new home in Haga tingshus. When we collected the books a few other interesting objects were added to the donation; some copies of old photographs, a bronzed plaster bust of Carl Curman made by John Börjeson, a white plaster relief of Curman made by himself in the 1850s, another bronzed plaster relief (almost in the round) by Curman, depicting the botanist Sextus Otto Lindberg (1835-1889). However, the strangest, and most unnerving, object is a framed piece of human skin! It has been saved because of the tattoo it carries. There are pictures of two ladies in long sedate dresses beneath a flowering wreath each. They flank the common symbols for Faith, Hope and Love, a heart over a crossed anchor and cross and for emphasis it is written “Trohet” (faithfulness) across the heart. The two ladies have letters written below their feet; “I A E W” and “I E W” respectively. If you turn the object around you find written in pencil on the wooden back board, “Serafimerlasarettet 1851. En sjömans (afliden 1851) tatuerade bröst” (“The Serafimer Hospital 1851. A sailor’s (diseased 1851) tattooed chest”). The Hagströmer Library has with this donation had the opportunity to further enhance our already exceptional collections!

In a letter dated 9 May 2018 Ms Wadman states “My feeling is that Carl Curman finally has found a place among his peers and is in safe hands”.

Dan Jibréus, 30 August 2018

Photos (by the author):
Two editions of works by Hippocrates.
1. Opera omnia, qvæ extant, in VIII sectiones ex Erotiani mente distributa. Frankfurt, Daniel & David Aubry & Clemens Schleich, 1624. Contemporary blind-pressed pigskin, 380 x 45 mm. With Carl Curman’s round red owner’s stamp on title page. Also, in ink, “Gåfva till Lars Curman af Professor Per Wising 1890”, and on free front end paper “Ex libris Aug. Th. Broman Holmiæ MDCCCXLV”.
2. Aphorismi. Hos edi accuravit, interpretationem novam adjecit, loca parellela plurima ex ipso Hippocrate collegit… Lucas Verhoofd. Leiden, Daniel van Gaesbeek, [1675]. Contemporary full leather, 100 x 47 mm. With Carl Curman’s round red owner’s stamp on front free end paper.
Britta Wadman in front of some of the former Curman library shelves in the process of being emptied. Note the bust of Carl Curman. There are two bronze copies of this work, one in Sturebadet, and one in Havsbadsparken, Lysekil.

A great help in putting down these few notes is a document of pertinent facts compiled by Britta Wadman. Besides my own observations, other parts of this text is based on interviews with Britta Wadman, Thomas Lindblad, Lars Helin and others.


Fall 2018

We are back! Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this fall!
(Marcus Elieser Bloch, Oeconomische Naturgeschichte der Fische Deutschlands, Berlin, 1782-85)


Summer 2018

Have a nice summer vacation!
The Hagströmer Library will be closed during the month of July.
(Johannes Zorn, Icones Plantarum Medicinalium, Nürnberg, 1779-1790)

Med anledning av GDPR!


Med anledning av att en ny dataskyddsförordning, förkortad GDPR, träder ikraft inom EU den 25 maj 2018 har Föreningen Hagströmerbibliotekets vänner antagit följande policy beträffande hantering av personuppgifter.
1. Föreningen har ett digitalt medlemsregister, som upptar sedvanliga person- och adressregister samt kan innehålla medlems profession och intresseområden när dessa är inom föreningens syften. Föreningen hanterar inte personnummer men kan ha födelsedata.
2. Medlemsregistret är tillgängligt endast för föreningens funktionärer i sina roller. Registret i sin helhet eller i delar delas aldrig med annan part annat än där lag så kan föreskriva.
3. I samband med utflykter och andra aktiviteter, där anmälan om deltagande fordras tillsänds de som anmält sig en deltagarförteckning med namn, postadress och telefon-nummer. Detta för att underlätta gemensamma transporter. Deltagarförteckningen tillsänds, som information, även till arrangören/värden för föreningens utflykt/besök.
4. Vid distribution, via e-post, av information till samtliga medlemmar av nyhetsbrev och program respektive deltagarförteckningar sker detta alltid till så kallad dold mottagare för att inte exponera medlemmars e-postadresser.
5. Medlem eller tidigare medlem som aktivt inte önskar kvarstå i föreningens register stryks ur detta vid tiden för sådan anmälan men kan då inte erhålla några försändelser.
6. Medlem som inte förnyat för ny medlemsperiod kvarstår med samma data som pas-siv, tidigare medlem.
7. Denna policy skall vara publicerad på föreningens hemsida/liknande och befintlig medlem skall informeras i samband med förnyat medlemskap. Ny medlem informeras om policyn i samband med inträde i föreningen samt om att medlemmen genom medlemskapet accepterar föreningens hantering av personregistret.

Solna den 15 maj 2018
Föreningen Hagströmerbibliotekets vänner
Richard Wahlgren


Om utgivningen av Carl von Linnés korrespondens

Carl von Linnés (1707-1778) korrespondens är under utgivning på internet, The Linnaean Correspondence (LÄS MER HÄR). I föredraget behandlas förutom korrespondensens omfattning, och utbredning, även tidigare utgåvor och olika utgivningsprinciper. Därtill kommer att ges exempel på några forskningsfält där materialet kan komma till användning: förutom det renodlat botaniska, även sådant som rör naturforskningens vardagstillvaro, tidens nätverkande och karriärplanering, materiella förutsättningar för den veten- skapliga publiceringsprocessen samt om korrespondensen i sin helhet som ett forum för forskning och samarbete i 1700-talets Europa och övriga delar av världen. Några speciellt intressanta korrespondenter och deras brev till och från Linné kommer dessutom att belysas närmare.

EVA NYSTRÖM är forskningsredaktör vid utgivningen av The Linnaean Correspondence, och ingår i styrelsen för Hagströmerbibliotekets vänner.

TISDAGEN 15 maj 2018 kl. 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan före 8 maj
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor, icke medlemmar 180 kronor

Brevet på bilden är från Linné till Abraham Bäck (1713-1795) och daterat den 13 November 1761. Det tillhör Hagströmerbiblioteket, MS:27:119 och har i den digitala utgåvan nr L2995. Det var inte känt när korrespondensen mellan Linne och Bäck publicerades i Bref och skrifvelser af och till Carl von Linné (Stockholm, 1907-1943). "Denna dyra samling af Bref vore värd at göras public, som den innehåller många hundrade bref, uti hvilka afhandlas alt märkvärdigt, som upkommit ifrån 1735 till hans död" (Ur Vita Caroli Linnaei, III).


Krokodiler, basilisker och tulpaner!

1500-talsmänniskan var inte lika bortskämd som vi är idag med att betrakta bilder, så renässansens stora världsbeskrivningar och böcker om naturens rikedomar var rikt illustrerade, sålde bra och utkom i många upplagor. Bilder av djur, växter, främmande folkslag, och även monster var populära och kom att kopieras i mängder av böcker lång tid framöver. En bestseller blev Sebastian Münsters Cosmographia, 1544, som under de närmaste hundra åren utkom i över 25 upplagor med över 1500 fantasieggande träsnitt där flera också visade exotiska djur, monster och fabelväsen. Ovanligt är att några av dessa motiv, tillsammans med bilder från andra vetenskapliga verk, också återkommer på kyrkbänkarna och andra inventarier i några av de medeltida kyrkorna på Gotland, direkt kopierade från böckerna. Varför har man målat dessa motiv i luthersk-evangeliska kyrkor, vars bildkonst hade ett tydligt religiöst syfte utformat av Luther själv?

ANNA LANTZ arbetar på Hagströmerbiblioteket sedan 2009 och har skrivit en masteruppsats i konstvetenskap om bilderna i de gotländska kyrkorna under efterreformatorisk tid ca 1660-1710.

ONSDAGEN 25 april 2018 kl. 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan före 19 april
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor, icke medlemmar 180 kronor.


Välkommen till föredrag!

Under 1700-talet var handeln med kinesiskt te big business; Svenska ostindiska kompaniet importerade tusentals ton med te, det mesta återexporterades för att sedan smugglas till Storbritannien. Samtidigt sökte svenska naturalhistoriker med Linné i spetsen med ljus och lykta över surrogat till de kinesiska bladen. Föredraget handlar om hur dessa historier hänger ihop, hur handel, konsumtion och smak för nya varor ledde till ett utforskande av den inhemska naturen. 

HANNA HODACS är docent i historia vid högskolan i Dalarna. 2016 kom hon ut med en bok om den skandinaviska ostindiska handeln med Kina (Silk and tea in the North. Scandinavian Trade and the Market for Asian Goods in Eighteenth-Century Europe, Palgrave 2016). Hodacs har också ägnat sig åt att forska om svensk naturalhistoria, senast i den nyss utkomna boken Linnaeus, natural history and circulation of knowledge, red. Hanna Hodacs, Kenneth Nyberg och Stéphane Van Damme (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2018).

ONSDAGEN 21 MARS 2018 kl. 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan före 15 mars
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor, icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Välkommen till föredrag!

Inom paleontologins historia intar Johann Bartholomaeus Adam Beringer (c. 1667–1738) en mindre hedervärd plats. Hans berömda bok om fossil har gått till historien av andra skäl än dess vetenskapliga tillförlitlighet. Den lärde professor Beringer, respekterad läkare, professor i medicin och furstbiskopens i Würzburg livmedikus, hade på gamla dagar börjat anlägga ett naturaliekabinett. Han fascinerades särskilt av föremål uppgrävda ur jorden och det var hans studier och undersökningar av vissa högst märkvärdiga stenar, som inom kort skulle utvecklas till en katastrof och göra hans namn vida berömt. VÄLKOMMEN!

OVE HAGELIN är hedersdoktor vid Karolinska Institutet och skaparen av Hagströmerbiblioteket.

Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan före 22 februari
Email: – Telefon: 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor Icke medlemmar 180 kronor.


Hagströmerbibliotekets skriftserie 22!

WILLIAM HARVEY – en medicinsk revolutionär.
”William Harveys upptäckt av blodomloppet revolutionerade vetenskapen. Hans empiriska arbete om hjärtat och blodkärlen gick emot rådande vedertagna idéer och metoder och förändrade synen på hur vår kropp fungerar i grunden. Harvey var utan tvekan en av sin tids mest lysande stjärnor och hans bidrag till vetenskapen anses av många vetenskapshistoriker som lika betydelsefull som Isaac Newtons lära om gravitationen eller Charles Darwins om evolutionen. Med De motu cordis, som publicerades 1628, framstår William Harvey än idag som författare till en av de mest betydelsefulla skrifterna i medicinens historia. I William Harvey har hans livsverk för första gången i sin helhet översatts till svenska. Författaren och kardiologen Kenneth Pehrsson sätter också in Harvey i en historisk kontext. Denna bok ger en rik förståelse för de villkor Harvey arbetade under och det motstånd han mötte, och beskriver på ett fängslande sätt hur han kom att göra en av de viktigaste upptäckterna i medicinens historia.”

Fri Tanke förlag: HÄR



Paolo Mascagni (1755-1815)
Anatomiae Universae Icones
Pisa, apud Nicolaum Capurro, 1823 [-1832]

Den italienske anatomen Paolo Mascagnis viktigaste arbete var hans verk över lymfkärlssystemet, Vasorum lymphaticorum corporis humani, 1787, där han engagerat den skicklige Cino Santi från Bologna att teckna och gravera de 41 halvmeterhöga planscherna. Det är en klassiker och den finaste atlasen någonsin över lymfkärlen. Över 50 procent av de idag kända lymfkärlen upptäcktes av Mascagni. Det var detta epokgörande verk som öppnade vägen för hans fortsatta studier inom anatomi och fysiologi.

År 1800 accepterade den då 45-årige Mascagni professorstjänsten i Pisa, men redan ett år senare var man ivrig att locka honom över till Florens och erbjöd sig att fördubbla hans lön. Med detta generösa bud, kunde Mascagni nu fortsätta att förverkliga sitt anatomiska jätteverk, där människans kropp och dess organ skulle visas i naturlig storlek, ett grandiost projekt, som kom att utföras med hjälp av den skicklige tecknaren och gravören Antonio Serantoni. Detta kolossala företag drog på sig enorma kostnader och tvingade Mascagni att dra in lönerna och inteckna familjens egendom. Han uppsköt länge publiceringen i hopp om att tekniken att trycka bilder i färg skulle utvecklas, så att man inte behövde kolorera för hand. Men Mascagni fick aldrig se sin atlas i tryck. Han dog 1815, men hans familj såg till att konstnären Antonio Serantoni kunde fullfölja sitt arbete med att kombinera färgtrycket med handkolorering – det som skulle ge planscherna ett så spektakulärt resultat. Det första av nio häften utkom 1822. Ett komplett exemplar med kolorerade planscher åsattes det astronomiska priset av 2 250 guldfrancs – ett enormt belopp på denna tid (min kollega, från vilken vi köpte detta exemplar räknade ut att det motsvarar 750 gram guld eller nära 20 000 dollar). Nu råkar HB ha prospektet från 1822, ett oskuret exemplar i sitt tryckta originalomslag, Grande Anatomia del Corpo Umano. Rappresentata in XLIV. tavole. Prospetto – en raritet kanske sällsyntare än den stora atlasen. I Prospektet framgår att ytterst få exemplar tryckta i färg och ”finished by hand” skulle tryckas. Exemplar med okolorerade planscher kostade 1 125 francs.

Bokens format är dubbel elefantfolio (985 x 714 mm). Detta exemplar förvarat i en träkasett klädd med svart papper, har de bruna häftesomslagen med tryckt etikett bevarade. Det vackert graverade titelbladet följs av en dedikation tillägnad Leopold II, som också var storhertig av Toscana. De 44 färgplanscherna har alla varsin nyckelplansch med konturteckning i linjegravyr, samtliga med tunt skyddspapper. De mäktiga planscherna är legendariska och utgör monument i anatomins, men även i färgtryckets historia. Detaljrikedomen, noggrannheten, klarheten i utförandet och koloreringen av vener och artärer i mättad röd respektive blå täckfärg, och nerver och lymfkärl i vitt, är nästan så man tappar andan. Mascagnis atlas brukar i anatomin jämföras med den lika stora J. J. Audubons The Birds of America inom ornitologin.
Anatomiae Universae Icones kan nog betraktas som det dyraste anatomiska bildverk som någonsin producerats och upplagan var ytterst begränsad. Under min tid känner jag till endast ett privat exemplar, medicinboksamlaren Irwin Pincus exemplar, som han troligen köpte från Jeremy Norman 1978 och som efter Pincus död såldes hos Christie’s 2004. Ett annat exemplar fick jag nöjet bläddra igenom vid ett besök på Universitetsbiblioteket i Pavia, antagligen ett av de få exemplar som finns bevarade på bibliotek.

Jag hade aldrig drömt om att ett komplett exemplar av denna extremt sällsynta anatomiska atlas skulle dyka upp – och än mindre att jag skulle få Sven Hagströmer och Vänföreningens styrelsemedlemmar intresserade – men nu finns ett exemplar i Sverige, då den t.o.m. saknas i Bibliotheca Walleriana vid Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek. Jag är väl förtrogen med Wallers böcker och har lagt märke till att han saknade flera av de till formatet jättestora planschverken, som han kanske ratade då de inte fick plats i hans trånga bibliotek i Lidköping.

Inför utställningen Kroppen, Konst och Vetenskap på Nationalmuseum 2005 anskaffade jag till HB två lösa planscher, med fram och baksidan av mannens torso, vilka inramade visades på både Nationalmuseum och Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde. De pryder nu väggen ovanför dörren in till Hagströmerbiblioteket. En av dessa, som visade baksidan förstorades upp i jätteformat till en vepa, som fick täcka Nationalmuseums fasad under utställningen (den finns omhändertagen på HB) – och den bilden användes för marknadsföringen av utställningen i tidningsannonser, affischer och prospekt. Utställningen Läke Konst på Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde 2010 uppmärksammades även på TV i Vetenskapens Värld.

För att avbilda hela kroppen i naturlig storlek fick den delas upp på tre planscher, som kunde monteras ihop. Jag hade i min Catalogue Twenty-Two, 1986, tjugotvå av de 44 färgplanscherna, vilka inköptes av min kollega Björn Löwendahl i Stockholm, vars hustru handlade med planscher och ofta tipsade inredningsarkitekter, bl.a. de som skulle dekorera en då nyöppnad restaurang vid Stureplan. När man invigde restaurangen gick jag och Irene dit för att titta på deras omtalade väggdekorationer med både japanska träsnitt och tändsticksetiketter. Vi satte oss ned och tog en öl, och Irene gick därefter in på damrummet och såg lite underfundig ut när hon kom tillbaka. Ovanför handfaten på damtoaletten satt fyra originalplanscher av Mascagni, visande de nedre extremiteterna, benen och fötterna. Av de sällsynta Mascagniplanscher man inte kan finna på världens största medicinska bibliotek kunde åtminstone fyra beses på restaurangens damtoalett. - Jag smet för en tid sedan in på damernas och fann toaletten helt ombyggd och Mascagni var borta. Jag vet inte var de finns idag. En annan plansch, Tabula III, Viscera.  lär under 2014 ha varit den mest nedladdade av de 100,000 bilder som Wellcome Library lagt ut på nätet.

 Antonio Serantoni, som tecknat, graverat och handkolorerat de spektakulära jätteplanscherna, hade insett att det omåttliga priset och det otympliga formatet gjorde denna atlas praktiskt taget omöjlig att använda och sälja. Han lade då ned tre år på att framställa en atlas i normal folio-storlek med 75 planscher i färgtryck med extra handkolorering och med lika många svart-vita nyckelplanscher i linjegravyr. Här visas hela kroppen på planscherna. Ett fint exemplar av denna mindre Anatomia universale (storlek 470 x 320 mm), ingick i Edel Collection of Art and Anatomy, som gick på auktion hos Christie’s i New York, 2004, och nu finns att se på Hagströmerbiblioteket. 

Ove Hagelin, 26 januari 2018


Spring 2018

We are back!
Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this spring.
(F. Petrarca, Zwei Trostbücher, Frankfurt am Main, 1551)


Got a Toothache? There’s a Saint for That

För några månader sedan kontaktades Hagströmerbiblioteket av Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry i San Francisco. De planerade en digital utställning om St. Apollonia, tandläkekonstens skyddshelgon, och intresserade sig för den Wesslerska samlingen av odontologiska bilder och föremål som ingår i Hagströmerbibliotekets bestånd. Nu är utställningen klar och några bilder från den Wesslerska samlingen är med. I texten nedan presenterar de sin utställning, följt av en länk där ni även kan se den:

For just about as long as humans have had teeth and eaten starchy foods, they have had to contend with dental discomfort. In the 14th century, as dental ills among people of Western Europe increased, toothache sufferers began to turn to a little-known saint in hopes of relief. A new online exhibit from the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry's Virtual Dental Museum explores the history and iconography of Saint Apollonia — the patron saint of the dental profession.

Her origin story is not a happy one. She was reputedly an "aged deaconess" living in Alexandria, Egypt in the third century AD, who, rather than renounce God, had her teeth knocked out and then leaped into a bonfire. While she attracted little attention in the years (and centuries) following her death, in the Middle Ages people began to revive her story because of the tooth-loss component of her tale.

St. Apollonia continues to give solace to the dentally afflicted in those Christian communities where the belief in saintly benevolence is cherished. Over many centuries, she has been revered in religious paintings, sculptures, cathedral stained glass images, drama and literature, and honored on February 9, her designated day of celebration. She was adopted as the patron saint of dentistry, possibly in medieval times, and continues to hold that place of distinction, with many of today's dental societies, magazines and practices bearing her name.

Learn more and see the exhibition: here!


Välkommen till föredrag!

The Politics of Reading in Early (and not so Early) Modern Europe.
This talk traces the reception history of Andreas Vesalius´De humani corporis fabrica, the first illustrated atlas of anatomy. It relies on the recently completed census of the Fabrica, which has documented the surviving copies of the 1543 and 1555 editions of the work. It shows how political and economic considerations have shaped how copies of this impressive and expensive volume traveled within Europe and beyond in the past five hundred years, and how readers responded to the text and the illustrations. I argue that, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Fabrica served as a political tool for understanding and regulating gender relations. An analysis of the annotations reveals that the Fabrica was read for what it said about sexual difference and the secrets of generation.

DANIEL MARGÓCSY, University Lecturer, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge.

Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan före 30 november
Email: Telefon 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor
Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Peter Forsskål - Genius of the Swedish Enlightenment

Today the Swedish Academy is chiefly recognized for appointing the Nobel prize laureate in literature. Since its beginning in 1786 the Academy has also struck a medal each year commemorating some renowned Swede. In 1923 Peter Forsskål (1732–1763) was honoured this way and his biographer, literary historian Henrik Schück, noted that:

there are probably not many scholars who have had more multifaceted scientific talents, and these talents were in him combined with an originality and an energy that without doubt would have accomplished great achievements, had he stayed alive. He was a philosopher, orientalist, zoologist and botanist, alongside he had a passion for social justice, and he was one of those who most strongly advocated the freedom of the press, which we finally acquired in 1766.

Although Forsskål never lived to experience his thirty-second birthday he made an imprint on several fields. In today’s Sweden he is probably best known for his struggle for extended civil liberties, but the fact that already before the middle of the nineteenth century 57 animal species had been given generic names after him bears testimony to his prominence also within the natural sciences. 

By the end of the 1750s Forsskål was well on his way of pursuing a successful academic career. He had studied botany for Carl Linnaeus in Uppsala, and thanks to a generous scholarship he had had the opportunity to study in Goettingen under the philologist Johann David Michaelis. Forsskål wrote a dissertation, Dubia de principiis philosophiae recentioris, “Doubts Concerning the Principles of Modern Philosophy”, which earned him some attention among German scholars. After returning to Uppsala he became assistant professor of Economics.

It was at this point, early in 1759, that he inscribed himself as a pioneer in the struggle for equal civil rights to all people, so momentous for the century that followed. This was during the so called Age of Liberty (1718–1772) when Sweden had a republican form of government in all but name. Swedish politicians braced themselves for enjoying the freest and most perfect constitution there ever was – “as had it been written by angels”. Compared to other regimes of an absolute nature it was a moderate polity, but there was nevertheless room for improvements, not least in the field of civil liberties. Forsskål had written a thesis De libertate civile, “Thoughts on Civil Liberty”, but it violated the university regulations to discuss contemporary domestic politics and the publication was prohibited.

Forsskål took this as a matter of principle and decided to print and disseminate the text at his own expense. The result was a six page pamphlet containing 20 short paragraphs where he elaborated on what he considered to be the true Swedish liberties. Even though the text had been scrutinized by the regular censor and, in effect, contained nothing revolutionary it caused displeasure among those in power. It was as if some wretched citizen in a twentieth-century Democratic People’s Republic had urged people to actually enjoy the social rights and liberties formally guaranteed by the constitution.

Forsskål became subject to an extra-judicial interrogation, but his accusers soon found themselves in an awkward situation. The normal procedure was that an accused person yielded to the pressure and begged for pardon, which was then granted after an appropriate reprimand. Forsskål, however, refused to admit to having done anything wrong. He had only defended the civil liberties of Sweden and what he found to be the natural rights of man.

Authoritarian as it might have been, Sweden was no dictatorship. After lengthy and futile questionings the authorities found no other solution than to let Forsskål go – unpunished. They were afraid that he would become a public martyr. An order was issued to confiscate his pamphlet, but only a few copies were found. The Faculty at Uppsala University was indeed instructed to give Forsskål a warning, but when he disputed even this unwarranted measure the authorities found it safest to discontinue all further action in the matter.

Political control was exercised through a good deal of restraint and self-censorship among ordinary citizens, but trough his conduct Forsskål had demonstrated that the emperor was in fact naked, and his case became a milestone in the growing demands for proper freedom of expression. Six years later, in 1766, the first Swedish Freedom of Print Act was issued, but Forsskål never lived to experience this.

Forsskål probably planned to bring his case to the highest instance, the Diet, but when it assembled the next time, in October 1760, he was already in Copenhagen preparing what proved to be his biggest and last adventure: the Royal Danish Arabia Expedition. The purpose of the expedition was to make scientific investigations of the stories of the Bible. Thanks to the recommendation of Michaelis, his old teacher, Forsskål was enrolled as a specialist on botany as well as oriental languages.

The ambitious expedition turned disastrous in many ways, largely due to distrust and controversies among the participants. The feverish climate also took its toll and five of the expedition’s six members perished within three years, among them Forsskål.

The sole survivor, Carsten Niebuhr, took care of Forsskål’s notes and diaries, some 1 800 pages with descriptions from the three realms of nature. Much of this was published posthumously. Flora aegyptiaco-arabica (1775) is a systematic account stretching over 394 pages, whereas Icones rerum naturalium (1776) describes 20 plants and 88 animal species and is famous for its lavish illustrations. The most important title is Descriptiones animalium (1775), comprising 641 species divided into descripta, formerly unstudied orders, and nominata, familiar groups supplemented with localities etc. To this was added a pharmacopeia. The value of the book was increased by the application of contemporary Arabic nomenclature, yet another of Forsskål’s many knowledge areas.

Today there is a growing interest in the legacy of Peter Forsskål, and he was put at the centre of many activities when Sweden and Finland celebrated the 250th anniversary of the world’s first freedom of print act in 2016. A biography and English translation of his Thoughts on Civil Liberty can be accessed at Litteraturbanken. Updates are posted regularly on

"The dress of a distinguished Arab in Yemen", assumed portrait of Carsten Niebuhr. Engraving by Johan Frederik Clemens.
Peter Forsskål. Engraving by Johan Fredrik Martin.
The last Swedish book censor, Niclas von Oelreich. Anonymous drawing.

Jonas Nordin has a PhD in history and is associate professor at Stockholm University. He is working at the Kungliga biblioteket/The National Library of Sweden. He specializes in early-modern cultural and political history and has published extensively on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


Välkommen till föredrag!

Some manuscripts endure the centuries, and some do not. Medical manuscripts seem to have had relatively short lifespans, perhaps through constant use and perhaps through replacement when new discoveries emerged. Thus, they are frequently found as small fragments, reused in the bindings of other books as cheap form of recycled material. This lecture will look at a number of new discoveries of such fragments from both the Hagströmer Library and a number of private libraries in Sweden and Europe.

Dr. TIMOTHY BOLTON is an honorary fellow of both Cardiff University and Aberdeen University. After finishing his PhD in Cambridge, he spent seven years at Sotheby´s as their expert in medieval manuscripts. In 2012, he became an independent manuscript consultant, and now divides his time between a role as Head of Manuscripts at Bloomsbury Auctions in London and in advising a number of private clients. He has catalogued for sale by auction nearly 1400 manuscripts to date, in Latin and almost every European vernacular language including Anglo-Saxon (three times), Welsh, and Czech, as well as an array of languages from the Christian Orient, such as Hebrew, Greek, Armenian, Samaritan, Syriac, and Coptic. In addition, he is the author of a monograph on medieval history which appeared in 2009, and has published a number of scholarly articles on medieval manuscripts and aspects of eleventh-century history.

TISDAGEN 14 NOVEMBER 2017 Kl. 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan före 9 november,
Email: Telefon 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor
Icke medlemmar 180 kronor.



I den viktiga 10:e upplagan av Systema Naturae 1758 skriver Carl von Linné på latin i inledningen till kapitlet över ormar, reptiler och amfibier: Dessa mest vedervärdiga djur utmärks av hjärta med en kammare, godtyckliga lungor och en delad penis. De flesta amfibier är sträva, med en kall kropp, har en kuslig färg, broskaktigt skelett, smutsig hud, bistert anlete, en meditativ blick, en vämjelig lukt, ett hest läte, en unken livsmiljö och ett hemskt gift. Deras Skapare har således inte gjort mycket för deras förkovran.

Kvällens föreläsare kommer att reda ut Linnés syn på ormarna som det uppenbarar sig ur hans resor och författarskap. Vi kommer även att få följa med på resor i Afrika på fångster av högst levande ormar men också till de förnämsta antikvariaten i världen på jakt efter de mest rara böckerna i herpetologi.

RICHARD WAHLGREN är Vänföreningens kassaförvaltare sedan 2014 och ordförande i International Society for the History and Bibliography of Herpetology. Han har sysslat med ormar sedan ungdomstiden och bodde i Afrika och arabvärlden i åtta år efter sin examen vid Lunds universitet 1973. Han har ett av de största privata biblioteken med främst äldre litteratur i herpetologi och har regelbundet bidragit med artiklar i ämnet i bl.a. tidskriften Bibliotheca Herpetologica.

TISDAGEN 17 OKTOBER 2017 Kl. 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen), Buss 515 (Odenplan) Hållplats Haga Södra
Anmälan före 13 oktober,
Email: Telefon 08 5248 65 48
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kronor
Icke medlemmar 180 kronor


Cranial deformation – a class signifier?

In our modern society, people like to express their personality and status through their clothes and the status symbols they choose to buy. Today, many people decorate their bodies with tattoos and piercings. While this desire to belong to a particular social sphere has always existed, it has manifested itself in different ways. In China, they bound upper-class women’s feet (lotus feet) and in some African and Asian countries, people still lengthen their necks with metal rings.

When we hear the word trauma, we tend to think of sudden accidents that cause serious injury, such as a car crash or a broken bone. However, there’s another type of trauma – a low-intense one that can cause significant deformations, and throughout human history different cultures have practiced the deliberate reshaping of skulls.

If a baby’s skull is bound to a hard surface with, for example, a cloth, it affects the form of its skull as it gradually grows and becomes thicker and harder. Usually, a board of some kind was connected to the binding. If the pressure is prolonged, the natural basic form of the skull can be changed dramatically. So in cultures past, if the cloth and board were removed at about the age three, the child’s skull had become “programmed” to adopt a new shape. Archaeologists have found shaping tools in graves. It is likely that the brain was not so affected by these reshaping procedures, other than that the sutures could fuse slightly differently and form more sutural bone (small, additional seams) to help offset the need for extra growing space. The brain adapted and grew within its new bony casing.

Early finds and different theories
This type of custom has existed at different times and at different places around the world. The first types of find come from 45,000-year old Neanderthal bones in the Shanidar cave in Iraq, while in the Andes 10,000-year old finds have also been made. It is thought that the purpose of the practice was to indicate membership of an elite. There are also examples of cranial deformation from Crete’s Minoan culture and from Akhenaton’s reign during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, when he and his family were depicted with elongated skulls. It is believed that this created a head-shape trend, but as no skeletons have been found the only evidence comes from the artwork. Perhaps the fashion merely concerned how people wanted to be depicted, not how they shaped the actual skulls of their children. Egyptologists have sought possible explanations for Akhenaton’s peculiar head shape and suggested that he could have suffered from acromegaly (a disease caused by excess growth hormone) or hydrocephaly. In the Andes, there is an identifiable parallel between cranial shape and the shape of a nearby holy mountain, from which it might be surmised that the shape of the skull had a spiritual or religious significance in certain cultures.

Many shaped crania have been unearthed on Cyprus, including from Enkomi, the site of a dig conducted by the Swedish Cyprus expedition in 1927-1931. Kirsi Lorentz, who has researched into this field, has identified three types of cranial deformation – anterio-posterior, rounded and post-bregmatic – depending on the direction in which the change in shape was made. They are the terms used both subsequently in the study of cranial measurements and as anatomical terms of location. The first is the oldest type (8,000-7,000 BCE) and the last is unique to Cyprus. However, the different types appeared at the same time and place. She mentions that these individuals had lived to an old age so no harm to the health can be inferred from the procedure. Research continues on trying to ascertain the mobility of populations and peoples using head-shape data. For example, scientists have taken isotope samples of the element strontium to see where the individuals originally came from. Strontium is stored in the teeth as a kind of fingerprint of where a person was living when his or her teeth calcified – i.e. when a child. It is always women who have the most pronounced deformations.

One way of shaping crania was with so-called cradleboards. A cradleboard was a kind of wooden or woven plate attached to a bag that allowed women to carry their babies on their backs. Boards like this, apart from their practical function, were also used to shape babies’ skulls. The archaeological grave material also includes terracotta figurines similar to miniature cradleboards. It is thought that these small figurines are representations of real cradleboards and that they might have had particular cultural significance. They are called plank-shaped figurines. One early interpretation was that the figurines depicted gods, goddesses or ancestors; in more recent times, however, they are seen more as miniature objects. For instance, what were once interpreted as a goddess’s breasts were probably mere decoration. Despite their being found in graves, they are thought to have been used by generations of the same family – just like real cradleboards were. Examples of such miniatures can be found in the Cyprus collection of the Mediterranean Museum in Stockholm.

North America
Cradleboards were also used by Native Americans, who we know had rituals and customs surrounding babies before and after birth and during the first delicate year of life. The sacred cradleboard was made by a family member – often a grandmother – and in many ways represented and protected the baby’s body, and bring it health and life. If the baby died, the cradleboard could be destroyed or discarded. Alternatively, the baby was buried in it, or it was laid on the baby’s grave. It could also be filled with selected plants and feathers and carried by the mother as a symbol of mourning for up to a year. Chinooks (who practised cranial deformation) are known to have used cradleboards. A Chinook woman is depicted in an 1846 painting by Paul Kane.

During the 4th to 6th centuries, the practice of shaping crania spread amongst the nomadic tribes such as the Huns, and it is thought that it could have been passed on by them during the Great Migration. According to scholars, the different nomadic peoples used different techniques to distinguish themselves from one another.

There are alternative theories about that deformed crania are a sign of aliens or a new species of human. There will probably always be people with over-active imaginations keen to foment different conspiracy theories as soon as discoveries of astonishing historical finds are published. A collection of craniums discovered in Hypogeum, an underground Neolithic cult and burial site on Malta, gave rise to a rumour, which circulated for about a decade, that they were deformed even though they are just normally dolichocephalic (i.e. elongated). It is always important to be source critical.

The anatomical collection at KI’s Medical History and Heritage Unit contains several examples of deformed skulls. Some are from Peru and some are Chinook, an indigenous group living on the middle and lower reaches of the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. The Chinooks practised this custom well into the 1800s. Two of the crania are labelled flathead indians, which actually refers to another group. The two crania were donated by ship’s captain Nils Werngren (1815-1897), who brought these and other such finds home from his travels around the world. The collection also has some plaster moulds of deformed crania.

Read more: Rumour of deformed crania on Malta.

Plaster modules from the Medical History and Heritage Unit. Photo: Ann Gustavsson.
Cypriot terracotta plank-shaped figurine, 2000-1800 BCE, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia commons.

Oral information
Dan Jibréus, Hagströmer Library.

Aufderheide, A.C. & Rodríguez-Martin, C. The Cambridge encyclopedia of human paleopathology. Cambridge University Press. 2011: 34-36.
Bergoffen, C. J. Plank figures. Medelhavsmuseet. Focus on the Mediterranean 5. Stockholm 2009.
Lorentz, K.O. Modifying the body. Medelhavsmuseet. Focus on the Mediterranean 4. Finds and results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition 1927-1931: A Gender Perspective. Stockholm 2009.
Ortner D.J. Identification of pathological conditions in human skeletal remains. San Diego 2003:163–165.
Identitet och skönhet. Populär arkeologi. Nr. 2/2017:9.

Ann Gustavsson is an archivist/curator at Karolinska Institutet’s Medical History and Heritage Unit. She has a master’s degree in archaeology and another in osteoarcheology. With a background in cultural studies, she went on to read ancient history and archival science. Her speciality is pathological lesions in bone. Ms Gustavsson is currently inventorying, analysing and digitalising Karolinska Institutet’s anatomical skull collection.


Hagströmer Lecture 2017

Nuisance or Necessity? Historical Perspectives on the ‘Informed’ Patient.
Speaker: Nancy Tomes, Distinguished Professor, State University of New York, Stony Brook.
The following guest blog by Nancy Tomes is a condensed version of her talk on May 29, 2017. You can watch the whole lecture at YouTube: here.

The Hagströmer Lecture is a yearly lecture at the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, in which an internationally renowned historian addresses a subject that is currently debated in medicine, healthcare, or the life sciences, and puts this debate in historical perspective.

This year’s lecturer Nancy Tomes has taught history at Stony Brook since 1978, after earning her Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied with Charles E. Rosenberg. Tomes has authored four books: A Generous Confidence: Thomas Story Kirkbride and the Art of Asylum Keeping (Cambridge, 1984; U Penn, 1994); Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914, with Lynn Gamwell (Cornell, 1995); The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life (Harvard, 1998), and Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers (UNC Press, 2016). She also has co-edited two collections, Medicine’s Moving Pictures, with Leslie Reagan and Paula Treichler (Rochester, 2007) and Patients as Policy Actors with Beatrix Hoffman, Rachel Grob, and Mark Schlesinger (Rutgers, 2011). In collaboration with Duke University Library’s Special Collections, Tomes developed “Medicine and Madison Avenue,” a website on the history of health-related advertising, available at

Tomes’ research has been supported by numerous foundations in the United States, among others the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Institute for Mental Health, and the National Library of Medicine. She won both the American Association for the History of Medicine’s Welch medal and the History of Science Society’s Davis prize for The Gospel of Germs. In 2011, the American Public Health Association awarded her the Arthur Viseltear Award for “her distinguished body of scholarship in the history of public health.” She received the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2016 for Remaking the American Patient. From 2012 to 2014, Tomes served as President of the American Association for the History of Medicine. In 2015, she was promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor, State University of New York.

Nuisance or Necessity? Historical Perspectives on the ‘Informed’ Patient.
Today millions of people across the globe are using their digital devices (computers, laptops, cell phones) to get information about their health, their doctors, and their hospitals. In the United States, the use of the Internet to get health information has provoked controversy. On the one hand, advocates of patient engagement see the Internet as a positive and potentially transformative force. In the words of Tom Ferguson, one of the early pioneers of the e-patient movement, “individuals who are equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health care decisions” can “help us heal healthcare.” Yet this “new breed of informed health consumer” has aroused resistance as well, especially among physicians. The Medical Googler has become a flashpoint for debates about whether laypeople can really be trusted to understand all the information they can now access. This resentment is reflected in a mug available for purchase emblazoned with the motto, “Please do not confuse your Google search with my medical degree.”

One assumption that both admirers and critics of the Internet-using patient often make is that the Internet has “created” this problem. While I agree that the Internet is a truly significant development, the fundamental conflicts it raises over patients’ access to information, where it comes from, how reliable it is, and how it affects their trust in doctors, are not new at all. When it comes to content, much of what patients find on the Internet is not radically different from what was available in other forms via the now “old fashioned” print and electronic media (such as radio, and TV) and circulated through patient self-help groups that well predate the Internet. In order to recognize what’s different about the Internet’s version of the informed health consumer, it is useful to compare and contrast here with the experiences of past generations.

With that purpose in mind, my talk introduces some of these earlier information seekers and the debates they sparked within the American medical profession. While I focus primarily on the 20th c., I acknowledge that patients challenging their physicians with information gotten from other sources started long before that. Since the early modern period, the combination of growing literacy and cheap print has been a fertile source of popular unrest with medical authority. But due to sweeping changes in medicine, advertising and mass media, 20th c. doctors and patients have made choices within an increasingly richer and faster moving information environment. Many familiar features of our contemporary informational landscape originated in print media before migrating to electronic and now digital media: physicians’ advice columns, articles about the latest medical miracle or best diet, and lots and lots of drug advertisements.

Moreover, what doctors had to explain and patients needed to know also became more complex as medical science exploded in the post-World War I era, and the nature of the diseases being treated changed from communicable diseases to heart disease and cancer. The medical encounter increasingly revolved around conditions that lasted longer and were more difficult to cure, making trust and cooperation between doctor and patient all the more important. In light of these trends, American doctors assumed, understandably, that their patients would question them less, not more, as the 20th c. progressed. Yet the evolution of American medicine also provided fertile ground for the commodification of information and encouraged patients to adopt some not-so-deferential ways to use it.

Ironically, the medical profession itself encouraged the rise of the informed patient by educating the public about how avoid so-called quacks (osteopaths, chiropractors, Christian Scientists) by evaluating a physician’s qualifications (degrees, medical society memberships, hospital affiliations). In addition, doctors sought to discourage patients from “wasting” their money on heavily advertised drugs and treatments. But laypeople taught to be savvy shoppers when it came to the medical “quack” or dubious tonic did not necessarily stop there. Habits of critical thinking that doctors encouraged when patients were contemplating a Christian Science practitioner or a bottle of tonic in the local pharmacy were not so welcome when directed at the doctor himself.

Some patient-consumers began to do just that during the Great Depression as part of a broader middle class concern with “getting their money’s worth.” Initially concerned with proprietary medicines, critical consumerists began to cast a critical eye on medical services, as in a 1935 article titled “Shopping for Medical Care” that appeared in Consumers Research’s Monthly Bulletin. Although chilled by the second Red Scare, the progressive wing of the consumer movement continued to grow in the 1950s and found new respectability in the 1960s as criticism of mainstream medicine exploded.

Post WW2 principles of “free enterprise” made it all the harder to swat down the idea of the educated consumer or to suppress news stories about medicine’s failings. Advice that patients best be wary and inform themselves accordingly turned up in mainstream magazines of the sort doctors routinely stocked in their waiting rooms. A case in point was media coverage of the debate over unnecessary surgery. As the number of operations began to rise in the early 1950s, so did debates among physicians over whether they were all necessary. In a pattern that would frequently repeat itself in years to come, what began as an in-house argument confined to medical conferences and journals got picked up by national magazines, including U.S. News and World Report and Reader’s Digest. Such articles emphasized the need for lay people to protect themselves by getting second opinions before surgery, switching doctors if they spotted the telltale signs of unethical behavior, and reporting suspicious behavior to the local medical society.

Physicians complained loudly in the 1950s about the bad press they were getting. But their complaints had limited impact because information had become a commodity in and of itself: stories about medicine, whether the latest miracle OR controversy, sold magazines and newspapers. Nor could the medical profession avoid producing fodder for the “muckrakers”; as medical knowledge exploded, so too did internal variations in treatment, so the lay person who decided to consult the scientific literature to find out if a procedure was recommended might well discover that physicians themselves did not agree about it.

As the problems in the U.S. health care system escalated in the 1960s and 1970s, so too did the popular quest for patient health information. As medicine and pharmaceuticals became big business, their economic behavior came under increasingly hostile scrutiny. The various “rights” movements of the post war period made patient-consumers more inclined to question medical authority. The 1960s that brought to maturity a generation of Americans who were more prosperous and better educated than their Depression era parents, and more willing to criticize the “medical establishment.”

These new patients bankrolled a spectacular explosion of print health information in both book and magazine formats. The health sections of libraries and bookstores expanded dramatically. Mass market magazines and newspapers continued to carry many articles concerning health care issues. Between 1970 and 1980, the pages devoted to health and medicine in the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature increased nearly tenfold in number. Compared to their 1950s antecedents, this literature was far more openly critical of doctors and supportive of patients’ rights and abilities to make decisions about their own care.

Slowly the idea of the “informed” patient moved from an outsider position—associated with neurotics, Communists, and health faddists—to respectability. As efforts to bring down health care prices and improve quality foundered, politicians and policy makers on the right and the left became receptive to the idea of enlisting informed patients as allies. The patient-watchdog could be used to foster quality control in a medical world where innovation was frequent and professional oversight could be hard to sustain. With the advent of Reaganism in the 1980s, fostering consumer “choice” in place of government regulation became an even more popular remedy. One of the many ironies of the 1970s health information ‘revolution’ was the legitimation it gave to overturning traditional restrictions on health advertising, such as voluntary restraints on direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs and the lifting of the American Medical Association’s ban on physician advertising. New forms of prescription drug and hospital advertising only escalated patients’ need for more objective assessments of medical products and services.

These developments paved the way for the 1990s “discovery” of the Internet. Far from being a radical development, there were many continuities in the development from print to digital forms of information. Much of what patients seek out today are very similar to what patients in the 1930s, 1950s, and 1970s were seeking.

How does this historical comparison help us understand the challenges presented by today’s Medical Googler? First, it helps us appreciate what the Internet has done that is different. It has certainly made the hunting and gathering of information much easier. Perhaps more importantly, the Web 2.0, as it’s called, has vastly multiplied the ease with which users can generate content and create virtual communities. It’s this connectivity that now makes web-based information so new and distinctive. You can not only get information but also connect with people around that content in a huge variety of ways, including email, blogging, Skyping, and social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

But plenty of problems remain. Even though the digital divide has narrowed substantially in the last decade, groups we very much want and need to reach—the elderly, people of color, rural residents, and the very poor—are less likely to have access to the Internet’s researches. In the U.S., this “information hunt” covers everything from the choice of an insurance plan to the side effects of your prescription drugs. This scaling up of the requirements to be “informed” tends to favor the privileged. Then there is Internet advertising. In today’s wired world, commercial actors are well financed, command great creative talent, and are relentless in their bid to bring advertising to every nook and cranny of our lives. There is no way that we can scrub the Internet of this kind of information, much less all the other forms of questionable material out there on the World Wide Web.

But as this talk has shown, greater access to information has not magically created new disturbances in the health care system where none existed before; rather those disturbances have persistently fueled patients’ determination to acquire more information. E-tools are not a magic wand we can wave over all the dysfunctions of the health care system and poof, make them go away. They have both good and bad aspects, and we need to be patient in addressing those problems.

So, what about solutions? Let me share a few thoughts. Patients trying to be better informed are here to stay so it’s best to adopt the motto “if you can’t beat them, join them.” To doctors, I would say skip buying the Google mug and work with your local medical librarians and other patient educators to draw up a list of resources you find useful and want to recommend. Use the enhanced potentials of connectivity to push back against the very real problems that exist in health care today, starting with the relentless hollowing out and fragmentation of the time that health care professionals and their patients spend together. There is a world of good ideas being tried out, and librarians are leading the way in this regard.

In the end, the debate about Medical Googlers is at heart a debate about patient engagement. With or without the Internet, the ideals of participatory medicine are hard to fulfill but we have no choice but to pursue them.

Nancy Tomes, 23 August 2017


Postmuseum 24 augusti 2017!

Utgivning av frimärkshäftet Medicinalväxter
Originalillustrationerna till frimärkena är hämtade från Hagströmerbiblioteket, som firar 20 år i år.

I samband med att frimärkshäftet släpps på Postmuseum den 24 augusti ger Hjalmar Fors, docent i idéhistoria och förste bibliotekarie på Hagströmerbiblioteket, Karolinska Institutet, en historisk överblick över läkeväxters kulturella, ekonomiska och medicinska betydelse från antiken till våra dagar. Läkeväxter har alltid varit en del av medicinen, men de har också haft en mycket stor kulturell och ekonomisk betydelse. Under tidig medeltid ansågs de bästa, mest sällsynta och dyrbara läkeväxterna och kryddorna komma från det Jordiska Paradiset- vilket man menade låg någonstans i närheten av Indien. På 1500-talet var storskalig import till Europa i full gång. Drakblod (en kåda) från Sydostasien, chinchonabark från Sydamerika och medicinsk rabarberrot från Kina tävlade på apotekshyllorna med mer vardagliga växtdelar, som kamomillblomma och malörtsblad. Linnés systematik förbättrade ordningen både på apotekshyllorna och i botaniken i allmänhet, men vad som fungerar bäst medicinskt tvistar man om ännu i vår egen tid. 

Kl. 11.15 föredrag med Hjalmar Fors, docent och förste bibliotekarie på Hagströmerbiblioteket. 
Kl. 12.00 – 13.30 signerar formgivarna Eva Wilsson och Gustav Mårtensson frimärken och frimärksprodukter. Du kan även få de unika förstadagsstämplarna på brev, vykort och frimärken. 

Stämpling och fri entré, samt kaffe och kaka. 
För uppdaterad information följ länken: postmuseum 


Summer 2017

Have a nice summer vacation!
The Hagströmer Library will be closed during the month of July.
(Andreas Friedrich Happe, Botanica Pharmaceutica, Berlin, 1788)


The quest for eternal life

These days, we do our utmost to prolong life, even that of seriously ill patients. There are accounts of people who, using the latest high-tech means, have had their bodies (or that of their loved ones) frozen in anticipation of new cures or methods of revivification. Certain people, such as Lenin, have been immortalised through embalming. Throughout the ages, humans have made sure to remember and cherish their dearly departed, and there is much poignant evidence of the love and consideration that endures long after death. In the Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb was a lock of his grandmother’s hair and many a sarcophagus and engraved memorial stone from ancient Rome bears witness in words and pictures to the grief felt after the death of a child.

Mummification was a central pillar of ancient Egyptian funerary practice, and the pharaohs would plan their tombs from an early age, aware of the time it took to construct them and collect all the artefacts needed for the afterlife. It was believed that the soul comprised two parts, the Ka – the vital force – and the Ba – the spirit. The proper preservation of a dead body guaranteed its reunification with both parts of the soul and thus eternal life. They had separate rooms for all their accompanying possessions, including tiny figurines called ushabti to act as servants. The wall paintings inside the tombs usually come from the Book of the Dead and depict how the journey to the afterlife was to be properly navigated

While the Egyptians were experts at mummification, mummies can be found all over the world, from China to South America. The Egyptians improved the embalming technique during the New Kingdom, particularly the 18th Dynasty, which produced our best-preserved specimens. The value of the funerary objects also increased with time, and with it the number of robberies. 

Sometimes the chance nature of a body’s location – be it a bog or an arid or extremely cold environment – has proved extremely preservative. Most people would have heard about Ötzi the “Ice Man” who was found in the Alps between Italy and Austria. Bogs preserve the organic material (such as hair and skin) better than the bones. It was once thought that this was solely due to the low pH, anaerobic conditions, but it was then discovered that sphagnum (peat moss) contributes to favourable chemical processes in a natural form of tanning. One bog body, referred to as the Lindow Man, is held by the British Museum, but most are found in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Frequent finds were made when draining peat bogs or during times of need when peat was used as a fuel.

Egyptomania and the infancy of Egyptology
From the late 1700s until the first decades of the 1900s, a wave of Egyptomania swept through Europe. Napoleon’s Egypt campaign in 1798 catalogued the country’s monuments, fauna and flora, the scientific results of the expedition being published in Description de l’Égypte from 1809. Giovanni Belzoni (1778-1823) opened his exhibition of ancient Egyptian treasures in “The Egyptian Hall” in London in 1821, and the Rosetta Stone found by Napoleon’s soldiers in 1799 was the key that Jean-Francois Champollion (1719-1832) needed to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1822. The first person to interpret the Rosetta Stone, however, was Swedish linguist Johan David Åkerblad (1763-1819), who despite his correct interpretation of some of the symbols on the stone years before Champollion, fell into oblivion. Other expeditions were then launched to Egypt and more and more mummies were discovered as royal tombs, temples and pyramids were excavated. Vast quantities of Egyptian objects were purloined, with mummies some of the most prized. People were convinced that mummy powder had medicinal properties when ingested, which was probably a case of linguistic confusion with the Persian word mumia (bitumen), a substance with antiseptic properties that was once thought to have been an essential ingredient of the mummification process. Mummies were also used to fuel steam trains, so versatile were their properties considered to be. In England, enthusiasts would host “unwrapping-parties” at which guests would gather around a mummy and ceremoniously remove its bindings and, if they were lucky, return home with an amulet discovered within. As the demand for Egyptian goods increased, many businessmen realised the lucrative advantages of this type of trade and many a shady deal was done. Unscrupulous people made forgeries and composites of objects and mummies in order to claim a higher price for a complete specimen. In more recent times, X-ray analysis has revealed that many mummies contain nothing like what was previously thought. 

Of course, more serious examinations were also conducted. In 1908 Margaret Murray (1863-1963) of Manchester University carried out a scientific examination of a 12th dynasty mummy found by archaeologist Sir William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942). Petrie was a pioneer of systematic Egyptology, and was one of the foremost figures in the field along with Frenchmen Auguste Mariette (1821-1881) and Gaston Maspero (1846-1916) and Germans Heinrich Brugsch (1827-1894) and Adolf Erman (1854-1937), who all made important findings and composed lexicons. A seminal inventory of ancient artefacts was made in 1842-45 by the German Richard Lepsius (1810-1884), after which interest in mummies culminated with the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb by Howard Carter (1874-1939) in 1922, the progress of which was closely followed by the world’s press. In 1926 an early scientific examination was conducted by two French journalists using a little portable X-ray apparatus.

The Medical History and Heritage Unit manages a collection of mummified heads and bodies held in storage at the Gustavianum Museum in Uppsala. It forms part of the ongoing project to sort out Karolinska Institutet’s anatomical collections and includes a child mummy donated to Karolinska Institutet by Baron Jakob Vilhelm Sprengtporten (1794-1875) in 1850. A document in the faculty archives reads as follows: “A mummy donated by Baron Sprengtporten. [. . .] §.7 Hr. A. Retzius announced that a gift has been made to the Museum by Baron Sprengtporten of an Egyptian mummy in its coffin, wherefore the Professors have asked Hr Retzius to offer Baron Sprengtporten their sincere thanks.” 

This mummy is not on display, but if on reading this you feel the need to make the closer acquaintance of other mummies, I can recommend a visit to the Gustavianum or the Egyptian rooms of the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm. 

Ann Gustavsson, 15 June 2017

Title page from The mummy. A handbook of Egyptian funerary archaeology by Sir. E. A. Wallis Budge, 1925. Hagströmer Library.
Child mummy’s cartonnage. KI:s anatomical collection.
Ushabtis. Dan Jibreus´ private collection.
Photo: Ann Gustavsson, Dan Jibreus.

Auderheide, A.C. The scientific study of mummies. Cambridge, 2003, p. 171, 175, 515ff.
Dunand, F & Lichtenberg, R. Mummies – A journey trough Eternity. London, 1994, p. 14f, 20, 23, 31, 74, 80, 98f, 112.
Lefkowitz, M.R. & Fant, M.B. Women´s life in Greece & Rome. London, 1992, p. 207.
Minten, E. Roman attitudes towards children and childhood. Private funerary evidence c.50 BC. - c. 50 – c. AD 300. Stockholm, 2002, p. 182ff.
Pringle, H. Mumiekongressen – Vetenskap, besatthet och den eviga döden. Stockholm, 2001, p. 83ff, 139, 156, 195ff.
Shaw, I. The Oxford history of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, 2000, p. 170, 303.
Document from the faculty archives, 25 March 1850, item 7, p. 57. 

Learn more:
Tutankhamen and his family
14-year old girl cryogenically frozen
Piccadilly´s Egyptian Hall

Ann Gustavsson is an archivist/curator at Karolinska Institutet’s Medical History and Heritage Unit. She has a master’s degree in archaeology and another in osteoarcheology. With a background in cultural studies, she went on to read ancient history and archival science. Her speciality is pathological lesions in bone. Ms Gustavsson is currently inventorying, analysing and digitalising Karolinska Institutet’s anatomical skull collection.


Välkommen till föredrag!

WILLIAM HARVEY - en medicinsk revolutionär.
William Harvey kan fogas till skaran av lysande vetenskapsmän, som sedan 1500- och 1600-talet kom att revolutionera naturveten- skapen genom att inte förlita sig enbart på rena spekulationer, utan inhämtade ny kunskap genom faktiska observationer, som är experimentellt verifierbara. Harveys upptäckt om hjärtat och blodomloppet anses lika betydelsefull som Isaac Newtons lära om gravitationen eller Charles Darwins om evolutionen. 

KENNETH PEHRSSON är docent i kardiologi vid Karolinska Institutet och tidigare överläkare vid hjärtkliniken på Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset fram till sin pensionering. Vid sidan av sin medicinska verksamhet har han varit och är djupt intresserad av idé- och lärdomshistoria och medicinhistoria i synnerhet. 

Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 10 maj
Telefon: 08- 5248 6548

Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr
Icke medlemmar 180 kr


Hagströmer Lecture 2017!

Nuisance or Necessity? Historical Perspectives on the ‘Informed’ Patient
Speaker: Nancy Tomes, Distinguished Professor, State University of New York, Stony Brook             

To what extent should patients be actively engaged and involved in medical decision making? Drawing from her award-winning book, Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers, Tomes will put current debates into historical perspective, and reflect on the prospects for digital forms of patient engagement. 

MONDAY MAY 29 2017 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Bus 57 (Sveavägen) Bus 515 (Odenplan)
Stop: Haga Södra

Lecture followed by reception
If you wish to attend, please contact us by May 24
Phone: 08 524 860 12


It was my brain again

Utställningen It was my brain again är en blandning av existerande verk och skissfragment av konstnären Nikolina Ställborn, som just nu visas på Hagströmerbiblioteket. De kommer ur en längre tids intresse för Hagströmerbibliotekets rika samling av illustrationer med anatomi, sjukdom och medicinska behandlingar från flera århundraden av läkevetenskap.

I framförallt de grafiska bladen har hon försökt fånga olika aspekter av sjukdomspåverkan: att vara påtagligt märkt av sin sjukdom och samtidigt känna en pust, gnista, vilja till liv, en plötslig roande och fri tanke som får den sjukes tärda ansikte att le.
Utställningen visas på Hagströmerbiblioteket fram till midsommar.

Se mer konst av Nikolina Ställborn: här!


Välkommen till föredrag!

KERSTIN HULTER ÅSBERG, läkare och medicinhistoriker, har sedan 1990-talet besökt märkliga medicinhistoriska museer i Europa. Med henne som guide skall vi denna kväll besöka Paul Stradins-museet i Riga, 1400-talets Hôtel-Dieu i Beaune, Medicinska fakulteten i Paris, Vatikanmuseet i Rom, några av Londons 16 medicinhistoriska museer, Lepramuseet i St Jörgens Hospital i Bergen och Vrolik-museet i Amsterdam. Välkommen!

ONSDAGEN 26 APRIL 2017 KL 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 21 april
Telefon: 08- 5248 6548

Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr
Icke medlemmar 180 kr


New acquisition!

Giovanni Aldini (1762–1834)
Essai théorique et expérimental sur le Galvanisme, avec une série d'experiences faites en présence des commissaires de l'Institute National de France, et en divers amphithéatres anatomiques de Londres. Tome Premier–Second.
Paris, de l'imprimerie de Fournier fils. An XII (1804).

Medical Electricity and “Frankenstein”.
First edition of Aldini’s best-known classic, dedicated to emperor Napoléon – a landmark work relating to the central nervous system. "In the controversy over Galvani’s 'animal electricity' and Volta’s 'galvanic current' it was not the modest Galvani but his lusty nephew [Aldini] who wrote, lectured, and published in Italian, French and English on the theories and experiments of both his uncle and himself  . . . the effervescent Aldini became his uncle’s champion – so much so that Volta addressed his arguments to Aldini instead of Galvani” (Bern Dibner in DSB).

In October 1802, Aldini experimented before the Galvanic Society in Paris, and in January 1803, he was in England to lecture on medical Galvanism, performing demonstrations at several London hospitals. Aldini induced strong muscular contraction in the heads of sheep, chickens, oxen and other animals by putting leads from a Voltaic. pile into the ear and a nostril or on the tongue; the eyes would then roll or the ear or tongue quiver.

In 1804, Aldini caused a very strong muscular agitation in corpses, creating the illusion of a body preparing to walk, arms rising and falling or forearms lifting weights. His most dramatic performance was a series of experiments in galvanic action upon the beheaded corpse of Mr. George Foster, a murderer just executed at Newgate Prison. Aldini used a Voltaic pile of 120 copper and zinc discs and the muscular reactions he thus obtained led him to believe he could restore life to those recently overcome by drowning or asphyxiation.

Mary Shelley, who knew of Aldini’s work, used the idea of galvanic reanimation to brilliant effect in her classic novel Frankenstein (1818).

Ove Hagelin, 5 april 2017

Photo: Anna Lantz


New acquisition!

Theophrastus (c. 371 – c. 287 BC)
De Historia Plantarum Libri Decem. Graecé & Latiné.
Amsterdam, Henric Laurentius, 1644.

The father of botany - Linnaeus´ favourite.
The most important and influential edition of Theophrastus' seminal work, Historia Plantarum – the first systematization of the botanical world and the most important contribution to botanical science up until the Renaissance. Bodaeus von Stapel's groundbreaking edition constitutes the first illustrated edition of Theophrastus' masterpiece as well as the first with both Greek and Latin text. Furthermore, von Stapel has not only collected all relevant commentaries and knowledge, he has also added corrections and much foundational information, turning the work into one of the most influential botanical works of the 17th century, profoundly influencing the likes of Linnaeus and contributing significant to the development of modern scientific botany.

This, the first illustrated edition of Theophrastus' masterpiece, containing over 625 woodcuts of plants, became the standard edition of that earliest work on systematic botany and the edition that all serious scientific botanists of the 17th and 18th centuries studied.

Ove Hagelin, 16 March 2017


The Wilde Family

In 1976 I stayed a while in Dublin for the first time. Not surprisingly, even then, I visited an antiquarian book seller. I’ve forgotten which, but it was one of the older and better, i.e. more expensive, ones. Since I was interested in the traditions of ancient Ireland, a title caught my eye; Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland. With Sketches of the Irish Past, by Lady Wilde “Speranza”, London, 1888. When I left the book store I carried a plastic bag with the book in it. I don’t recall what I paid, but since I was a young man then, I did not have the limitless resources I have now. So it meant I had to skip a few pints of Guiness at O’Donoghue’s public house and limit myself to fish burger lunches (extremely cheap then!) for a while. I still have the book and I still treasure it.

Lady Wilde, with the pen name Speranza, was Jane Francesca Agnes Wilde (1821-1896), the wife of renowned Dublin eye and ear surgeon Sir William Robert Wills Wilde (1815-1876). Sir William shared his wife’s interest in old Ireland so it comes as no surprise that she appended to her book a speech held by her late husband called The Ancient Race of Ireland

In the Hagströmer Library there are a couple of Sir William’s works, one on the eye (An Essay on the Malformations and Congenital Diseases of the Organs of Sight, London, 1862) and one on the ear (Practical Observations on Aural Surgery and the Nature and Treatment of Diseases of the Ear, London, 1853) respectively. There is a German translation of the latter in the library as well.

Lately the Hagströmer Library has had a very substantial addition to its collections – a large part of the holdings of the Karolinska Institutet University Library (KIB) in Flemingsberg has been moved to Haga tingshus. While processing some of the books I noticed yet another book by Sir William, called A Descriptive Catalogue of The Antiquities of Stone, Earthen, and Vegetable Materials in The Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1857. Immediately obvious is the signature “A. Retzius”, written with pencil in the lower right-hand corner of the printed front wrapper. When you look closer at the cover you notice an ink inscription below the printed author’s by-line. It says “1 Merrion Square, Dublin”. 

Dublin is known for its Georgian architecture. In the late 18th century and the early 19th century many of the Irish aristocracy had town houses built, at first as part-time residences when away from their rural estates. The Georgian houses at first looks quite simple; large unadorned red brick edifices. But when you look closer you start to see the wonderful embellishments, especially the doors stand out and no door is quite like any other although the general style is the same. These Dublin doors are often depicted on post cards and on posters. Dublin has had its fair share of modernizing developers (vandals) in the last century and many buildings were pulled down before the destruction was stopped in the final years of the 20th century. There are some areas that remain in all their past splendor, some squares are really worth a visit, and foremost among them is Merrion Square, not far from the greenery of St. Stephen’s Green. It still (or rather, again) has the dignity it had 200 years ago.

I’ve been to Merrion Square several times over the years and I paid my last visit there in the summer of 2015. So I recognized the address on the book cover. It was the house where the famous author Oscar Wilde grew up. And I finally made the connection (some of us are a bit slow…). Sir and Lady Wilde were, of course, the parents of Oscar.

When you start turning the pages of Catalogue of The Antiquities you immediately get to the half title page and there you find this inscription: “Andreas Retzius from his sincere friend, the author”. Could it be that William Wilde wrote his address below his name for Anders Retzius as contact information?

Anders Retzius and William Wilde were both a part of an early 19th century network of scientists concerned with the evolution of Man and of how Man could be classified. Wilde visited Sweden and was received by Retzius. He was given an honorary degree by Uppsala University and King Charles XV awarded him the Order of the North Star (Nordstjärneorden). Arguably he named his son after the Swedish King’s brother Prince Oscar who later became King Oscar II of Sweden.

Dan Jibréus, 3 February 2017

The specifics of Sir and Lady Wilde’s life are from Wikipedia, no less.
Photo: Dan Jibréus


Holes in the head

Before the advent of modern precision tools for cranial surgery, it was desirable, and even essential to survival, for surgeons to have a steady hand. It is with a frisson of fascination that we look at pictures of trepanned skulls with one or more holes drilled into them. The holes were deliberately made and it is hard to believe that anyone survived the procedure. And yet the bone has clearly healed around the fringes of the hole or holes, indicating that the patient did indeed survive. Such holes have soft, rounded edges, and the healing process is first visible after about two weeks. It was essential that the surgeon caused no damage to the cerebral membrane or major blood vessels, and there must have been a serious risk of infection. The anatomical collection at the Medical History and Heritage Unit houses at least two trepanned skulls, one from Peru and one from Egypt. 

Tools and methods – how many survived?
The scraping method was common in Europe, in particular England, while the preferred tools in South America were the drill and saw. Initially, surgeons used scrapers made of obsidian, flint or other kind of mineral, but eventually moved on to metal. Spade-shaped metal knives called tumis, an image of which features nowadays in the emblem of the Peruvian surgeons’ association In Peru, have been dug up by archaeologists from graves in Peru. 

Trepanations were often performed on the left side of the scull and very rarely over a suture. The Greek physician Hippocrates and other writers recommended avoiding the sutures to eliminate the risk of damaging a major blood vessel. The left side of the skull is more prone to trauma caused by violence because attackers are usually right handed. Perhaps the left-hand bias of trepanation is because most injuries (and haematomas) occur on that side. It is also possibly due to the surgeon being right-handed. Apart from the anguish and fear that the patients must have felt, the most painful part of the procedure was the removal of the soft tissue or the scalp. Damage to the skull itself is not particularly painful and it is thought that alcohol, opium, henbane and mandrake were used as anaesthetics. Some type of covering must have been used after surgery. Either the skin was folded back over or the surgeon applied a lid, perhaps made of vegetable matter such as the bark, coconut shells or banana leaves found in later historical contexts.

The earliest discovered trepanations date back to the Neolithic era (c. 3,000 BCE) and were performed with flint blades. The scrape method worked better than punching holes through the bone, probably because the trepanners could proceed slowly and retain a certain degree of precision. There are many examples from France and South America, but the method was once practised the world over. Trepanners in Bolivia and Peru seem to have been the most successful and had the highest survival rate. There are skulls that carry traces of half a dozen or so healed holes! One study shows that over 50% of 214 skulls from Peru exhibit signs of healing, and according to analyses, 73% of trepanations there were performed on men, 24.6% on women and 2.4% on children, figures that tally with the high incidence of violence-related cranial trauma. Other studies suggest that the healing frequency increased between 400 BCE and 1532 CE. 

Written sources and different techniques
The first written source describing trepanation is Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BCE), and the most successful operations have been found amongst the Inca people. There are different theories about why trepanations were performed. Some say it was done to relieve pressure caused by internal bleeding (there is sometimes evidence of another skull trauma that can have occasioned the procedure); others suggest that it was to cure severe migraine, epilepsy or mental illness. Some trepanned skulls, including that of one individual who had had two healed and one unhealed trepanations, show traces of severe sinus infection that had spread to other parts of the skull. There is another example of an adult who had suffered a brain tumour and a child who had probably had scurvy. But many diseases, such as mental illness, leave no skeletal traces. French surgeon Paul Broca (1824-1880) was the first modern-age scientist to accurately describe the practice, which he did in a monograph from 1867 on a Peruvian skull with a healed trepanation, the result, he concluded, of successful prehistoric surgery. 

Carl Fürst wrote in Fornvännen (Sweden’s oldest journal of antiquarian research) back in 1917 that it could be more difficult to confirm unhealed trepanation since it can resemble postmortal damage and have taphonomic causes (the decaying processes that fossilise organic material after death). This issue has been addressed by numerous authors, including John Verano, who raises other differential diagnoses, such as congenital defects or disorders, diseases and trauma.  

In his article, Carl Fürst noted that while Sweden was littered with examples of trepanation from the early and late Iron Age, most of them came from Alvastra. Anders and Gustaf Retzius both researched and wrote about the early trepanation finds from Sweden, including the Alvastra skulls.  

Scientists have identified five different ways of making the hole. 1) Scraping (recognisable by the chamfered edges); 2) Excavation; 3) Drilling and sawing (the surgeon drills several small holes in a circle and then uses a saw to connect them); 4.) Sawing (the surgeon saws out a square of bone that can then be lifted out); 5) Gouging. In this last procedure, the surgeon made a hole with a tool called a trepan, a hollow, serrated cylinder that was described already in the writings of Hippocrates. By the time of Roman physician Celsus (25 BCE – 50 CE) the trepan had acquired an extractable guide pin and a transverse handle, not unlike that of a modern corkscrew. 

This tool became the standard during the Middle Ages and was still in use in some countries well into the modern era. Some versions of the trepan have a support device. The use of a trepan was illustrated in a book from 1542 that is now housed in the Hagströmer Library. Called Feldtbuch der Wundartzney it was written by the German army surgeon Hans von Gersdorff. The French surgeon Ambroise Paré (1510-1590) made improvements in the tools for head surgery and trepanning, while in Renaissance Italy, glass shards were still the instruments of choice.

The development of trepanation
Swedish doctor Karl Petter Dahlgren (1864-1924) enlisted the help of instrument-maker Max Stille to invent a pair of trepanation forceps in 1896. The problems he was trying to solve were that the trepanation procedure was too slow and the surgeon tended to shake too much when chiselling out the skull. After trials using a rotary saw on a corpse, they managed to construct an ingenious tool. The new forceps sliced through the cranium from the inside out and took just a few minutes to excise a removable piece of bone. They were also easy to sterilise. Their forceps were modified in 1909 to be operable with both hands so that more force could be applied when cutting through thick bone. This model was further developed by American neurosurgeon William Henry Hudson (1862-1917). In 1897, Italian gynaecologist Leonardo Gigli (1863-1908) invented a wire saw that was first used to saw into hip bones but became the standard implement for craniotomies. According to an article on trepanation from the 1800s, inflammation was still the greatest risk when performing trepanation, primarily caused by a lack of personal hygiene, dirty homes and the insalubrious urban environment that was a breeding ground for secondary infections.

New theories
The roof of the skull and the brain itself have different magical beliefs attached to them in many cultures, and amulets have been found made of pieces of cranial vault. In the 1990s, a theory was put forward that people might have believed a patient was dead, when he or she was merely unconscious. During trepanation, such a person might have miraculously woken up during the procedure (hence occasional evidence of half-completed operations), so the unhealed holes would represent the patients who were genuinely dead. Otherwise, this way of “raising the dead” could have been something that surgeons tried to repeat.    

Trepanation is still performed in some developing countries, while a burgeoning interest for instructions on the Internet has prompted doctors to issue a warning in The British Medical Journal against do-it-yourself trepanations at home.

Ann Gustavsson, 23 February 2017

Arnott et. Al. (eds). Trepanation - History, Discovery, Theory. Lisse. 2003.
Auderheide, A.C, Rodriguez-Martin, C, Langsjoen, O. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Paleopathology. Cambridge. 2011. 31-34.
Danielsson, S. Karl Petter Dahlgren och hans trepanationstång. Nordisk medicinhistorisk årsbok. Södertälje. 1986. 127-135.
Fürst, C. M. Några nyfunna trepanerade svenska fornkranier. Fornvännen. 1917.
Ganz, J. C. Trepanation and surgical infection in the 18th century. Achta Neurochir. 2014. 156, 615-623.
Gross, C. G. A hole in the head. More tales in the history of neuroscience. Cambridge. 2012.
Larsen, C. S. Bioarcheology. Interpreting behavior from the human skeleton. Cambridge. 1997. 153. 
Retzius, G. Om trepanation av hufvudskålen, såsom folksed i forna och nyare tider. Ymer, tidskrift utgifven af Svenska sällskapet för antropologi och geografi. Årg. 1901, H. I.
Roberts, C. & Manchester, K. The archaeology of disease. Gloucestershire. 2010. 124-128.
Verano, J.W. Differential diagnosis: Trepanation. International Journal of Paleopathology. 14. 2016. 1-9.
Verano, J.W. Holes in the head. The art and archaeology of trepanation in Ancient Peru. Washington D.C. 2016.
Uddenberg, N. Lidande & läkedom II. Medicinens historia från 1800 till 1950. Stockholm. 2015. 332.

Ann Gustavsson is an archivist/curator at Karolinska Institutet’s Medical History and Heritage Unit. She has a master’s degree in archaeology and another in osteoarcheology. With a background in cultural studies, she went on to read ancient history and archival science. Her speciality is pathological lesions in bone. Ms Gustavsson is currently inventorying, analysing and digitalising Karolinska Institutet’s anatomical skull collection.

Photo: Ann Gustavsson


Välkommen till föredrag!

BISKOP PEDER WINSTRUP - renässansmänniska och en av Europas bäst bevarade mumier. 
Biskop Peder Winstrups långa och händelserika liv skedde i skuggan av två kämpande stormakter; Sverige och Danmark. Hans karriär var omfattande; han var teolog, poet, professor i fysik, arkitekt, fornforskare, boktryckare, papperstillverkare, kunglig hovpredikant, biskop och initiativtagare till Lunds universitet. Undersökningen av Peder Winstrups kista och välbevarade mumie avslöjar många detaljer om hälsa, levnadsvillkor, kläd- och begravningsskick under 1600-talet.

PER KARSTEN är fil. dr i arkeologi och chef på Historiska museet vid Lunds universitet. När han 2015 visade upp den välbevarade mumien på Historiska museet kom 3500 besökare - under en och samma dag - och världens blickar riktades mot Lund. För att ha initierat räddandet av kvarlevorna från 1600-talsbiskopen och gjort dessa tillgängliga för såväl forskning som för allmän beskådan tilldelades han nyligen utmärkelsen "Årets Lundensare".

ONSDAGEN 15 MARS 2017 KL. 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 10 mars 
Telefon: 08- 5248 6548

Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 130 kr 
Icke medlemmar 180 kr

Foto: Gunnar Menander & Per Karsten 


Anders Retzius’ and Wilhelm von Wright’s microscopic study of teeth

The Hagströmer Library’s new tote bag features a drawing by Wilhelm von Wright that depicts dentinal tubules in the molar of a horse. It was originally published in Anders Retzius, Mikroskopiska undersökningar av Tändernes, särdeles Tandbenets struktur [Microscopic Study of the Structure of Teeth, Particularly Dentin], Stockholm: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1837.
(Purchase bag here)

In the summer of 1835, Anders Retzius went to Karolinska Institutet’s anatomy museum to collect teeth. When he began work as professor of anatomy at Karolinska Institutet in 1824, Retzius labored to increase the number of specimens in the museum. By the mid-1830s the museum consisted of three halls, and the osteological section contained skeletons of humans and animals from Sweden and many distant locations. So, when Retzius began a comparative study of teeth, all he had to do was go to his museum and pull teeth from skeletons, like books from library shelves. He assembled teeth from Swedish wild and domestic mammals and fish, a pale-throated sloth, an African elephant, a rhinoceros, a walrus, a dolphin, a caiman, an alligator, a Porbeagle shark, and several varieties of tropical fish. All the while, he took great care not to ruin the specimens, pulling mostly posterior molars that wouldn’t be visible to museum visitors. He also had free and easy access to human teeth from the cadavers that came to Karolinska Institutet’s anatomy department from hospitals and poorhouses in Stockholm.

Retzius came up with the idea of studying thin slices of teeth under the microscope at a conference held in Breslau (now Wroclaw) in 1833, when physiologist Jan Purkinje demonstrated sections of skin and botanist Robert Brown showed thin, transparent slivers of petrified wood. Purkinje taught Retzius how to use a newly manufactured, achromatic compound microscope, which he had bought from Viennese instrument maker Georg Simon Plössl. The powerful microscope provided the resolution and depth of field that made it possible to study tissues with a novel precision, down to the cellular level. Retzius desired to purchase a similar microscope for his own department of anatomy at Karolinska Institutet, and ordered one from Plössl as soon as he found funding for it. When the microscope arrived in the summer of 1835, Retzius set out to use it to study animal tissue, and especially teeth.

It was technically challenging to deal with hard dental material, and there were few precedents to rely upon, so Retzius was forced to devise his own methods. In his treatise, The Microscopic Study of the Structure of Teeth, Particularly Dentin, he explains how he prepared the specimens by macerating the teeth in acid to separate the dentin from the jawbone and connective tissues, and then sliced the dentin. Maceration made it possible to slice the teeth thinly with sharp instruments without causing them to crack. This was tricky, so Retzius enlisted a particularly dexterous dentist by the name of Bichlier to assist him. Retzius’s treatise goes on to describe what the specimens looked like under a number of different viewing conditions, under different lights, on white or black surfaces, and using different methods of magnification. Altering these variables brought out new features in the specimens. He was able to study and describe the structure of cementum and discovered growth lines in enamel, still known today as “striae of Retzius.” 

What excited him most, however, was the finding that dentin was perforated by minute tubes, in patterns that varied from species to species. The surface of dentin appeared iridescent, and was traversed by thin stripes, which could be seen even without magnification. But, studying the slices through his microscope, Retzius saw that these stripes were in fact tubes extending between the pulp and the surface of the tooth. He found these thin, branching tubules “beautiful beyond description.”

The beauty of the specimens was captured by the artist and scientific draftsman Wilhelm von Wright. Originally from Finland, von Wright had often collaborated with scientists at the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. His plates in Scandinavian Fish (1836-38) and Swedish Birds (1828-38) are celebrated works of art. For Retzius’s work on teeth, von Wright made pencil drawings from which he produced the engraved first plate, and a series of delicate gouache (opaque watercolor) paintings in white and blue on a black background, some of which were reproduced on the lithographic second plate. Von Wright worked closely with Retzius, using the microscope to look at the specimens prepared by the anatomist. To convey Retzius’s research results, the artist had to merge his view with the anatomist’s and fix it on paper.

“The Structure of Teeth” was the most extensive and accurate study of the microscopic anatomy of teeth when it was published in 1837, and it was soon translated into German and English. The treatise consists of eighty-eight pages of text, with eighteen figures on two fold-out plates. These images are fine examples of the type of visualizations that regularly accompanied articles in scientific periodicals of the period. The observational practices were, however, cutting edge. And the processes of observation and image-making were intertwined. Specimens and visualizations of them were, according to Retzius, more important than the descriptive text. The images not only illustrated the result of the scientific study—they were the result.

Eva Åhrén, 26 January 2017
PhD, Director
Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library

Anders Retzius, Mikroskopiska undersökningar av Tändernes, särdeles Tandbenets struktur [Microscopic study of the structure of teeth, particularly dentin] Stockholm: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1837.

Eva Åhrén, “Figuring things out: Visualizations in the work of Swedish anatomists Anders and Gustaf Retzius, 1829-1921,” Nuncius: Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science [forthcoming, 2017].

---, “Making space for specimens: The museums of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm,” in Medical Museums: Past, Present, Future, edited by Samuel J.M.M. Alberti & Elizabeth Hallam (London: The Royal College of Surgeons of England, 2013).


Vivisection and the Gentleman

During the mid and latter half of the nineteenth century, the life sciences became increasingly embroiled in debates involving experiments on animals. Regardless of the nature of these experiments, they were most generally referred to as “vivisections”, referring generally to all experiments on animals, attracting both criticism and ire from both scientists and laypersons alike. Typically seen as having a negative effect on the moral character of practitioners, those critical and outright negative to vivisection pushed for it to be forbidden, or at the very least, heavily restricted. In 1875 a Royal Commission began, attempting to establish political stance on the practice, and, if necessary, enact legislation based on the commission’s findings. This eventually lead to the Cruelty to Animals Act, which was passed in 1876, and introduced limitations and licencing for those wanting to carry out vivisections. 

As one of the primary arguments used by opponents of vivisection called the moral sensibilities of practitioners and supporters of this method in to question, a counter-argument presented by proponents revolved around their qualities as gentlemen. Hagströmer Library has several interesting titles which serve as argumentative books and pamphlets lifting the positives of vivisection as a method of research, and outlining, at least in part, the “gentlemanliness” of those medical men who experiment on animals. One such being the anonymously written, but attributed to Frances Heatherley, Physiological Cruelty, or, Fact v. Fancy: An Inquiry into the Vivisection Question from 1883. Physiological Cruelty presents a somewhat ambiguous title, leaving some uncertainty at first glance how the “vivisection question” will be presented and discussed. In spite of this, the book is a positive representation of the alleged benefits of the method, where the “pseudo-scientific” arguments of the anti-vivisection movement are thoroughly criticised, whilst simultaneously trying to win over members of the public undecided in the matter to side with “true science”, and underlining the pious and humane nature of physiologists. Texts such as these were not uncommon during this period, in part because of the aforementioned First Royal Commission on the Practice of Submitting Live Animals to Experiments for Scientific Purposes (often referred to simply as the Royal Commission on Vivisection), and in part because of the frequent discussions regarding animal welfare and rights lifted in some of the more well-to-do circles in Britain at the time. Neither was it unusual that the book was written anonymously: anonymity allowed for greater leeway in what one could and could not say without damaging collegial relationships and one’s career. Heatherley/Philanthropos’ book offers insight into some common arguments, at least amongst the proponents of vivisection, in long-form.

Some of these arguments included underlining the importance of practical experience over merely theorising in the case of physiology, equating theorising to “groping in the dark”. The dismissal of experimentation on animals as a practical means of gaining knowledge was akin to practicing pseudo-science, and the author is clear that the utilisation of vivisection is the way forward for medical research, “always advancing, and always gaining increased power to cure sickness and soothe pain”. One would be mistaken, however, to assume that the author advocates for experiments as the only righteous form of medical practice: rather, he underlines the importance of vivisection as a way to “advance” medicine, presumably to bolster its scientific standing, and build upon, correct, and fine-tune an already-established body of knowledge. Though experiments were to be used alongside other methods of medical and scientific practice, their worth is valued higher than, for example, theory, as experiments were able to confirm through practical experience whether a theory corresponded to nature under certain conditions, or not.

Physiological Cruelty was written in a climate where vivisection was somewhat of a hot topic, particularly for those conducting, or interested in, research in the life sciences. Experimental physiology in Great Britain had some difficulty establishing itself and developing at the same rate as it had in France and Germany. Less than a decade prior to Physiological Cruelty, the Royal Commission on Vivisection had taken place, which lead to recommendations made to parliament on legislation on experiments on animals. The Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in 1876, and prohibited, for example, experiments presumed to be painful unless certain requirements were met (e.g. using anaesthesia), and required those practicing vivisections to hold a license, among other things. Intertwined with these events, was a growing, and vocal, early animal rights movement, that, although with internal differences on the question of vivisection, was generally positive to restrictions on the practice, and warned against the development of scientists lacking morality, hardened by inflicting unnecessary pain on animals. 

Working against a traditionally conservative educational system where physiology had only begun to offer part-time research opportunities in the latter half of the 1800s, British physiologists interested in experimentalism and the teachings of French physiologist Claude Bernard were keen to help the method grow educationally and practically with a particularly British sentiment. Although experiments on animals were confessed to be, at times, painful, the physiologist, based on his (physiologists being exclusively men at this time) character, social standing, and education, possessed an inclination to limit pain whenever possible, as well as balance the measure of “necessary” suffering of the animal, with the potential benefits the experiment may have. These were qualities particularly bestowed on the British researcher, attuned to such sensitive matters in ways continental researchers were not. Because of this, exceptions to the practice were troubling, as they not only called into question the moral standing of physiologists and others practicing vivisection, but risked shuttling science back into the “dark ages”. In this regard, British physiologists could lead the way, utilising vivisection to develop the profession to the same levels of the often-referenced continental schools in France and Germany, but with greater sensitivity towards pain, to pointing out the sensitivity of British physiologists, and their exoneration from practicing needless cruelty during the Royal Commission. Interestingly, this sensibility is both a blessing and a curse for gentlemen of British heritage. In the case of the physiologists, according to Heatherley and other proponents, this meant their experiments were less inclined to be needlessly cruel. On the other hand, compassion and sensitivity to the suffering of “lesser creatures” was at least partially to blame for viewing vivisection negatively, and indeed the Cruelty to Animals Act.

Heatherley’s book serves as both a testament to the desire of some to bolster experimental medical science in Great Britain; but, also as a paradoxical account of the British gentleman as sensitively inclined, but overly sentimental depending on the situation. 

Kittelsen, Theodor, Har dyrene sjael?, 1915. 

Further Reading:
Boddice, Rob. “Species of Compassion: Aesthetics, Anaesthetics, and Pain in the Physiological Laboratory”. In 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 15 (2012): 1-22. doi:
–. “Vivisecting Major: A Victorian Gentleman Scientist Animal Experimentation, 1876-1885”. In Isis, 102, 2 (June 2011): 215-237. (Accessed 2016-02-29).
French, Richard D. Antivivisection and Medical Science in Victorian Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.
Halverson, Kristin. Physiological Cruelty? Discussing and Developing Vivisection in Great Britian, 1875-1901. Södertörn University, 2016.
Philanthropos. [Heatherley, Francis] Physiological Cruelty: or Fact v. Fancy. An Inquiry into the Vivisection Question. London: Tinsley Bros., 1883.


Tomas Jansson, 1951-2016

A onetime employee of the Hagströmer Library, Tomas Jansson is one of the people who has put his special mark on the library, not at least with his strong and colourful personality. Sadly, he passed away in the morning of October 26, 2016. The irony of it is that it was the disease that he had been fighting to save people from most of his professional life that claimed him. Tomas was a medical doctor specialized in Oncology, and as a doctor he worked wholeheartedly and with great empathy for his patients. But he had several loves, all of which he embraced with enthusiasm, and among these his love of old books and fondness for Esperanto stand out. In 1993 Carolina Böcker & Konst, a small antiquarian book store close to the University Library of Uppsala (Carolina Rediviva), opened its doors for the first time. Here Tomas found an outlet for his passion for books. Not surprisingly the book shop specialized in medical literature of historical significance and this is rare among antiquarian booksellers. During my tenure at Redins antikvariat, a couple of blocks away, I always sent customers offering that kind of books along to Carolina Böcker & Konst. This love of books eventually led him to the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library where he started to work part-time in 2010 and also serving as acting Head for a time. This post ended in 2013. I have been acquainted with Tomas since the 1990s and thanks to him I also started to work at the library in 2010. This gave me the chance to get to know him quite intimately. Tomas was kindhearted and loyal and had a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle …) sense of humour. His company was never boring and we shared many a joke, sometimes over a Czech beer.

Tomas Jansson was interested in many things, and his general knowledge on various subjects was quite extraordinary. The third great passion mentioned above was Esperanto; when he was 14 years old he started practicing this constructed language and through the years he participated in several international conferences. He also was a member of the board of quite a few Esperanto organizations. The announcement by his daughters making his demise public has the first part of the Esperanto anthem by L. L. Zamenhof in it. It reads in English translation:

Into the world came a new feeling,
through the world goes a powerful call;
by means of wings of a gentle wind
now let it fly from place to place.

Dan Jibréus, 21 November 2016

Illustration: Tomas giving his daughter Astrid and her husband Maxine a private viewing of the Hagströmer Library in 2011.


Välkommen till föredrag!

Peter Forsskål (1732–1763) var en av Linnés mer egensinniga och mångfacetterade lärjungar. Han disputerade i filosofi i Göttingen, blev docent i ekonomi i Uppsala, studerade naturalhistoria för Linné, lärde sig flytande arabiska och hebreiska. Hans liv ändades i dagens Jemen under en forskningsexpedition bekostad av den danske kungen. I dag är han mest känd som författare till Tankar om borgerliga friheten, ett liberalt manifest med plädering för stärkta civila rättigheter som han smusslade genom censuren. Som förkämpe för yttrandefrihet bidrog Forsskål till att bana väg för den första svenska tryckfrihetsförordningen som i år firar 250 år.

JONAS NORDIN, docent i historia, Kungliga biblioteket, berättar om ett kort men rikt och fascinerande levnadsöde.                      

Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra

Anmälan före 10 november
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 100 kr 
Icke medlemmar 150 kr


The Library of Gustaf Retzius

In early December 1920, the Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet had an announcement to make: ”The Book-collection of Gustaf Retzius to ’Karolinska.’ – Generous Donation to the Library of the Institute. – At Present the Library only has Room for a Third.”

As is well known, Gustaf Retzius was one of Sweden’s most prominent scientists in the late 1800s and the first years of the 20th century. He worked in several fields: histology, neurology, anatomy, physiology, to name the most important. He also did research in physical anthropology, and that has been the reason for more or less well founded criticism in later years. Retzius died in 1919, and a year later his widow Anna Hierta Retzius donated his books to Karolinska Institutet. The news article goes on to say that it is a gift ”that in value puts all former donations to shame … an estimated 150 shelf meters … completely outstanding … cannot be valued in money.” The lion’s share of the collection is now housed in the Hagströmer Library and is still of great importance to scientists and scholars of today. A select few of the books will for instance shortly be part of an exhibition, History Unfolds, at The Swedish History Museum. Regrettably the books are not kept as a separate unit of its own, but are found spread throughout the Hagströmer Library, arranged according to subject.

A large part of the collection has been inscribed personally to Gustaf Retzius and the collection of signatures is like a Who’s Who of the international scientific community at the time. Which leads me to the second part of this small essay. Anna Retzius was very much devoted to the work of her husband and you can find notes here and there in her hand explaining how she (and Gustaf) wanted the legacy to be handled. This is true not just of the books but just about everything. A German translation of the several volumes strong Natural History of Man by James Prichard; Naturgeschichte des Menschengeschlechts. Nach der dritten Auflage des englischen Originals mit Anmerkungen und Zusätzen hereausgegeben von Rudolph Wagner & Friedrich Will, Leipzig, Leopold Voss, 1840–1848, is to be found in the Retzius collection. In volume 3:1 Anna has written: ”This book has belonged to my beloved husband Gustaf Retzius’ dear father Anders Adolf Retzius, who in my youth was my good friend and bestowed me his valuable collection of autographs. Anna Hierta-Retzius, June 12, 1923.” Besides contributing interesting provenance information, the inscription makes you wonder. Whatever happened to the collection of autographs?

Back to the article in Svenska Dagbladet. It eerily foretells the conditions found also today; ”… it is necessary that additional staff can be made available, since the present staff is already under ordinary conditions not sufficient …”

Dan Jibréus, 19 October 2016

The ever diligent scholar Nils Uddenberg happened to see the above text and gave me a strange look. “Anna’s statement isn’t quite true,” he informed me. While recently doing research in the archives of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, he had come across a couple of letters from Anna to Gustaf where the autograph collection is mentioned. Nils was kind enough to copy the letters for me. They are written in April 1876, that is, seven months before they got married the same year. There is a definite undertone of yearning in the language Anna uses. In the first letter she states how happy she is to have been given Anders Retzius’ collection of letters/autographs, but that she will always look upon it as belonging to Gustaf. Apparently Gustaf misinterpreted this as some sort of clandestine ungratefulness, and in the second letter Anna hastens to emphasize how happy she is with the gift, and that she will treasure it the rest of her life! Thus Anders Retzius’ collection was given to Anna by Gustaf, not by her father-in-law Anders, and it happened 16 years after Anders’ death. Anna’s memory might well have clouded a bit over the years. By the way – this collection is safely kept at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

One of the Retzius family bookcases. Photograph from around 1920.
Anna Retzius-Hierta's comment concerning Anders Retzius' autograph collection.


John Wessler and his unique collection

A few years ago, the Hagströmer Library was entrusted with an extremely rare collection of odontological pictures and objects from the Department of Dental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet. It had originally belonged to John Wessler (1864-1927), who assembled the collection himself in the early 1900s. As one of the foremost dentists in Stockholm at the time, Wessler was interested in most aspects of odontology: for instance, he was a champion of the modernisation of dentistry programmes, co-founder of the Institute of Dentistry in 1898, an advocate of “social dentistry” and secretary of the Swedish Dental Society. He was also noted in Sweden and abroad as a writer of numerous books and articles as well as a leading chemist who made and sold his own formulae of dental amalgam and dental powder. It was partly thanks to his income from this venture that he was able to finance his love of art. Maybe someone recognises the toothbrush he designed and marketed in 1895?

Wessler travelled widely, and was in contact with art dealers and dentists in Europe and the US. A hundred or so letters from cities like Berlin, Paris, London, Rome and New York relating to his purchases survive. From 1911 up to his death in 1927 he collected almost 800 pictures and artefacts dating from about 1400 to 1920. His collection includes over 500 prints and oil paintings, divided roughly equally into depictions of St Apollonia, the patron saint of dentistry, and dental practitioners and their patients. There are also a large number of gold, silver, iron and ivory toothpicks, miscellaneous dental implements (some more alarming than others), amulets, medals and photographs. He donated the collection to the Institute of Dentistry, now the Department of Dental Medicine, in 1923.

C O Henrikson, professor of odontological radiodiagnostics at KI between 1974 and 1990, was long the curator of the collection. Apart from maintaining, sorting and cataloguing the items, he published many articles on John Wessler and his collection, and arranged exhibitions. One such exhibition was at the Nordic Medical History Congress in Stockholm in 1997, where selected items were put on display. He finally consigned the collection to the custody of the Hagströmer Library in 2011. The Wessler collection is unique, and its pictures and objects spanning over five centuries give us a fascinating look at the evolution of dentistry. How many people today, for example, know what a dental pelican is? Or what links Tsar Peter the Great of Russia with dentistry?

Anna Lantz, 12 October 2016

The banner of the Munich Guild of Bath-Keepers, oil on canvas, ca 1750. Wessler collection.
Letter to Dr. John Wessler from Bremer Kunst-Antiquariat und Verlag Alfred Kock, 1921. Wessler collection.

Bohman, Nils (red.), ”Wessler, John Adrian”. Svenska män och kvinnor. Biografisk uppslagsbok 8. Stockholm, 1955. 
Henriksson, Carl O, ”S:ta Apollonia, martyr och skyddshelgon”. Svensk medicinhistorisk tidskrift, vol. 1, suppl. I (1997), 143-151.
Henriksson, Carl O, ”John Adrian Wessler – hängiven odontolog och samlare”. Svensk medicinhistorisk tidskrift, vol. 7 (2003), 197-216.
Wessler, John, Beskrivande förteckning över Tandläkarinstitutets i Stockholm Apollonia-samling. Stockholm, 1923. 

Translation: Neil Betteridge


Book annotation in eighteenth-century natural history

Dr STAFFAN MÜLLER-WILLE, Ass. Professor, University of Exeter, Devon, U.K. är idag en av våra främsta experter på Linnaeus. Han talar svenska men håller sitt föredrag på engelska:

What today would be an obvious crime, was common practice in eighteenth-century natural history: books by Linnaeus and other authors where routinely annotated by their possessors in order to record new discoveries and observations, to catalogue one´s own collection, or for sheer entertainment. I will present three examples of this widespread practice: 1) Linnaeus's personal copy of Genera plantarum (Leiden: Wishoff, 1737), which he used to complete a manuscript of Species plantarum; 2) Michel Adanson's copy of the same publication, which he took with him on his trip to Senegal (1748–1754) but only used to record "errors"; and 3) Johann Reinhold Forster's Catalogue of British Insects (Warrington: William Eyres, 1770), which the author published to recruit collectors, and then annotated to keep track of his own collection. By these examples in detail, I will try to make two points: first, that the publications in question were designed to be annotated; and, second, that this design, and its use, shaped new ideas of the order of nature.

Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan) 
Hållplats: Haga Södra

Anmälan före 14 oktober
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 100 kr 
Icke medlemmar 150 kr


Apple Season

For most of us, summer holidays are over and autumn is approaching sooner than we’d like. The apple season is already on its way, led by the ephemeral White Transparent apple, with its delicate, greenish-white skin and tender juicy pulp. Let’s seize the opportunity to take a look at the Malus domestica, (Borkh., Rosaceae), or common apple.

The wild apple originated in Central Asia, and spread westward along the Silk Road. The number of apple varieties have since increased greatly, both spontaneously and due to intentional selection and inoculation. Pliny the Elder, back in Roman times, discussed the art of grafting and mentions some 20 different varieties of apples. Parkinson (1640) described 58. By the nineteenth century the number reached more than 600, and today we have about 7,500 cultivars worldwide.

Apples have long been associated with love and fertility, as well as with sovereignty, seen, for example, in the symbolic Imperial Apple, Globus cruciger. According to another common belief, the apple is valued for its health-bringing properties, a topic to which I will return below.

Myths and legends 
The apple is one of the most legendary fruits, allegedly making its first appearance as the fruit of the Tree of Wisdom in the Garden of Eden. This interpretation was influenced by the Latin homonyms malus (evil) and malus (apple tree, a word borrowed from the Greek me:lon). Various commentators to the Torah, identified the fruit mentioned there as figs, grapes, nuts, citrons, or even wheat.

Greek mythographers spoke of the Golden Apple in the story of Paris and Helena. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the Goddess of Discord, Eris, peeved at not having been invited, tossed in an apple with the inscription “to the most beautiful one.” Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera fought over the title, and the mortal prince Paris was asked to make the decision. Having been bribed, Paris chose Aphrodite, and this dispute eventually led to the Trojan War as depicted in Homer’s Iliad.

A Nordic legend describes how the Aesir gods received their perpetual youthfulness from the apples of Idun. Snorri Sturlasson tells us in the Prose Edda how Idun was abducted from Asgard, at which point the other gods started ageing and were compelled to bring her back again.

Lastly, we have an anecdote that is at least somewhat closer to the truth. Sir Isaac Newton supposedly had an apple fall on his head, and from this experience, derived the brilliant idea of how planets remain in orbit due to gravity. Although Newton never wrote about his brainstorm, a contemporary witness, William Stukeley, recounts it in his memoirs of Newton (The Royal Society, MS 142), but apparently omits the detail of the apple colliding with his head. That part of our anecdote seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

The curative properties of apples
If we turn to the field of medicine, apples have a long tradition here, as well, although many contentions have not been scientifically proven. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) was an abbess as well as a writer of theological, botanical, and medicinal texts. In her role as a medical practitioner, she drew on ancient Greco-Roman wisdom, dietetics, and herbal remedies. In addition to various therapies she presented, she included apples in her most important dish – a porridge based on spelt semolina, apples, and honey. From this multi-talented woman’s achievements, we now proceed to a source a bit closer to our time, but definitely less reliable.

Albertus Magnus (c. 1200–1280) – a saint, friar, and bishop – is a man about whom many tales have emerged, due to his fame as a natural scientist and commentator of the writings of Aristotle, and as reported later, his vaunted skills in alchemy and magic. A publication which definitely had nothing to do with him is the Albertus Magnus Redivivus or The Book of Secrets. The copy kept in the Hagströmer Library is from 1845, but the book was circulated in several versions and editions, and retained its popularity all the way into the early twentieth century. Here we find the apple presented as a means of alleviating many ailments, such as warts, icterus, constipation, a means of purging, and finally, as a love potion, and I quote (translation my own):

Cures for warts
Cut, at a waning moon, a cross in the calyx of a Borsdorfer apple, press it against the wart and then bury the apple in a cemetery. When the apple has decayed, the wart will be gone.

Cut, at a waning moon, a firm apple in four equal parts and rub the warts vigorously with these parts, until they bleed, if possible. Then tie the apple parts together, three times crosswise, with a woolen yarn secretly stolen. Bury them under a roof gutter, or, throw them into a stream. When the apple decomposes, the warts will disappear.

A purgative
A peeled Borsdorfer apple grated upwards toward the flower will cause purging when you eat it; if you grate it downwards toward the shaft, it will relieve diarrhea.

A cure for icterus
Take an unripe apple, cut a slice and scoop out a pocket in the apple. Fill the hole with saffron and put the slice on as a lid. Tie a yellow silken thread around it, fry it over the flames, and give it to the ailing person to eat.

A cure for constipation
Fine sour milk, buttermilk, boiled apples, boiled plums, and boiled red or brown cabbage, taken one at a time, are useful remedies for constipation. Ripe Borsdorfer apples, plentifully eaten, will relieve the most persistent constipation.

A potion for obtaining a woman’s love
There are secret methods that the cabbalists call love apples. They are to be used as follows: At dawn on a Friday, go to an orchard and pick the most beautiful apple. Write your name in blood on a piece of white paper, and add the name of the person you wish to be loved by. Get three strands of her hair and tie them together with three strands of your own. These are to be used for securing this paper with another one, on which you should write only the word “Scheva,” also with your own blood. Split the apple in two, take out the seeds and put in the papers secured with the hair. Use pointed needles of myrtle to press the halves together, and dry the apple in the oven to make it hard and parched. Then, enfold it with leaves of bay and myrtle; put it surreptitiously under the woman’s pillow, and before long she will be declaring her love for you.

The last potion actually does seem to go back to ancient times and cabbalistic tradition, though not with apples in it: “To make yourself irresistible: take elecampane root, an orange and ambergris. While mixing these together add in a piece of paper with the word ‘Sheva’ on it” (in Swedish the ingredients are ålandsrot, apelsin, och valrav). The magic word Sheva might refer back to the wise Queen of Sheba. Strange how tales circulate! 

A modern prescription 
The most well-known apple-related prescription of today is the one that we have all heard, at least as children: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In order to verify the accuracy of this prescription, a serious and well-justified study was carried out last year by scientists at The Dartmouth Institute in Massachusetts. Published in the highly regarded medical journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, it affirmed a correlation between American adults eating an apple a day and their use of fewer prescription medications. I cite the conclusion:

While the empirical evaluation of medical proverbs may allow us to profit from the wisdom of our predecessors, we were surprised to find a paucity of prior investigations of popular aphorisms. Our investigation has allowed us to update the well-known proverb to clarify that, if anything, apple eating may help keep the pharmacist away. Were this borne out, it certainly could have health policy implications.

The first appearance in print of the aphorism is found in the February 1866 edition of Notes and Queries Magazine: “A Pembrokeshire proverb: ait a happle avore gwain to bed, An’ you'll make the doctor beg his bread.” Now, in solidarity with all our colleagues at the Karolinska University Hospital, and elsewhere in the realm of healthcare, there is good reason not to spread this proverb further. We certainly wouldn’t want our physicians breadless, would we? On the other hand, there is another Swedish proverb with the wording “better breadless than clueless.” I certainly prefer my doctors to have a clue of what’s going on, ergo, perhaps we should yet again consider whether apple eating isn’t the better diet prescription, after all.

Eva Nyström, 21 September 2016

References and literature:
Albertus Magnus, Albertus Magnus redivivus, eller Hemligheternas Bok. En samling af mer än twåhundrade, till större delen bepröfwade, Sympathi- och Huskurer, till botande af en mängd sjukdomar … och Magiska Konster, till winnande af olika ändamål, såsom lycka i kärlek, fiske, jagt, o.s.w. 2nd ed. Göteborg, 1845.
Davis, M.A., Bynum, J. P., and Sirovich, B. E., “Association Between Apple Consumption and Physician Visits: Appealing the Conventional Wisdom that an Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.” JAMA Intern Med. 175:5 (2015): 777–783. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.5466
Elzebroek, T. & Wind, K., Guide to Cultivated Plants. Wallingford, 2008.
Grillot de Givry, E. A., Witchcraft, Magic & Alchemy. New York, 1971.
Knoop, J. H., Pomologia, das ist Beschryvingen en Afbeeldingen van de beste zoorten van Appels en Peeren, welke in Neder- en Hoog-Diutschland, Frankryk, Engeland en elders geakt zyn, en tot dien einde gecultiveert worden. Leeuwarden, s.d. [1763]. [The plates above are selected from this work.]
Parkinson, J., Theatrum Botanicum: The Theater of Plants. Or, An Herball of a Large Extent: Containing therein a more ample and exact History and Declaration of the Physicall Herbs and Plants . . . with the chiefe notes of Dr. Lobel, Dr. Bonham, and others inserted therein. London 1640. [At the Hagströmer Library the volume is included in the collection obtained from the Swedish Pharmaceutical Society.]
Phillips, J. P.  “A Pembrokeshire proverb.” Notes and Queries, 3rd series vol. 9 (February 1866) 153.
Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis XV: 15.

Eva Nyström is a Rare book librarian at the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library. She has a background in Classics and holds a PhD in Classical Greek. She has devoted most of her research to Medieval and Early modern manuscripts, bookbindings, and Early printed books. Presently, she divides her time between librarianship and a research and digitization project, concerning Old Swedish manuscripts held at Uppsala University Library and the Royal Library in Stockholm.


The Swedish physician Christofer Carlander (1759-1848)

The Nordic Encyklopedia (Nordisk familjebokpublished in 1905 stated that for a long period of time Christofer Carlander was the centre around which medical science in Sweden moved. At the same time he was one of the most experienced physicians. For 20 years, 1793-1814, he practised medicine in Gothenburg, and kept records of his 6000 patients. In all they comprise 2200 pages in folio, giving details of the diseases, the treatment and the outcome for each case. Many patients were followed for over ten years with new complaints. The document is unique in Sweden, if not in the world.

The patients were of all social classes, from the bishop’s wife to prostitutes, but servants and craftsmen predominated. Many details give ethnological evidence of life in the city. Carlander could be summoned at any time and went to see the same person up to five times a day if he saw the need. Only in the summer could he be free and leave the city for about three weeks, visiting friends and relatives in western Sweden, but some years he could not find anyone to replace him and from the summer of 1807 he was in constant service for three years.

He was well aware of the limitations of medical science of his time. His correspondence with his collegue and friend in Stockholm, Jonas Gistrén, which has also been preserved, reveals his concern. Positioned in Gothenburg he had the opportunity to import modern medical literature from London, for his own education as well as that of Gistrén, professor Pehr Afzelius in Uppsala and a couple of other prominent physicians who shared his eagerness to learn. A list of orders from 1801 contains 21 items for himself, among them ”Bell’s Engravings”, ”Haggarth on Fever”, ”Whately on Strictures” and ”Willan’s Diseas of London”.

Carlander dealt with all kinds of morbidity, even contributions by surgeons were recorded, including two cases of breast cancer. Specific diagnoses unknown at the time can be identified through his careful descriptions, e.g. a case of lung embolism during pregnancy and a myocardial infarction.

He was a skillful obstetrician, in many instances delivering babies with thongs. The local midwives were independent and proud of their methods, some very competent and involved in the care of women and small children in general. They cooperated well with Carlander, while others were reluctant to call for him, and still others were clearly incompetent.

Sometimes he had to find solutions to specific problems, such as rings in various sizes made of cork covered by wax for women with prolapse of the womb. An instrument to ligate the stalk of a benign polyp of the womb was manufactured by a local silversmith according to a design Carlander found in a German book printed i Jena in 1787. With that he prevented bleedings from being lethal in several cases.

Many patients were children with infectious diseases, worst of all smallpox, for which Carlander introduced vaccination in 1802. Within a couple of years he and his collegues carried out a programme that covered the whole Gothenburg population.

Among children and adults tuberculosis was frequent, the various forms called scrofula, comsumption or hectic disease. Numerous patients suffered from involvement of the hips or vertebras with resulting collapse and deformation.

Syphilis was another threat, often treated by quacks with mercury compounds on the mere suspicion or fear, but Carlander’s use of this remedy was more restricted. The disease was shameful, and he could not be sure that his records were not read by others, so in some cases he used witty synonyms for their names.

The texts were his private records and contain notes such as ”stubborn as hell”, ”big cow” and ”sweet child”.

Although in general Carlander made efforts to help in any illness, problems with sight and hearing in elderly patients were exceptions: ”Cannot be made young again”.

Death was constantly present in this society and Carlander took a special interest in the death process, keen that it should be calm and smooth, the patient prepared to leave, to say good-bye. He came to see patients even when death was close, to comfort them, and to prescribe valeriana, opium, jelly, and drinks soothed by salep.

In 1814, he retired to Stockholm, inaccessible to the many patients who never let him rest. There, he was mainly involved with administration and served as a referee of medical literature for The Swedish Society of Medicine. His vast collection of medical science books, which includes many copies of valuable ancient works, is now kept in the Hagströmer Library.

Gudrun Nyberg, 14 September 2016

Carlander’s medical records, 2200 pages in folio, are kept at the National Archives in Stockholm.
One of Carlander’s books on scrofula (tb) was Edward Ford’s Observations on the Disease of the Hip Joint, London 1794.

Nyberg, Gudrun. Doktor Carlanders Göteborg – folkliv, sjukdom och död 1793-2014. Stockholm, 2007.
Nyberg, Gudrun. Doktor Carlander i praktiken – läkekonst 1793-1814. Stockholm, 2009.


I see dead people

In addition to skeletal samples gathered during archaeological excavations, various anatomical collections are housed in museums and institutions worldwide. In many cases, the acquirement of these samples may be questionable from an ethical point of view, and so the reason for upholding this practice has been questioned. Obviously, there is an ongoing important debate regarding ethics, reburials and the housing of human remains in different institutes, but that is a whole other story.

Osteologists (bone experts) and biological anthropologists (specializing in human skeletal remains) work with bones on a day-to-day basis. Unlike physicians, we examine the remains of people whose soft tissues decomposed a long time ago. We inspect the shape, appearance and size of the bones. We measure them: lengthwise, widthwise, girthwise. And from these observations, we assess age at death, sex and stature of people from long ago. In addition to this, chemical analyses of skeletal remains, such as DNA, isotopes and trace element analysis shed further light on past populations regarding genetic relationships, diet and much more.

Anthropologists spend hours on end starring into a pair of hollow eye sockets asking questions: Who are you? How can I get to know you, and the life you lived? What happened to you?

We then embark on the journey to find the answers to these, one might argue, impossible questions. In our efforts to do so, skeletal traits or anomalies caused by severe living conditions, disease or trauma are examined, recorded and scrutinized in detail. The next step is to analyze and interpret the findings. How far you choose to go in your interpretations is entirely up to you and your scientific conscience. 

My professional interests recently shifted from prehistoric life-ways to injuries inflicted through criminal actions. This transition started a few years back, just before I began my two-year training at the Police Academy in Stockholm, when a colleague at the Archaeology Department of Stockholm University introduced me to a unique “case”: A man who lived and died around 2500 years ago during the Swedish late Bronze Age. His remains were discovered and exhumed 130 years ago during peat digging in southern Sweden. His bones exhibited no less than 700 various injuries, including blunt and sharp force trauma. For me, this undertaking was to become a natural progression from archaeology into the world of forensics.   

As a scientist, I established that his injuries were inflicted in a certain order of events, manner of execution and possible technique(s) used. On a more personal level, I might venture more spectacular conclusions. Yet, as this is not the forum for vivid descriptions of his wounds, it suffices to say: He died a gruesome and painful death.

He had received several blows to the head causing some very specific injuries: three nearly identical circular fractures. I and several experienced colleagues were puzzled by their appearance and regularity. Just prior to this, I had recorded and documented remains from an anatomical collection (now kept by the Medical History and Heritage Unit at Karolinska Institutet), that were stored at Stockholm University at the time. I remembered two skulls from the collection that both had very similar rounded injuries. Attached to those two skulls were two pieces of paper with writing in black marker and the same handwriting: “Murder” and “Blow with hammer” as well as the same case number.

The comparisons with the wounds found on the remains from the anatomical collection kept by the Medical History and Heritage Unit, thus provided a plausible interpretation of the shape of the implement used, and the manner of in which the circular fractures were inflicted to the Bronze Age man. 

So, it is evident that the anatomical collection comprises a very valuable source of information, and a clearer image of what happened to that man many years ago emerges. Now new questions arise: What ultimately killed him? What implements were used? Who killed him? And why was he killed? I can’t shake the feeling that he himself might not have been completely innocent. The questions remain unanswered, but will always be open for exploration, discussion and interpretation.

And ultimately, there is a significant difference between archaeology and forensics: In archaeology, we don’t have to worry that our interpretations are responsible for condemning an innocent for a crime (?) committed more than 2000 years ago.

Petra Molnar, 6 September 2016

Illustration from:
Still-life with a skull, oilpainting, Philippe de Champaigne 1644. Tessé Museum.  (accessed 2016-09-06).

Petra Molnar earned her PhD in Osteoarchaeology from Stockholm University in 2008 and graduated from the Swedish Police Academy in 2014. She recently participated in the Visiting Scientist Program offered by the Forensic Anthropology Unit at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in New York City. She is currently working as a Crime Scene Investigator and Forensic Anthropologist at the Swedish Police Authority in Stockholm, Sweden.


The Hagströmer Library series of publications and important Linnaeana

In 2007 the Hagströmer Library started a series of publications, now numbering 21. However, ten years before the library was officially established in 1997, five richly illustrated and annotated catalogues had already been published. These catalogues had paved the way for the establishment of the special medico-historical library that was named after Anders Johan Hagströmer (1753–1830). Hagströmer was the first Inspector of Karolinska Institutet, and the one who can be said to have founded its library by taking over the entire book collection of the old medical society, Collegium Medicum (1663–1812). The first catalogue, Rare and Important Medical Books in the Library of the Swedish Society of Medicine, was published in 1989 and was followed by The Womans Booke in 1990. Soon after I was commissioned by Karolinska Institutet to produce a similar catalogue, Rare and Important Medical Books in the Library of the Karolinska Institute (1992). The books were also exhibited at the Royal Library in Stockholm with an accompanying illustrated catalogue in Swedish, Iconographica anatomica (1991).

Four more catalogues were published: Kinetic Jottings. Rare and Curious Books in the Library of the Old Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics (1995); Old and Rare Books on Materia Medica in the Library of the Swedish Pharmaceutical Society (1997); and finally Ars medica Svecana 1571–1921 (2008), presenting rare and famous Swedish medical books in the Hagströmer Library. The second most recent catalogue is Odontologia (2015) with important and early printed books on dentistry in the library of the Swedish Dental Society. All books described in the above catalogues, with the exception of the ones described in Kinetic Jottings, are now assembled under one roof in the Hagströmer Library.

The Hagströmer Library has an outstanding collection of some 500 books written by or about Carl von Linné (Linnaeus, 1707-1778) and his pupils. Among them is a Swedish national treasure – Linnaeus’ own annotated copy of the first edition of his Systema Naturae (Leiden, 1735), maybe the most celebrated and most important book ever published by a Swede. The first edition is by itself a legendary rarity, but this copy is even rarer than usual. A very scarce plate is inserted illustrating Linnaeus’ taxonomy and description of plant reproductive systems depicting stamens and pistils of the 24 classes, drawn, engraved and hand-coloured by Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708–1770), a great flower-painter of the eighteenth century. This plate, famous in the history of botany, has been plagiarized in various publications and is often reproduced, however, the original is hitherto known in five copies only including the one in Linnaeus’ own copy of Systema Naturae.

The most successful of the Hagströmer Library publications was a new edition of Ehret’s plate. The task of engraving and printing a new plate exactly duplicating Ehret’s original was undertaken by Ateljé Larsen in Helsingborg, who had a copper plate printing press. The reproduction was printed on fine handmade paper (Hahnemühle 350 gr), the 24 figures were coloured by hand by Per Wendel and Björn Dal, and mounted with tissue guard in cream-coloured cardboard (1200 g from the Urshult paper-mill). The edition was strictly limited to 100 numbered copies. The last copy, number 100, was presented to Akihito, Emperor of Japan, during the Linnaeus Tercentenary in 2007 at the National Museum in Tokyo, when I had the honour of showing Linnaeus’ copy of his Systema Naturae for the Japanese Emperor and the King of Sweden. The reproduced plate was accompanied by a 32-page pamphlet about Ehret and his plate, for which our graphic designer, Lars Paulsrud, was awarded a diploma for one of the most beautiful prints in the year 2000.

For one week the Systema Naturae was on display at the National Museum in Tokyo. As a pendant a modern version, inspired by Ehret’s plate, of the 24 classes of Linnaeus’ sexual system was exhibited. It consisted of extremely detailed macro-photographs by Helene Schmitz. Her beautiful photographs were also reproduced in the book which became the official Linnaeus Jubilee book System och passion. Nils Uddenberg, who recently had published his work on the history of biology, Idéer om livet, wrote the text and the descriptions of the 24 classes in the Linnaeus system. 

Sponsored by Sven Hagströmer, Chairman of the Friends of the Hagströmer Library, the unique copy of the Systema Naturae went on a worldwide tour during the jubilee year starting at the National Museum in Stockholm, with the book as the centerpiece in a wonderful exhibition of flower paintings and colour plate books, some from the Hagströmer Library, to celebrate the so called King of Flowers. This also resulted in an illustrated catalogue, Blomsterspråk (2007). After the exhibition in Tokyo, the work went on to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Amsterdam, and thereafter to four famous libraries and museums in USA. The tour ended in the safe Treasury normally holding the so called Devil’s Bible (Codex Gigas), another unique book, in the Royal Library in Stockholm. A special exhibition of interesting provenances in books by Linnaeus was also shown and is described by Olof Kåhrström in Linnaeus’ Network, a catalogue with both an English and a Swedish version, numbers 3 and 4 in the Hagströmer Library series of publications.

Some of the most important contributions published during the Linnaeus Tercentenary in 2007 appeared in the Hagströmer Library series as follows: 

The first ever publication in the Hagströmer Library Series was, however indirectly, a work by Linneaus himself. In the 1740s Linnaeus held a series of lectures based on his rather short work Fundamenta botanica (Amsterdam, 1736). Here he goes into deeper detail to explain the contents of the 36 pages and in 1748 a diligent student, probably Pehr Osbeck, made careful notes of what was being said. This is the basis for Om botanikens grunder (2007), edited by Lars Bergquist and Carin Nynäs. Including comments and notes the work now consists of 502 pages.

Number three in the series is another heavy volume, edited by me, collecting all the material concerning and by Linnaeus published in the periodical Lärda Tidningar (2007). It contains, among other things, a number of reviews of books by Linnaeus – in all probability written by Linnaeus himself! Many rare texts are made available here and the book, whose full title is Herr archiatern och riddaren Linnaeus i Lärda Tidningar 1745-1780, met with critical acclaim and Professor Gunnar Eriksson of Uppsala University called it a “gold mine”.

A very handsome volume in the series is number 11, Ur regnskogens skugga. Daniel Rolander och resan till Surinam (2010). This is a translation of a large part of Daniel Rolander’s report from his journey to Surinam in 1755-1756. Besides Arne Jönsson’s translation from the Latin of the original manuscript, it has an essential essay by James Dobreff and photographs by Helene Schmitz.

Issued as number 12 was a biography of the prominent physician Abraham Bäck (1713-1795) who was a close friend of Linnaeus. The book is titled Abraham Bäck (2010) and the author, Thomas Ihre, is a direct descendant of Bäck. Much of the unique source material he used in writing about his ancestor is in the holdings of the Hagströmer Library.

Linnaeus is best remembered for his ordering of the species of plants and animals into a coherent system. But since he was a trained physician he also tried to apply similar systems of ordering to diseases. The abovementioned student Pehr Osbeck took notes at Linnaeus series of lectures 1746-1747 on the subject, Systema morborum, and these are preserved in the manuscript collection of the Hagströmer Library. There is a longer section that concerns mental illnesses, Morbi mentales, and this part has been edited (with notes and an extensive commentary) by Nils Uddenberg in Linné och mentalsjukdomarna (2012) as number 13 in the series.

I am pleased to have been acquainted with Birger Strandell (1901–1993), whose collection of Linnaeana was the largest outside of Uppsala and which was acquired by the Hunt Botanical Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1968. The Strandell Collection contains a complete set of Linnaeus’ 186 dissertations, all accessible online today. I was also instrumental when two other great Linnaean collectors started to build their collections: Sven-Erik Sandermann Olsen in Copenhagen, whose collection (Bibliotheca Linnaeana Danica, ca 5000 items) is housed in The Danish National Library of Science and Medicine since 1989. The other collector was Torbjörn Lenskog whose Linnaean Collection now is one of the treasures in the Chiba Natural History Museum in Japan. 

In more recent times Lars Bergquist, former Swedish ambassador in Peking and the Vatican and known for his studies of the mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, has turned his interest to Linnaeus and built a fine collection. Lars and I often discussed the possibilities to fill the gaps in his collection of Linnaeus’ dissertations. I told him of the plan I once hatched with Lenskog to compile an illustrated and annotated catalogue of all the 186 Latin dissertations, with bibliographical descriptions and comments in English, a project, however, which at the time came to nothing.  We agreed that a contemporary edition presenting all the dissertations was necessary. After almost six years of work Lars Bergquist and Carina Nynäs now have provided a portrait of Linnaeus as viewed through his scientific works together with that of his students. In the form of short essays they have opened the doors to the diverse and thrilling scientific world of the eighteenth century. These kaleidoscopic glimpses might bring Linnaeus closer to contemporary readers. I have encouraged them from the very beginning of the project and up to the pending publication of A Linnaean Kaleidoscope. Linnaeus and his 186 Dissertations (2016). The two volumes, with altogether 890 pages, illustrated with all the engravings and all the title-pages to the original dissertations, are beautifully designed by Lars Paulsrud and the great work is published by Fri Tanke as the Hagströmer Library series of publications No. 21.

This work is a treasure trove for everyone interested in natural history and the history of medicine, botany, zoology, geology, mineralogy, ornithology, entomology, herpetology, food and drink, and so on. It may well become a standard work.

Ove Hagelin, 31 August 2016


A Linnaean Kaleidoscope

The Swedish 18th century scientist Carl von Linné (sometimes Carolus or Carl Linnaeus) has had an immense influence on the way we understand the natural world we live in. In two installments of the Hagströmer Library blog Linné will be treated starting today. A Linnaean Kaleidoscope I-II, now published as number 21 in the Hagströmerbibliotekets skriftserie, is introduced by its two authors Carina Nynäs and Lars Bergquist. Next week Ove Hagelin, who also has been instrumental in the creation of this work, will present an essay called The Hagströmer Library Series of Publications and Important Linnaeana, which details earlier publications in the series concerned with Linné. (Dan Jibréus).  

Linnaeus mirrored through his 186 dissertations

The Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) profoundly and forever changed the way we think of nature and science.

Carl Linnaeus was captivated by the creed of life in God’s creation, where he himself, Linnaeus, persistently unearthed and arranged the divine order, putting the hidden system, previously wrapped up in inscrutable mystery, in a completely new context. He was able to see an eternity in each plant and to search for the significance of small shivering, shimmering insects and humble, living beings. 

A Linnaean Kaleidoscope I-II, the first expanded introduction in English of all the 186 Linnaean dissertations, is not written only to bring forth the botanical, medical, zoological, geological, mineralogical and other contents important to him. As historians and biographers, theologians and philosophers of religion, we have also intended to reflect both Linnaeus and his theses in their cultural context, as well as the history of ideas and natural sciences, highlighting also the reverberations emanating from the Linnaean scientific workshop. 

In theory, dissertations should be written by the students. Some did write their texts, but content and language had, as professor Bo Lindberg states, to be controlled by their professors, and in the 18th century that control was rationalized to the extent that the professors more or less wrote the dissertations themselves, for some remuneration.

The 186 dissertations, practically formulated by Linnaeus and defended under his presidency, usually present new knowledge, claiming to contribute to the advancement of natural history and medicine. Furthermore they have an international touch, reporting findings from exotic parts of the world, and sometimes being defended by disciples from other European countries.

A Linnaean Kaleidoscope, includes all 186 dissertations, reflecting imported theses as well as Linnaeus’ own domain of interest. The dissertations, written in Latin, have been available since the end of the 18th century in brief English summaries, translated by Richard Pulteney in A General View of Linnaeus’ Writings (1789, 1805).

In 1939, Gustaf Drake af Hagelsrum published a brief Swedish survey of the Linnaean theses: Linnés disputationer. Approximately half of the dissertations have been translated into Swedish as part of an ongoing project, initiated about one hundred years ago and edited by Svenska Linnésällskapet. From 1921 up to the present, 84 dissertations have been translated into Swedish in the Svenska Linnésällskapets Årsskrift.

Thus, for over two hundred years the necessity of an updated and enlarged volume in English has become increasingly obvious. We have for almost ten years been working with A Linnaean Kaleidoscope to fill that gap.

Our work is intended for readers interested in the history of science, popular history, the world of ideas of the 18th century, and, of course, Carl Linnaeus’ personality, his way of thinking and intellectual development. As both of us have formerly been engaged in biographical studies, we regard our finished work also partly as a kind of scientific biography.

In the form of short essays we have wanted to open doors to the diverse and thrilling scientific world of the 18th century. Bones of contention in the world of the learned have therefore particularly captured our interest – as well as today less discussed Linnaean themes, such as his focus on dietetics, women’s and children’s health and pharmaceutical issues. The form we have chosen, the essay, generously allows space for the immense indigenous literature concerning Linnaeus and his scientific themes.

We have focused on the incredibly rich literature regarding Linnaeus’ world of ideas, as well as interpretations and comments on the different dissertations, instead of translating the Linnaean dissertations verbatim. Thanks to the Swedish researchers and their meticulous efforts we have obtained an immense source material, enabling us to approach Linnaeus and his dissertations from important angles.

Our ambition has also been to enlighten general questions, connections and contexts, typical of the period, and to understand Linnaeus’ dissertations in relation to both previous scientific results and sometimes even later development.

With our book we have strived to find our place between Richard Pulteney’s brief overviews and a hopefully forthcoming modern complete translation with scientific comments, made by experts from the different scientific fields.

Also Linnaeus’ relation to God and the relation between modern science and the belief in God as Creator are treated in A Linnaean Kaleidoscope. Within the frames of modern and postmodern theology Linnaeus’ physico-theological approach seems to have become extinct. The images of God and nature are also more elusive and complex than the adherents of Enlightenment believed. But the rapturous wonder Linnaeus brought about in his botanical and zoological perspectives, his impetus and zeal, his unconditional admiration and love for nature are not yet outdated.

The Linnaean Kaleidoscope I-II is beautifully illustrated with original plates and frontispieces.

Carina Nynäs & Lars Bergquist, 24 August 2016


Gigantism part 2

The Irish Giant.
The Tall Lapp Girl Kristina Katarina Larsdotter, who featured in an earlier blog, is not the only known case of gigantism. Charles Byrne was born in 1761 in the Irish village of Littlebridge, Co. Derry. He was of normal size at birth, but soon began to grow at an astonishing rate and to an astonishing size. As was the case with the Tall Lapp Girl, an explanation was sought. It was said that he had been conceived in a hayloft – hence his height. As a child he would dribble and spit copiously, which made his friends keep their distance. It has been suggested that he might have had a slight mental retardation. He suffered serious growing pains. Byrne was discovered, just like Stor-Stina, by a manager, Joe Vance, who saw in him a lucrative source of income. At first, public interest exceeded expectations, and they travelled through Scotland and Northern England on their way to London. By the time they arrived in the capital in 1782, Byrne was a celebrity and posters advertising his exhibition were everywhere. He was also the subject of much gossip and was introduced to the royal family and other aristocratic personages. It was said that he was so tall that he could light his pipe straight from the street lanterns. His income was such that he was able to buy a fine apartment, where he would receive visitors.

Gradually, however, the market for this type of spectacle became saturated, as more “giants”, we well as dwarves, were exhibited at other places, forcing Byrne to drop his price. He developed serious drink problems and was robbed of a banker’s draft that he had bought with all his savings. He also probably suffered from tuberculosis, which exacerbated his failing health.

Doctor and surgeon John Hunter was working in London at this time. He operated on patients and collected different anatomical samples and bodies both human and non-human. He was feared, since people knew that if his operations failed and the patients died, they could end up in one of his cabinets. He was particularly interested in animals and humans with morbid lesions and distinctive features, so he was naturally drawn to Byrne, especially when it turned out he was dying. 

Byrne had other ideas than the Tall Lapp Girl concerning his body after death, and under no circumstances wished to end up as part of Hunter’s collection. So he paid one of his friends to make sure he was buried in a lead coffin and dumped in the sea. But this was not to be. Byrne passed away in 1783, a year after his arrival in England, at the age of only 22 and a height of 2.31 m (7 feet 7 inches). However, there was a great deal speculation about what had become of the body, as few people believed that it had been in the coffin. Either it had been removed by caretakers bribed by Hunter, who had had an accomplice stationed on the same street as Byrne’s apartment to inform him as soon as Byrne died, or simply stolen and the coffin filled with rocks before being lowered beneath the waves. Hunter then cleaned the skeleton, adding it to his collection four years later when interest in the circumstances surrounding the Irish Giant’s death had waned. Byrne’s skeleton can still be seen in the Hunterian Museum (founded in 1813), where it is one of the main attractions, despite the debate over whether it ought to be buried in accordance with his final wishes. The directors of the museum and others believe that is should be preserved for science. Already in 1909, US surgeon Harvey Cushing was able to announce by cutting open the cranium that Byrne had had a pituitary adenoma. In 2006, tissue was extracted for a DNA test from Byrne’s molars, from which scientists discovered the rare AIP mutation, leading them to draw conclusions about its heredity. Apart from the successful research that has already been done and that can help contemporary relatives and coming generations, scientists want to be able to continue using his remains for research. Another suggestion is for a replica to be made of his skeleton for exhibiting in the museum. This illustrates the predicament in which many museums now find themselves: should they preserve the remains that are possibly their greatest public attractions or return them for burial? There are countless mummies and other kinds of human remains at different museums and institutions, and such ethical issues ought to be balanced against the knowledge that can be gleaned from the research conducted on them. DNA techniques are becoming more and more refined, and it has become easier to examine trace elements, isotopes etc. in the laboratory. Nowadays, such analyses of bone samples can radically change current ideas of kinship, disease, diet, habitat and so on. The remains of indigenous peoples are often removed from institutions to be repatriated, and this applies as much to Karolinska Institutet as anywhere else; in the case of Charles Byrne, however, there is a medical aspect to take into consideration that is of much value for people living with gigantism today.

What causes such growth?

The pituitary gland, or hypophysis, secretes a number of different hormones. While it was discovered in antiquity, its function was long a mystery. Greek physician Galen (c. 129-199 A.D.) thought its purpose was to supply the nose with mucous (!). A pituitary tumour is the most common cause of gigantism/acromegaly. Descriptions of exceptionally tall people can be found far back in human history, but it was not until the second half of the 19th century that the disease was linked to pituitary tumours. In 1886, French neurologist Pierre Marie (1853-1940) described a disease involving the abnormal growth of the bones of the face, hands and feet. Acromegaly, as it is called, derives from the Greek akros (extremity) and megalos (large), and unlike gigantism only affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50, who, since already fully grown, are generally only affected in the extremities and the face. Nowadays, a combination of drugs, surgery and radiotherapy is available for patients with such tumours, and there are ways to contain the size of the tumours along with the hormone secretion that causes the abnormal growth, making it possible to slightly reduce the size of the extremities. There are also cases in which one or more of a patient’s ancestors had the same condition.

As puberty is also delayed by several years for people with gigantism, they have time to grow even more than normally growing individuals. When scientists examined Byrne’s skeleton they found that the epiphyses had not yet fused, which means that he was still not fully grown at the time of his death at 22 years old. Only about 30% of people with the AIP mutation develop a tumour, and only about 5% have a tumour that produces symptoms. The tumour, which is benign, grows very slowly and almost never spreads to other parts of the body. The symptoms can be very distressing, and include a bulging forehead, abnormally large jaw, hand and feet, and chronic headaches and perspiration. They can also suffer from disorders of the menstrual cycle and libido, while the pressure exerted by the tumour against the optic nerve can also cause visual disorders. The strangest symptom is that some men can start to produce breast milk, since the tumour secretes an activating hormone: prolactin. The disease is especially common amongst several families living in Northern Ireland. Scientists have discovered that the gene mutation sits on the 11th chromosome and traced it back to a common ancestor some 1,500 years, or approximately 66 generations, ago. If left untreated, gigantism or acromegaly can lead to an increase in mortality of 30% or so owing to problems that arise with the circulatory system and heart, and most of those who do not receive treatment die at a very young age. Scientists are still probing the diseases, researching, for instance, different functions between cells and proteins in order to learn how this mutation arises. If doctors know in advance who has this mutation, they will be able to X-ray their patients and operate before the tumour grows too large. This would not only avoid much unnecessary physical and mental pain but also make treatment much easier.

Ann Gustavsson, 17 August 2016

Learn more:
Watch BBC Documentary about Charles Byrne
Read about the Hunterian Museum

Illustration from:
Hunterian museum, Woodcut engraving, Sheperd and Radclyffe 1853. From Dr. Nuno Carvalho de Sousa Private Collections – Lisbon. (accessed 2016-08-15).

Harvinder, S et al. "AIP mutation in pituitary adenomas in the 18th century and today". The New England Journal of Medicine, 2011, Vol. 364 (1):43-50.
Alberti, S. "The organic museum. The Hunterian and other collections at the Royal College of Surgeons of England". Medical museums – past, present, future. London, 2013, 19.
Collata, G. "In a giants´s story, a new chapter writ by His DNA". The New York Times, January 5, 2011.
Dalrymple, T. "Why the Irish giant´s skeleton remains a bone of contention". The Telepraph, December 22, 2011.
Mantel, H. The giant O´Brien. New York, 1998.
Moore, W. The knife man. London, 2006, 397ff.
"Royal College of Surgeons rejects call to bury skeleton of” Irish giant”. The Guardian, December 22, 2011.
Uddenberg, N. Lidande & läkedom II. Medicinens historia från 1800 till 1950. Stockholm, 2015, 109.
Åberg, H. m.fl. Bonniers Läkarbok; hormonsjukdomar. Stockholm, 2000, 151f.
Transcription of the lecture “A tall story: unravelling the genetics behind Charles Byrne – ‘the Irish giant’” by Professor Márta Korbonits and Brendan Holland at the Hunterian Museum November 23, 2011.


Emergency Care in Perspective

The year of 1793: Napoleon is doing well, sending his troops far and wide in Europe and beyond. Still, enormous numbers of casualties, of wounded soldiers. What to do? How to help them? One solution was to develop better means of transport, to try and get them medical care as soon as the battle ended. Stretchers, litters, and horse-driven carts and wagons (ambulances volantes) came in handy. In Egypt, Napoleon’s chief army surgeon, Baron Dominique Larrey, even included camel litters in the truss.

Warfare has, sadly enough one might say, been a promoter of technical and scientific innovations. This counts for many areas in medicine, and very much so in the case of ambulance care. The term ‘ambulance’ can be traced back to the fifteenth century, when Queen Isabel of Spain introduced a form of field hospitals. These ambulantias were not really vehicles, more like movable tents with surgical and medical supplies that could serve the army during her campaigns. Even so, however soon the soldiers got under care, much grace from God was needed for anyone badly wounded to survive.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case, at least in times of peace. The ambulances of today are well-equipped, nurses and other professionals are expertly trained, and hospitals are usually close by. Speedy assistance is nevertheless crucial. If a cardiac arrest occurs, an early 112 emergency call, chest compressions, and preferably also defibrillation, increase the chances of survival significantly. The first ten minutes from cardiac arrest to initiating CPR are absolutely vital; with each minute the survival prospects diminish with ten percent. Now, this is something we all can assist in whether we are medical pros or not. Take a CPR course – if you already did that but feel a bit rusty, take another. Find out where there are defibrillators in the vicinity. Who knows, maybe you will be the one who can save somebody’s life.

A factor that we, as individuals, have less influence over is the emergency transport. We can make that emergency call straight away, but apart from that it is more up to the healthcare system and community service to ensure that competence and resources are at hand and efficiently used. How to shorten the response time is one of many factors that researchers at the Centre for Resuscitation Science are exploring right now.

If, in the above scenario, we count the minutes, then obviously it is quite another reality than the one where “ambulance care” was first invented. The need for transport of patients is old and worldwide. Already in Antiquity, there were regulations to move the leprosy patients and other terminally ill to places more remote. A couple of thousand years later, when civilian ambulances were introduced, the situation was not very different: in London in the 1830s they were used to swiftly carry cholera patients to hospitals, in order to reduce spread of the disease.

The next stage of development, after horse carriages, was the introduction of railroad and steamboat ambulances. Not least did the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton, advocate that treatment of the wounded during the Civil War begin already in the battlefield. And so we finally end up with the twentieth century airborne transport of today. We should be grateful that most of us won’t need to recourse to camel-dhoolies, such as the ones Thomas Longmore described in 1869. But should you find yourself in crisis without a camel, it is good to know that the technique works equally well with an elephant.

Eva Nyström, 10 August 2016

Illustrations from:
Wittelhöfer, L., Die freiwillige Hilfe im Kriege und das Militär-Sanitäts-Wesen auf der Wiener-Weltausstellung 1873. Wien, 1873. / This photography portfolio in large format is a rare documentation of ambulances as they were constructed and used in the latter half of the 19th century. It was composed for the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna. The copy owned by the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library has an inscription to King Oscar II of Sweden.

Longmore, Thomas, A Treatise on the Transport of Sick and Wounded Troops. London, [1869]. / The Hagströmer copy of this book was previously owned by Dr. Vincent Lundberg (1816–1891). He became a student of Anders Retzius at the Karolinska Medico-Surgical Institute, and was later engaged in improving the healthcare of the Swedish Army. As Royal Physician to King Charles XV, he accompanied the king on his travels.

Barkley, Katherine Traver, The Ambulance. The Story of Emergency Transportation of Sick and Wounded Through the Centuries. Hicksville, N.Y., 1978.
Hedlund, Fredrik, ”Hjärtstopp – en kamp mot tiden” (first published in Medicinsk Vetenskap nr 1, 2016).
Larrey, D. J., Mémoires de chirurgie militaire, et campagnes. Tome I –IV. Paris, 1812–1817.
Longmore, Thomas, A Treatise on the Transport of Sick and Wounded Troops. London, [1869].

Read more about cardiac arrest here!


Fall 2016

We are back! Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this fall!
(Hieronymus Bock, Kreutterbuch, Strassburg, 1580)


Summer 2016

Have a nice summer vacation!
The Hagströmer Library will be closed during the month of July.
(August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof, Historia Naturalis Ranarum, Nürnberg, 1758) 


Gigantism part 1

The Tall Lapp Girl.
Many different events and human destinies have passed by in the history of Karolinska Institutet. Some stories make an indelible impression and seem worth telling and remembering. The fate of Kristina Katarina Larsdotter is one of them. Kristina was born in Brännäs (modern Malå) in Lappland on 19 January 1819. The reason for her fame was her unusual height and the fact that she never stopped growing. Most Sami are short of stature, but Stor-Stina (Big-Stina), as she was nicknamed, grew to at least 2.07 metres (6 feet 9.5 inches) tall, although reports vary. In an attempt to find a reason for her size, it was said that her mother Karin was frightened by her own moon shadow while pregnant.

Stor-Stina lived at a time when people were fascinated by the aberrant. In the absence of modern media and internet, people derived their information and pleasure by more direct means, and had no qualms about buying tickets to see exhibitions of natives and people with various deformities and specialities. It was the public entertainment of the day and a rich source of income for more enterprisingly inclined, especially their self-proclaimed “managers”.

One such so-called impresario from Germany heard rumours of Stor-Stina and made his way to Brännäs. It is uncertain if he was called Kempe or Wolfenstein, but it is likely that they both collaborated with Stina at different points in time, with Kempe keeping an account of her in his diary. Stor-Stina agreed to travel to Stockholm and onto the continent to exhibit herself. We know she lived for a while in Gamla Stan and visited England and Germany. The money she earned enabled her to help her old parents and siblings, who lived at a time when the Sami people had only meagre livings to make in the transition from traditional nomadic herders to settled farmers. Apart from being large-limbed and extremely strong, Stor-Stina was said to have been gifted and managed virtually all her own affairs. In the end, she was able to buy her own homestead, where she lived with her sister Sara. Her parents, for their part, found it hard to fully abandon the old Sami ways.

According to a surviving medical report, Stina Larsdotter was examined by the Swedish Society of Medicine at Karolinska Institutet when she was 18 years old. They measured her body and noted down interesting phenomena, such as that she never menstruated, was prone to fainting, and was in chronic pain – symptoms that are consistent with the condition known as gigantism.

Many books have been written about the Tall Lapp Girl, both biographies and novels. It can be hard, however, to isolate fact from fiction, and there is often little to say what actually happened. We know that she died of gangrene in 1854, possibly after having been attacked by a bear, although that too could just be an invention. Her body was initially buried, but her grave was later opened and her corpse shipped from Umeå to Stockholm and Karolinska Institutet, where it was to be preserved for posterity and subjected to further examination. Her remains had been sold to the university, but whether their sale had been arranged by her before her death or by her parents afterwards is unclear. The society’s records mention a Dr. Ångstrand from Lycksele, who helped to transport her body, and contain notes that the size of her skeleton, particularly her pelvis, was astonishing. The word was that Anders Retzius had made a plaster cast of her pelvis, and the Unit for Medical History and Heritage actually houses a plaster pelvis that could be this very same cast. Writer Selma Lagerlöf wrote in her diary that she was once shown the skeleton as a young girl on a visit to Karolinska Institutet. Perhaps she was the last to see it before the fire of 1892, which totally destroyed Stina’s remains and much else besides.

There are today few traces left of the Tall Lap Girl: a handful of press cuttings and posters, a song, a couple of drawings, lithographs and a statue (which was erected at a later date). In 2009, a silver spoon was donated to Malå local history society bearing the inscription: “åt CC Larsdotter gifven af ett Sällskap i Sthm d 4 maj 1837” (For CC Larsdotter, presented by a Stockholm Society on 4th May 1837). It had been given to Stor-Stina as a present, and passed through several owners’ hands before finding its way back to Malå. The homestead no longer exists, and a new house has been erected on the site.

Ann Gustavsson, 15 June 2016

Stor-Stina i Malå. Litography, printed in Edinburgh before 1850. NMA 0041105 Nordiska museet.  
Stor-Stina i Malå. Långa lappflickan Christina Catharina. Print from 1839. NMA 0041106 Nordiska museet.

Broberg, G. ”Lappkaravaner på villovägar. Antropologin och synen på samerna fram till sekelskiftet 1900.” Lychnos, Lärdomshistoriska Samfundets Årsbok. Stockholm, 1981-1982, 30-37.
Hagberg, M. Rekviem för en vanskapt. Stockholm, 2012.
Lundgren, Å. Långa lappflickan, romanen och bakgrunden. Skellefteå, 2011, 177ff.
Lärarkollegiets protokoll med bilagor/ Signum: AIa/ Volym 7, 1853-57. Protocoller hållne vid Kungl. Carolinska Institutets Professorers sammankomster åren 1853-1857.
Svenska Läkaresällskapets protokoll KI Ms 194a:6
Verbal communication from: Olof Ljungström, Ass. Prof. History of Science and Ideas, Unit for Medical History and Heritage, Karolinska Institutet. Stockholm, June 2016.

Translation: Neil Betteridge


The Nature Around Us

Many of the members of the (all too small) staff at the Hagströmer Library have a keen interest in the natural world. The knowledge some exhibit is far from superficial. For those who haven’t visited us yet, it may be interesting to know that the library besides the obvious books also has a few specimens of other things. In some ways it is actually a natural cabinet in its infancy. While wandering around the library admiring the books, you may suddenly stand face to face with an open-mouthed blowfish with its bristling set of poisonous spines ready to hurt the careless! And when you have recovered from the surprise and start turning away, you discover that the fish is right next to a crocodile with sharp teeth. The latter is quite small, though, and has a red ribbon around its neck, which makes it look a bit less menacing. Elsewhere around the house you can find three more crocodiles, none of them large, the biggest measuring c. 114 centimeters from the snout to the tip of the tail. The last one is called Oscar and has been known by that name since the first part of the 20th century. High on a wall you can see a majestic golden eagle spreading its imposing wings, frozen in time just as it is about to take to the air from a branch.

The eagle is flanked by four colorful plates taken from John James Audubon’s Birds of America, originally published in installments between 1827 and 1838. This work is extremely valuable when complete, but single plates aren’t cheap either. The plates displayed at the Hagströmer Library, however well-made they are, are reproductions made in the German Democratic Republic in the 1960s. On a large desk we have several more of these Eastern German reproductions bound in two cloth-backed hardcovers. The books are quite cumbersome because of their size; 990 x 640 mm. Ove Hagelin, when guiding visitors, likes to turn to the plate depicting the passenger pigeon, and tell the sad story of how this bird, which could once be counted in millions and millions, was exterminated by thoughtless hunters.

Two goshawks perch on branches and, just as the golden eagle, they seem to be right on the verge of taking flight, looking for prey. In the spacious garden of the Hagströmer Library there is a large colony of rabbits. Visitors and staff alike look at these furry little animals with fondness, often remarking on how cute they are. Goshawks, of course, view the rabbits in a different light … A couple of winters we have been able to see modern-day descendants of the stuffed birds we have inside the library. You watch in fascination as the beautiful birds feed, while at the same time feeling a certain amount of pity for the poor rabbit.

By now you aren’t as easily astounded by strange creatures as you were when you first entered the library, and you hardly raise an eyebrow at the sight of a large rooster displaying fancy feathers, that surely must have impressed many a hen in the glory days of the rooster’s life. However, when you are well at ease, you look over your shoulder and get a glimpse of what, at first, seems to be a large shaggy dog in a corner. When your pulse is back to normal you realize that you are looking at a wild boar with glistening tusks, which would (or could) actually have been a far worse encounter than a dog, had it been alive – which of course it isn’t: you are looking at Dr. Schweinkopf who by his mere presence has guarded the library for many years now.

There still are a few things to see; if you look carefully you will find several corals and other fossils, hundreds of millions of years old, some not so old horns from deer, and you may even find the little hedgehog in one of the private offices if you are invited there. And there is pelt of a black fox from the early 20th century which was supposed to be worn by ladies around the neck to keep them warm – but the main purpose was surely to make them look elegant. It still has all its four paws and head in place. Fashion and taste change … Don’t worry if you spy rats on some of the book shelves – they are fakes!

Text and photographs: Dan Jibréus 8 June 2016

Addenda: The collections have quite diverse origins. Some are donations; the blowfish is a gift from Sven Olof Sundholm, the small crocodiles are gifts from Nadja Barenthin Lindblad, the large one is a gift from Ebba Fernberg, whose father bought it in the 1960s in Gothenburg; the original owner is said to have been a sailor. The great golden eagle is from the estate of Torsten Gordh (1907–2010), a pioneer in Swedish anesthesia, and it was given to the Hagströmer Library by his son, also called Torsten Gordh. One of the goshawks is the latest acquisition and was conferred to the library by Ingmar B. Lindahl earlier this year. Other things are private possessions. The rooster and the boar belong to Ove Hagelin, the fossils to the author, the deer horns to Eva Åhrén, the hedgehog to Anna Lantz, and the second goshawk belongs to Emil Hagelin. Finally the black fox pelt Gertie Johansson has inherited from her grandmother. It was bought in the shop of E. O. Lindmark, Upplandsgatan 22, Stockholm, in the first years of the 20th century. But before it ended up for sale in the fur dealer’s shop it must have spent its life on a fox farm which specialized in black foxes. And just such a farm was situated where the campus of Karolinska Institutet is now …


Hagströmerbibliotekets skriftserie – nr 19

Hagströmerbibliotekets skriftserie (The Series of Publications issued by the Hagströmer Library) consists of 21 items at the time of writing. It was initiated by Ove Hagelin and the first book was called Om botanikens grunder (On the Foundations of Botany), Atlantis, 2007. This is an edition and translation into Swedish of notes made by one of Carl Linnaeus’ pupils during the scientist’s lectures on botany in 1748. The work was compiled and issued by Lars Bergquist and is a handsome volume of 504 pages. Carl Linnaeus, Lars Bergquist, and Ove Hagelin are names that appear repeatedly in the series and in due course we intend to describe – in no particular order – every item in the series. Another name that is found time and time again is that of the eminent scholar Nils Uddenberg. His latest contribution is number 19, Lidande och läkedom (Suffering and Healing), Fri tanke, 2015.

In Lidande och läkedom I and II Nils Uddenberg paints a broad-brush picture of the growth of Western medicine from ancient times to around 1950, and reveals how people have tried to handle disease and death over the millennia. He describes developments in the theory and techniques of medicine, and leading us through the plagues that claimed millions of lives chronicles how people have tried, more or less successfully, to overcome such devastating epidemics. Presenting a cast of influential physicians, often with detailed biographies, Uddenberg surveys the global stage, albeit with a fond focus on his native Sweden. Accounts of individual suffering over the ages and the treatments offered add substance to his history, while the abundant illustrations, many of which were taken from the Hagströmer Library collection and with many objects exclusively photographed for this work, lavishly complement the text.

Nils Uddenberg was awarded the Letterstedtska författarpriset (The Letterstedt Prize) 2016 for the books. This award is issued by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for an outstanding original publication in science, literature or art the previous year.

Dan Jibréus 1 June 2016

Learn more: Fri tanke förlag

Learn more: Lindring för lidande
Published in Sydsvenskan, 28 September 2015

Learn more: Letterstedska prisen till Nils Uddenberg och Inger Johansson
Published by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 12 May 2016


New acquisition!

Udagawa Yoan (1798–1846)
Shokugaku keigen. Three volumes.
Tempo 8 (1837).

The introduction of Linnaeus’s binominal classification system of plants into the Far East, part II.
Yoan was a Japanese scholar known for his key role in introducing Western science into Japan. Although his span of life was short, his work contributed immeasurable in the advancement of science in Japan, especially the science of botany, zoology, and chemistry. His ability in foreign languages and his vast scientific knowledge surprised even Siebold. Influenced by Keisuke Ito’s Explanations of the twenty-four classes published as a supplement to his Taisei honzo meisu, which first introduced the Linnaean sexual system for the classification of plants in Japan, and under the guidance of the German botanist and physician Philipp von Siebold, Yoan published his epoch-making Shokugaku keigen (Principles of Botany) in 1834. It consists of three volumes written as an exposition of the western discipline of botany, the first to appear in Japan. Udagawa Yoan’s Shokugaki keigen is probably the first modern botanical treatise published in East Asia. The book is illustrated with 21 beautiful full-page botanical woodcuts printed in colours mainly taken from Dutch books and among them is the famous plate by George Dionysius Ehret of the 24 classes in Linnaeus’s sexual system of plants.

Ove Hagelin, 25 May 2016

View all the plates here!


Not everything was better before, part II

A teacher of osteology once said: “The worse for them, the better for us.” Although this might sound rather cynical, what she meant was that diseases that afflict people for a long time can leave interesting traces behind in the bones. This makes things very exciting for osteologists and others, who can learn a lot from them about the diseases and how these individuals once lived. Many diseases that were incurable then can be treated today with drugs and vaccines; others become resistant with time, leaving medicines at risk of becoming impotent. Syphilis is one of the diseases of which we find traces in the crania in the anatomical collection at the Unit for Medical History and Heritage, KI. There are also some striking pictures in one of the works in the Hagströmer Library collection.

Syphilis is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium, and is known by many names, such as the French Disease, Lues and the Great Pox. It is a chronic, disfiguring disease that leaves traces on the bones as bacterial infections take root. Venereal syphilis is contracted sexually and can be passed from mother to fetus. Just like in leprosy, it causes ulcers, skin and soft tissue lesions and inflammatory disfigurements of the skeleton. The first symptoms appear on the genitals and around the mouth. 10-12% of sufferers develop skeletal deformities and in the case of congenital syphilis, the mortality rate is 50%. After a while, the bacteria migrate through the body via the blood, affecting the heart, brain and arteries. Some people suffer mental disorders or become paralysed in the final phases of the disease. The bone deformities are caused by gummata, inflamed, fleshy growths that lead to the disintegration and re-forming of bone in the cranium. Tubular bones, chiefly the tibia, were affected, and here traces can sometimes be seen of severe inflammation (boils and exostoses). Arthritic changes to bones and joints and disfigured teeth (e.g. Mulberry molars) can also accompany the disease.

Columbus’s voyages were a decisive factor in the spread of the disease, and it has long been a moot point whether he took syphilis from Europe to the Americas, or brought it back from the Americas to Europe – the route which most scholars now prefer, given that no traces of the disease (on skeletons) have been found in Europe from before 1492, while older such finds have been made in the Dominican Republic. Italian doctor and scientist Girolamo Fracastoro (1483-1553) thought that small seeds spread the disease but did not rule out the possibility that astrological and meteorological conditions could also play a part in its pathogenesis.

Syphilis arrived in Denmark in 1497 and then spread to Sweden. At first, the disease was mostly aggressive; later, its advance could be broken down into three phases. They tried every possible (and impossible) way of curing or relieving it: starvation cures, bleeding, laxatives, extract from the wood of the guajac tree, alum and zinc salves. Mercury was also commonly used as a medicine before the advent of penicillin, in the form of ointments, pills, injections and an inhalant. It did have a certain effect, despite what we know today of the element’s toxicity. Arsenic was another poison that was experimented with medically (including the Ehrlich-Hata compound 606) – naturally with serious side effects as a result. Sometimes, the wrong treatment could even lead to amputation. For a long time, doctors found that relief could be obtained by inoculating syphilis patients with malaria; they contracted a different disease but at least they were free of the very worst symptoms of their syphilis. Perhaps any price was worth paying to be spared the third phase of this terrible disease.

Ann Gustavsson, 18 May 2016

Kalm, M. Anmärkningar öfver svältkurens användande i syphilis. Helsingfors, 1832.
Kaposi, M. Die Syphilis der Haut und der angrenzenden Schleimhäute. Wien, 1874.
Ljunggren, A. Försök till en kritisk framställning af de olika methoderna att behandla Syphilis. Stockholm, 1865, 9, 53ff.
Ljunggren, A. Studier i Syphilidologi. Stockholm, 1865, 9.
Nyström, A. 606 Ehrlich-Hata-Medlet och möjligheten af syfilis botande. Stockholm, 1910.
Smirnoff, G. Kort framställning af syfilisterapin medelst injektion af olösliga kvicksilfverpreparat. Helsingfors, 1890, 38ff.
Uddenberg, N. Lidande & läkedom I. Medicinens historia fram till 1800. Stockholm, 2015, 139f.
Åbom, P.-E. Farsoter och epidemier – en historisk odyssé från pest till ebola. Stockholm, 2015, 159-174.

Illustrations from Die Syphilis der Haut und der angrenzenden Schleimhäute by Kaposi, 1874.
Translation: Neil Betteridge


Anders Johan Hagströmer’s First Publication

The first head of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, Anders Johan Hagströmer (1753-1830), after whom the Hagströmer Library is named, published his first work when he was only 18 years old. It was a 16-page pamphlet issued anonymously in 1770 and was a rather harsh criticism of the educational system for surgeons at the time. It was called Suggestion for a Better and Gentler Way of Teaching Surgery or External Medicine (Förslag till ett bättre och lindrigare lärosätt uti chirurgien, eller den utvärtes läkare-konsten). Hagströmer did not mince his words and the pamphlet was not well received. A 64-page scathing response, attributed to the president of the Society of Surgeons (Chirurgiska societeten) Herman Schützercrantz, refutes the young rebel’s views point by point.

Later in life Hagströmer wasn’t too proud of the language that he had used. A copy of Hagströmer’s diatribe is preserved in a thick composite half leather volume (a “sammelband”) containing 94 18th century medical works by various authors. On the title page of Hagströmer’s work it is written in his own hand at a later date: “by A. Joh. Hagström. Written during his time as a student at 18 years of age which may well be seen in the ignorant way of writing. This received strong criticism which was left unanswered” (“af A. Joh. Hagström. Skrifvit under dess läroår vid 18 års ålder som och väl märckes af det okunnige i skrifsättet. Häruppå utkom en skarp critique som ej besvarades").

However, already in 1771 the Swedish teaching system for surgeons was reformed after all …

Dan Jibréus, 11 May 2016

Franzén, Olle. ”Hagströmer, Anders Johan.” Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, XVII, Stockholm, P. A. Norstedt & Söner, 1967-69, 751-52.
Gadd, Ann-Sophie. Vem var Anders Johan Hagströmer? Stockholm, Hagströmerbiblioteket, 1999, 16.


Not everything was better before, part I

The reliance of health on an effective immune system and nutritious food is just as true today as it has always been. But this was not easy in the past, particularly for the poor. Normal folk had no access to penicillin, and until penicillin became available after the Second World War what today would be considered a mundane, easily treatable infection could prove fatal. This was a common cause of death, in fact, particularly amongst children. Penicillin was an enormous medical discovery made by Alexander Fleming in 1928, and it earned him and his colleagues Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, who helped to turn penicillin into a drug, the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1946.

Bone material in the anatomical collection kept by the Unit for Medical History and Heritage, KI shows traces of more severe infection diseases, such as leprosy and syphilis. Chronic infection diseases can leave marks on the cranium and tibia, unlike more short-term diseases, which leave behind no skeletal evidence. The Hagströmer Library collection includes pictures of people with leprosy.

Leprosy is caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacterium, which comes from the same family as tuberculosis, a disease that became increasingly prevalent with the decline of leprosy in the first decades of the 20th century, partly, it is thought, because people who contracted TB developed immunity to it. The leprosy bacterium was discovered by Norwegian doctor Gerhard Armauer Hansen in 1874 – hence its one-time alternative name of Hansen’s disease. In the book On leprosy and fish-eating we can find Jonathan Hutchinson’s theory that leprosy could be contracted by eating rotten fish (something to bear in mind, perhaps, when shopping for the evening meal!). This Hansen rightly believed to be completely wrong.

The incubation time can sometimes be as long as 40 years, but the speed with which the disease develops and how it manifests itself differ widely. As with many other diseases it depends on the strength of the immune system of the person contracting it. It does not seem, however, to be especially infectious, and people living in the same family as an infected individual sometimes remain healthy. Amongst other organs, leprosy hits the nerves and the skin; lumps and swellings develop, and eventually the bones themselves are affected, causing a condition called Facies leprosa in which the hard palate and nasal bone atrophy and corrode. Since the bacteria also attack the middle bones of the hands and feet, fingers and toes eventually drop off too. The loss of sensation can lead to secondary risk and injury, since it can lead to reduced mobility and impaired speech and vision. It is usually such secondary diseases, such as blood poisoning, that are the cause of death.

The oldest documented case of the disease is found in India from around 300 BCE, while tuberculosis appears to have existed in Egypt as far back as Pharaonic times. Leprosy was mentioned in the Bible, but there is some doubt as to whether it is the same disease we mean today.

In Sweden, leprosy has been around since the 1100s, and persisted for many centuries. The last patient was discharged from a hospital in Järvsö in 1943, and the last fatality was in 1976. During the Middle Ages, special leprosy hospitals were established to care for these stigmatised people, who, until then, had lived largely as social outcasts, forced to wear distinctive clothing and rattle bells and the like to warn people of their approach. Leprosy was common on Crete, which built several lepers’ hospitals and even a leper colony, Spinalonga, that was still in use by the mid-20th century. Once the island was a place where the sick and their families were deported; now it is a tourist attraction.

In the 1940s, doctors tested a preparation of sulphur, which proved effective. They subsequently prescribed a combination of antibiotics to prevent the bacteria becoming resistant. This is the same method used today for tuberculosis, which is once again on the rise. Leprosy still exists in countries like India, Brazil and Burma, but ignorance and shame force the sick into their homes and away from the hospitals. What relief you will probably feel now, the next time you catch a cold that passes in a week!

Ann Gustavsson, 4 May 2016

Ehlers, E & Cahnheim, O. Die lepra auf der insel Kreta. Leipzig, 1901. 
Danielssen, D.-C., Boeck, W. Traité de la spédalskhed ou éléphantiasis des Grecs. Atlas de 24 Planches coloriées. Paris, 1848.
Hutchinson, J. On leprosy and fish-eating. London, 1906, 5f.
Uddenberg, N. Lidande & läkedom I. Medicinens historia fram till 1800. Stockholm, 2015, 133ff.
Åbom, P.-E. Farsoter och epidemier – en historisk odyssé från pest till ebola. Stockholm, 2015, 26-42, 386-388.

Illustrations from Traité de la spédalskhed ou éléphantiasis des Grecs. Atlas de 24 Planches coloriées by Danielsson & Boeck. 1848.
Translation: Neil Betteridge


Välkommen till föredrag - NYFÖRVÄRV

Liber arte Distillandi de Compositis. Strassburg, [Johann Grüninger], 1512.

Bokvänner och boksamlare håller nog med mig om att det mest tillfredställande med att bygga upp specialsamlingar, i detta fall Hagströmerbiblioteket, är att få komplettera dessa med rara och åtråvärda böcker. Ett av HAGSTRÖMERBIBLIOTEKETS VÄNNERS främsta syften är att stötta Hagströmerbiblioteket med bokinköp. Vid senaste årsmötet gav jag ett litet smakprov på de senaste nyförvärven inköpta av vänföreningen att deponeras på Hagströmerbiblioteket och lovade att återkomma med att presentera en kavalkad av intressanta, ovanliga och rara nyförvärv, som under årens lopp bidragit till att berika samlingarna. OVE HAGELIN.

MÅNDAGEN 16 MAJ 2016 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra

Anmälan före 12 maj
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr för medlemmar, 150 kr för icke medlemmar (vi tar kort) 


Life Itself; Ernst Haeckel (et al.) at the Moderna Museet until 8th of May!

Moderna Museet are at present showing an exhibition called Life Itself (Livet självt) which tackles the not so small issue of the meaning of life itself, as it were, … Or rather how different artists have tried to approach this question since the earliest years of the 20th century. It is not my place to judge how well the various well-known and not-so-well-known creative “expressionists” have succeeded. However, one of the exhibits, a plate from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature), is on loan from the Hagströmer Library. Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was one of the most prominent scientific and scholarly personalities in the 19th century and well into the 20th and he made contributions to several disciplines; zoology, comparative anatomy, embryology, philosophy etc, etc. Some of his views and conclusions are quite obsolete today as for example his work concerning human races. Kunstformen der Natur (Leipzig & Wien, Bibliographisches Institut, 1899–1904) consists of 100 colour and black-and-white plates and the imagery is striking. Every plate has depictions of several organisms and the symmetry of the arrangements is immediately obvious. It has been said that this reflects Haeckel’s world view.

Further images from the work and additional information can be found if you enter “Haeckel” in the search field of Bibliotheca Systema Naturae.

Dan Jibréus


Welcome to the first Hagströmer Lecture!

The Science of Human Perfection
Professor Nathaniel Comfort, Johns Hopkins University.
Drawing on his book The Science of Human Perfection, professor Comfort traces the history of the promises of medical genetics and of the medical dimension of eugenics. He also considers social and ethical issues that cast troublesome shadows over these fields, and puts CRISPR/Cas9 into historical context.

WEDNESDAY MAY 11 2016 17.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket, Haga Tingshus
Bus 57 (Sveavägen) Bus 515 (Odenplan)
Stop: Haga Södra

Lecture followed by reception
If you wish to attend, please contact us by May 9:
Phone: 08 5248 6012


A Medical Dispute in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1750

Arguments in the academic world can be quite fiery but the case of the two physicians John Williams and Parker Bennet of Jamaica went completely over the top.

In 1750 John Williams had a short work on the yellow fever published in Kingston, Jamaica, called Essay on the Bilious or Yellow Fever. His conclusions about the Old World origin of the disease were questioned in strong words by a Kingston physician called Parker Bennet in his An Enquiry into the Late Essay on the Bilious Fever. The general opinion at the time was that the yellow fever had been brought to the Old World from America. And this was the view held by Bennet who also maintained, contrary to Williams, that blackwater fever was the same as yellow fever. After Bennet’s rather condescending reply the educated arguments were left behind and insulting papers, both in prose and verse(!) were issued by the antagonists. What happened next is told by the anonymous author to the preface to the 1752 London reissue of both papers Essays on the Bilious Fever: Containing the Different Opinions of Those Eminent Physicians John Williams and Parker Bennet … Here quoted in full:

An authentic account of the death of the unfortunate doctor Williams and doctor Bennet of Kingston in Jamaica, on the 29th of December, 150, caus’d by the following Papers.

After a great deal of ill language they proceeded to blows, which caused challenges and acceptance, and the morning after doctor Bennet went arm'd with his sword and a brace of pistols to doctor Williams's door very early, and knocked him up; Williams saw from his window who it was, and what he had to expect; upon which he loaded his pistols with Goose, or Swan shot; and slinging his drawn sword by a ribband upon his wrist, came down, and opening the door, just sufficient to admit his hand with a pistol, poured a shot full into poor Bennet's breast, who had delivered his own arms to his boy, whilst he called Williams out; which when he had done, he continued to pursue Bennet, reeling to his boy, and wounded him with the other pistol in his knee. Bennet by this time had gained his sword only, which was fastened so strongly in the scabbard, that with all his endeavours he could not draw it. When Williams had fired his second pistol, Bennet turned upon him, thanked God he had power to be reveng'd, and whilst he endeavoured to release his imprison'd weapon, begged of God to invigorate him a few moments; but Williams then gave him a mortal thrust under his right arm, which pierced the lungs on both sides; having done this he was turning to run for it, but that moment Bennet drew his sword, and made a pass at Williams, which entering under the right clavicle or collar bone, pierced the internal jugular vein, and finished its course in the shoulder blade, breaking off at the place of entrance; however, Williams run ten or fifteen yards and then fell, suffocated with his blood, and never spoke more. The unfortunate Bennet survived him about four hours, and then expired, in the most agonizing pains imaginable." What about the issue that caused this tragicomic chain of events? One of the papers was actually so good that it was plagiarized 20 years later by a Charles Blicke. John Williams had drawn the right conclusions.

This anecdote has also been retold by Nils Uddenberg, on my suggestion, in his great work on medical history, Lidande och läkedom I-II (Fri Tanke, 2015), part II, 285.

Dan Jibréus

Cundall, Frank. “The Press and Printers of Jamaica Prior to 1820.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Vol. 26, 1916, 296-297.
Findlay, George Marshall. “John Williams and the Early History of Yellow Fever.” British Medical Journal, Sept. 4, 1948, 474-476.
The Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal, Vol. 7, July 1752, 71-74.
The Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal, Vol. 46, 1772, 541-442.


New acquisition!

Keisuke Ito (1803–1901)
Taisei honzo meiso. Three volumes.
Nagoya, Bunsei 11-12 (1828–1829).

The introduction of Linnaeus’s binominal classification system of plants into the Far East, part I.
After a series of events involving several foreign powers, Japan put into effect the sakoku or ’closed country’ policy in 1639, which effectively isolated it for some two hundred years from all Westerners except the Dutch. They were confined to the small artificial island of Deshima in Nagasaki Bay connected to land by a bridge, and could not leave the island without permission. A strict ban was also placed on the importation of foreign books. A number of Japanese scientists and physicians were interested, however, in the scientific and medical knowledge that could be gained from the West, and for this reason advocated a limited relationship with the foreigners. They decided that they could best realize these aims through the facilities of the East India Company of the Protestant Dutch, who did not bring missionaries with them. The Dutch were thus allowed to maintain a factory on the small island of Deshima, but they too were regarded with extreme suspicion and were kept under very close surveillance.

The first of the three ”Dutch” naturalist and physicians who visited Japan was the German Engelbert Kaempfer, who stayed at Deshima in 1690-92,  and whose illustrated Japanese Flora appeared as an appendix to his Amoenitatum exoticarum (1712); 83 years later the Swede Carl Peter Thunberg, who had learned Dutch, arrived at Deshima, where he stayed for nine months in 1775-76. In 1784 Thunberg published his important Flora Japonica, which has given him the name of the ”Linnaeus of Japan”; the third great physician was Philipp Franz von Siebold who arrived to Deshima in 1823 and established a school of medicine and a clinic for the treatment of patients.  In 1827 the 25-year-old Keisuke Ito (1803–1901) went to Nagasaki to study botany under Siebold, who had brought a copy of Thunberg’s Flora Japonica with him to Japan. In 1828 Ito wrote his Taisei honzo meiso in three volumes where the Linnaean nomenclature was used for the first time in Japan. He used the scientific names of plants in Thunberg’s Flora Japonica, put them in alphabetical order, and added Japanese names. In the supplement he introduced Linnaeus´s classification system for plants as ”Explanations of the twenty-four Classes” illustrated with 24 colour printed woodcut figures. When Siebold left Japan he presented Ito with his own copy of Thunberg’s Flora Japonica, the very first copy to be seen in Japan. The meeting with Siebold became the turning point in Ito’s academic career. He published a large number of invaluable works on the knowledge of the flora and fauna in Japan. In 1881 he became the first professor of botany at the University of Tokyo and in 1901 entitled baron. In the same year he passed away at the age of 98.

Ito was indefatigable in his search for scientific knowledge and together with Udagawa Yoan he successfully led the Japanese out of the old natural history derived from the Chinese Pen-t’sao into the new science.


Your last chance!

30 April is your last chance to visit Andreas Vesalius and the anatomical Renaissance, a beautiful exhibition of works by the leading anatomist Vesalius (1514 - 1564), including his book De humani corporis fabrica from 1543, the first systematic, fully illustrated description of the human body. Also on display are works by a selection of his predecessors and successors. The exhibition is a joint initiative by Uppsala University Library and the Hagströmer Library. 



CARDANO var ett sällsynt mångbegåvat universalgeni med en osannolikt hög produktivitet inom ett flertal områden. Han var en av sin tids mest berömda läkare i Europa och räknas som nummer två efter Vesalius, men har gått till historien främst som matematiker och uppfinnare. Astronomen Kopernikus, anatomen Vesalius och matematikern Cardano var de tre pionjärerna som öppnade dörrarna mellan medeltiden och den moderna tiden. En rikt illustrerad exposé om Cardanos ytterst dramatiska och fascinerande liv ges i denna föreläsning av: STEN FRIBERG, Docent vid Karolinska Institutet, f.d. överläkare vid Onkologiska Kliniken (Radiumhemmet) vid Karolinska Sjukhuset.

TORSDAGEN 7 APRIL 2016 kl. 18.00
Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra

Anmälan före 1 april
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 100 kr (vi tar kort)
Icke medlemmar 150 kr


New acquisition!

August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof (1705–1759)
Der monatlich-herausgegeben Insecten-Belustigungen  . . . Erster- [vierter] Theil.
Nuremberg, Johann Joseph Fleischmann, 1740–1761.

Four volumes, uniformly bound in contemporary mottled calf, gilt double fillet around sides, spine with five bands, richly gilt in compartments, red and green morocco spine labels, gilt lettering.

After studying painting with his uncle and father and at the Academy of Nuremberg Rösel obtained an appointment at the Danish royal court in Copenhagen painting portraits and miniatures. Two years later in 1728 he fell ill during the return trip to Nuremberg and had to spend a month recuperating in Hamburg. By chance a copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s amazing Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium was introduced to him during his convalescence and after studying its splendid hand-coloured plates he decided to devote the rest of his life to the study of insects and to publish illustrated natural history books. After years of preparation the first instalment of his monthly Insecten-Belustigungen appeared in 1740. The work was immediately praised for its outstanding illustrations. The first volume, mainly devoted to butterflies, was completed in 1746. The second volume is dealing with beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, flies and dragonflies. The last instalment of the third and the whole of the fourth volume (1756–61) were taken over by his son-in-law and closest collaborator, Christian Friedrich Lemann (1735–1789).  Rösel’s ”Insect amusements” with its lovely frontispieces with insects and over 400 illustrations with many figures for each insect showing eggs, larva, pupa, etc. is one of the great classics within the entomological literature and one of the most brilliant colour-plate books of the period.



Christofer Carlander, en av sin tids mest framstående svenska läkare, var även en av landets största boksamlare av medicinska böcker, vars samling idag utgör en av grundstenarna i Hagströmerbiblioteket. Efter 20 års mycket omfattande praktik och erfarenhet som familje- och förlossningsläkare i Göteborg, där han behandlade 6000 patienter, upp till 60-70 om dagen, flyttade Carlander år 1814 till Stockholm där han blev assessor i Sundhetskollegium. Carlander hade den för dåtiden märkliga vanan att dokumentera sitt arbete i patientjournaler.

GUDRUN NYBERG, Professor vid Sahlgrenska akademin, har varit verksam vid Sahlgrenska Sjukhuset i Göteborg, och är författare till två böcker om Carlander. Hon har ägnat mycket tid åt att läsa Carlanders 6000 längre och kortare patientjournaler, förda på sammanlagt 2214 sidor i folioformat, vilket möjliggjort inblickar både i den mest avancerade läkekonst som praktiserades kring sekelskiftet 1800 och i patienternas levnadsförhållanden i vid bemärkelse.

TORSDAGEN 10 MARS 2016 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra

Anmälan före 3 mars
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Medlemmar inträde 100 kr (vi tar kort)
Icke medlemmar 150 kr


Spring 2016

We are back!
Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this spring.
(Fortunio Liceti, De monstrorum caussis, natura, et differentijs libri duo, Padua, 1634)



Japan var på 1700-talet stängt för européer med undantag för det holländska ostindiska kompaniet. Dit kom år 1775 Linnélärjungen
Carl Peter Thunberg, med uppdrag att sända levande träd och buskar till mäktiga patroner i Amsterdam. Instängd på den lilla handelsstationen Deshima utanför Nagasaki lyckades Thunberg upprätta ett system av utbyten med japanska tolkar och samla växter, mynt, kartor, böcker m.m., som resulterade i en Flora Japonica samt en reseskildring från det svårtillgängliga riket.

MARIE-CHRISTINE SKUNCKE, professor i litteraturvetenskap vid Uppsala universitet och författare till boken Carl Peter Thunberg, Botanist and Physician: Career-Building across the Oceans in the Eighteenth Century, berättar om Thunbergs vistelse i Japan och dess betydelse i både Japan och Europa.

ONSDAGEN 2 DECEMBER 2015 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan)
Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 25 november
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr kontant


INGET FÖRBLIR SIG LIKT - Darwins idéer om föränderlighetens motor

I föredraget skildras några av de viktigaste av de upplevelser och erfarenheter i Charles Darwins liv som bidrog till framväxten av
de banbrytande idéer som för alltid skulle förändra vår syn på livet på jorden. Idag som alltid är det darwinska mekanismer som leder
till olika livsformers fortgående anpassningar till vår nya sköna värld. Och givetvis är även Skapelsens Krona en originell produkt av naturligt urval . . .

STAFFAN ULFSTRAND (född 1933) studerade biologi vid Lunds universitet och disputerade år 1968 på en avhandling om insektslivet i Vindelälven. År 1978 blev han professor vid Uppsala universitet och är emeritus sedan år 1998. Hans huvudintresse är evolutions- och beteendeekologi, bland annat frågor om hur ändrade omvärldsbetingelser kan leda till adaptiva förändringar i livsformernas levnadssätt. År 1958 deltog han i en Oxford University-expedition till Tanganyika/Tanzania, vilket grundlade ett livslångt intresse för Afrika och dess fauna. Bland hans populärvetenskapliga böcker kan nämnas Darwins idé - den bästa idé någon någonsin haft och hur den fungerar idag, 2008 och Fågelgrannar (tillsammans med Sven-Olof Ahlgren), 2015.

TISDAGEN 17 NOVEMBER 2015 kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen) Buss 515 (Odenplan), Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 12 november
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr kontant



Mordet på Gustaf III i mars 1792 tillhör de mer omskrivna händelserna i svensk historia, men är ännu till väsentliga delar ouppklarat. Man vet visserligen vem som höll i pistolen, men vilka de egentliga krafterna var som dirigerade skytten, och varför kungen över huvud taget mördades höljs fortfarande av historiens dunkel. Kirurgen Anders Johan Hagström[er] var en av de läkare som kallades till operahuset i den kalla vinternatten för att undersöka skottskadan. Hans skildring av kungens tillstånd och av hanteringen av såret förvaras idag på det bibliotek som bär Hagströmers namn, och är unikt i sitt slag.

CHRISTOPHER O’REGAN, författare och historiker, rätar ut några frågetecken och ger röst åt Hagström[er] och andra ögonvittnen till Gustaf III:s sista tid i livet. VÄLKOMMEN!

TISDAGEN 13 OKTOBER 2015 kl. 18:00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Buss 57 (Sveavägen)  Buss 515 (Odenplan), Hållplats: Haga Södra
Anmälan före 7 oktober
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras 
Inträde 100 kr kontant


Fall 2015

We are back!
Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this fall.
(J. W. Palmstruch, Svensk Botanik, Stockholm, 1803)


Summer 2015

Have a nice summer vacation!
The Hagströmer Library will be closed during the month of July.
(August Pfeiffer, Magasin för blomster-älskare och idkare af trädgård-skötsel, Stockholm 1803)


New acquisition

Magnus Gabriel von Block’s hitherto undocumented doctoral diploma from Harderwijk University, autumn 1701.                          Parchment letter with light blue silk ribbon tie bearing a red seal dated “3. Kal. Septemb. MDCCI” (30 August 1701)”. Signed by the university’s rector Gerhard Wijnen.

It was not possible to attain the status of doctor of medicine in Sweden at this time, so on receiving his title at Harderwijk University in Holland, Magnus Gabriel von Block (1669–1722) became the first of a long list of Swedes to graduate at “the philanthropic little doctor’s factory” of Harderwijk, where a generation later Nils Rosén [von Rosenstein] and Carl Linnaeus also took the title of doctor of medicine. This document, which marks the beginning of one of the most interesting medical careers in Swedish academic history, was previously unknown to historians. For example Olof Hult wrote in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon that Block “probably” graduated in 1702. Sten Lindroth observes that very little is known of Block’s journey, but could establish the date of his graduation, very possibly from the archives in Harderwijk. For Block, the entire process took a week. He was enrolled at the university, where he was generously referred to as a medical student, on 23 August, and seven days later, under the auspices of the rector, philosopher Gerard Wijnen, defended his thesis on arsenic: Scrutinum arsenici, physico-chemico-medicum dissertatione inaugurali . . . pro doctoratu gradu (Harderwijk, 1701). The copy presented to the Collegium Medicum currently resides in the Hagströmer Library, now in the company of Block’s diploma. Such theses from Harderwijk were printed in very small numbers and are thus considerable rarities.

Once he had graduated, it remained for Block to obtain a licence to practise medicine in Sweden. Clutching his parchment letter, he appeared before the Collegium Medicum in Stockholm on 13 December 1702. Six members gathered this day at the home of president Urban Hiärne to hear Block present his doctoral diploma from Harderwijk and his thesis on arsenic. The assembled doctors took turns in cross-examining him and Bock duly answered their questions. Hiärne himself wanted to know if a person with dropsical scorbutica should be treated with purgative and sudorific medicines, and Block answered in the affirmative. Having passed the interview, he signed the Collegium’s statutes, swore the traditional oath, and paid 150 daler kmt to the Collegium’s treasury. He also became a member of the Collegium Medicum at the same time.

Block was now free to begin his medical career. A man of his talent should have been able to go far. A lucrative practice in the capital, crowned with the post of personal physician-in-ordinary or professor at one of the medical faculties would have appeared a natural objective. But Block had other plans. Throughout his adult life, ever since his self-imposed exile in Florence, he longed for peace in which to study and a place of shelter away from the din of the outside world. He wanted to live with his books, his chemical experiments and his musings over the problems of science and the paradoxes of life. Block had tasted worldly vice and the vanities of court life, and found them unappealing, so opted for the modest lot of the provincial doctor. Just a week after his acceptance, he appealed to the Collegium Medicum for a recommendation for the position of provincial physician in Östergötland. In the spring of 1703, Block moved to Norrköping, the county’s administrative seat , where he remained, serving as provincial physician, for the remaining twenty years of his life.

With his dialectical skills and his wit, learning and eloquence Block made quite a name for himself. He is said to have been able to speak eleven languages and write in thirteen. A few years previously, while in Italy, a cardinal admitted him into his retinue and took him to Florence, where the Grand Duke of Tuscany employed him as his cabinet secretary. This was in 1697, and when Olof Celsius the elder visited Block during his trip to Italy that same year he found him living in a stone-built house surrounded by a pretty little garden. Here, in the home that Block had been granted by his princely master, Celsius lodged in much comfort, since his host enjoyed “a goodly wage” and was supplied with excellent wine from the grand-ducal cellar.

Block was an all-rounder, with a rich intellect that thirsted for knowledge in a wide variety of fields. His writings tell us that he was very widely read and intimately familiar with past and present cultures. Alongside medicine and his language, he had a particular passion of chemistry, alchemy and mineralogy. His style is scintillating and distinguished by a caustic rhetoric and pointed sarcasm.  Block was a bibliophile, and as soon as he was drawn to a particular book he had to purchase it “whatsoever she may cost”.


New acquisition

BRUNSCHWIG, Hieronymus (c. 1450-c. 1512) Liber arte Distillandi de Compositis. Das buch der waren kunst zu distillieren die Composita und simplicia, und das Buch thesaurus pauperum. Ein schatz der armen genannt Mi- carium, die brösamlin gefallen von den büchern das Artzny, und durch Experiment von mir Jheronimo Brunschwick uff geclubt und geoffenbart zum trost denen es begeren. Strassburg, [Johann Grüninger], 1512.

The first edition of Brunschwig's famous “Grosse Distilierbuch” left the press on February 12th, 1512. It is a gigantic work, far more than a mere book on distillation, a manual rather of pharmacological therapeutics. Brunschwig has here brought together his entire medical knowledge. It is a folio volume of 363 leaves illustrated with nearly 200 large and small woodcuts all coloured by a contemporary hand. The book is especially remarkable for the richness of its illustrations. There are 130 woodcuts of stills. Other woodcuts (some repeated) show blood-letting scenes, scenes at the sick-bed, various pictures of physicians with their urine flasks, apothecary's shops, etc. and finally several interesting anatomical illustrations, e.g. two representations of the eye, a viscera man, a man with the thorax opened, showing the heart, large cut of a phrenological head (showing the location of the memory ). Brunschwig advises the reader not to place too much reliance on the publisher’s choice of illustrations "for the figures are nothing more than a feast for the eyes, and for the information of those who cannot read or write." Many were borrowed from earlier works, but the fine title woodcut of an early alcohol still with cooling-coil and several other cuts of distilling vessels appear here for the first time.


New acqusition

MATTIOLI, Pietro Andreas (1500–1577). De i Discorsi di M. Pietro Andrea Matthioli nelli sei libris di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo, della Materia Medicinale. Parte Prima–Seconda. + Del Modo di Distillare acque da tutte le pianti.  Venetia, Felice Valgriso, 1584–1585.

Mattioli’s commentary on Dioscorides was the most frequently reprinted herbal of the sixteenth century. The success of his work was phenomenal. There were editions with both small and large woodcuts but it is chiefly known from a small number of editions illustrated with over 1,000 large (nearly full-page) woodcuts, the ”grand Mattioli”. These large figures of plants are in every way immeasurably superior to the small woodcuts. The present Valgrisi edition of 1585 is one of those containing large-sized figures. The book has over 1,700 pages divided into two thick volumes, containing 1,031 woodcuts of which 932 are of plants and 99 of animals and genre scenes. An appendix on distillation can be found at the end, which is illustrated with six large woodcuts depicting furnaces or distillation towers. The designers of the woodcuts were Giorgio Liberale (1527– ca. 1579), an Italian artist from Udine, and Wolfgang Meyerpeck (ca. 1505–1578), a German woodcutter active in Prague.


TULIPAE HORTORUM - en konstupplevelse

Tulipae Hortorum torde vara den största blomsterboken i formatet dubbel elefantfolio, drygt 100 x 75 cm, bunden i praktband, som det tog den världsberömda bokbinderskan Tini Mura 600 timmar att färdigställa. Jonathan Singer är utbildad kirurg, som på äldre dagar började fotografera tulpaner i unik stil som påminner om målningar från 1600-talet, då tulipomanin drabbade Holland. Boken framställd i endast ett exemplar är dedikerad till Carl von Linné och skänktes till Sverige och Vetenskapsakademien 2009. Enligt Dr. Kress, intendent vid National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute i Washington D.C., är den en gengåva för att Hagströmerbiblioteket där under några dagar jubileumsåret 2007 ställde ut Linnés eget exemplar av första upplagan av Systema Naturae. Jonathan Singer tilldelades 2008 the Hasselblad Laureate Award "for his unique work with extremely rare flowers and plants" och erhöll 2009 av Vetenskapsakademien Carl von Linnés silvermedalj.

PER CULLHED, 1:e konservator vid Carolina Rediviva, berättar om bandet och tulpandekorens bokbandshistoria och OVE HAGELIN, Hagströmerbiblioteket, om tulpanens kulturhistoria.

ONSDAGEN 20 maj kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Anmälan före 15 maj
Telefon: 08 5248 6828
Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr kontant



För 101 år sedan dog den sista vandringsduvan, en fågelart, som i mitten av 1800-talet var den vanligaste i Nordamerika. Man uppskattar att åtminstone 130 fågelarter dött ut eller utrotats sedan 1500-talet. En av dessa var vandringsduvan, en stor och vacker fågel, som var den vanligaste i Nordamerika. I mitten av 1800-talet räknade man dess antal i miljarder, lika många som andra fågelarter i Nordamerika sammanräknade. När den sista vandringsduvan dött i Cincinnati Zoo bäddades hon in i 150 kg is och skickades till the Smithsonian Institution i Washington. Där står hon nu uppstoppad och på en skylt kan man läsa: Martha, last of her species, died at 1 p.m. 1 September 1914, age 29. VARMT VÄLKOMNA!

ANDERS ALVESTRAND, prof. em. Karolinska Institutet, berättar om den snabba och tragiska flykten mot utrotning och om planerna att med genteknikens hjälp återuppliva arten.

ONSDAGEN 22 APRIL kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Anmälan före 18 April
Telefon: 08 5248 6828
Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr kontant


VRAKMEDICIN - Studier av fynden i regalskeppet Kronans medicinkista

År 1676 drabbades Sverige av en stor fartygskatastrof när regalskeppet Kronan kantrade, exploderade och sjönk utanför Ölands kust. Skeppet var mer än en och en halv gång så stor som Vasa och, till skillnad från Vasa, fullt utrustad och engagerat i krig mot Danmark. Över 800 man blev kvar ombord och tusentals föremål följde dem ner i havsdjupet. År 1980 hittades vraket av fartyget på 26 meters djup i havet utanför Hulterstad på Öland, och sommaren 2002 upptäcktes en i stort sett komplett medicinkista. Kistan är unik ur läkemedelshistorisk synpunkt och levandegör dåtidens krämpor och åkommor och de kurer som tillämpades.
Om detta berättar BJÖRN LINDEKE, prof. em. f.d. VD på Apotekarsocieteten och BO OHLSON, apotekare.

ONSDAGEN 18 MARS kl. 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus
Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr kontant
Anmälan före den 13 mars
Telefon: 08- 5248 6548


The Swedes in 17th Century East Asia

In the1600s, the Dutch conquered, one by one, the trading stations and colonies of the Portuguese maritime empire in East India. Soon, its East India Company was one of the world’s richest, most successful enterprises. It was so big, however, that there were not enough Dutch people to staff it: in the two centuries of the company’s existence, it is estimated that some 300,000 German and at least a few thousand Swedish men were in its service. One could claim, therefore, that this was the time of the first great cultural exchange between East India and Sweden. Yet that thousands of Swedes lived and worked in Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries is, today, a little known fact. Unfortunately, we’ll never know anything about who most of them were, what they knew and what they thought about their lives; but a few we do know about. Engelbert Kaempfer – a fairly famous German traveller to Asia – knew, for example, to report that a manager of the company’s trading station in Siam (Thailand) was a Swede by the name of Core (Kåre?) and that he had a pet: a tame meercat, which to its owner’s immense grief was eaten by a snake. Another, Herman Grim from Gotland, was probably one of the most widely travelled Swedes of his age. Grim was a company surgeon and doctor who was stationed on Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Java, amongst other places, but who also travelled as far afield as  Novaya Zamlya – in the Arctic Ocean! He eventually returned to the Baltic, where he tried, with a modicum of success, to capitalise on his knowledge of East Indian medicine. He spent the last years of his life in Stockholm, where his fellow doctors considered him something of an eccentric yet fascinating curiosity. The books he wrote while in East India, as well as many of his articles, can be found in the Hagströmer library.

Frontispiece by Melchior Haffner (1660–1704) and title page of Grimm’s Compendium Medico-Chymicum, published in Augsburg 1684.

The lecture was held at the Hagströmer library, 13 November 2014.
Text: Dr Hjalmar Fors, docent of the history of ideas and learning, Uppsala University.
Translation: Neil Betteridge.



The Bergius Library

In the autumn of 2014, I had the privilege to give a talk to the Friends of the Hagströmer Society on the Bergius Library, a private collection from 1790 belonging to The Royal Academy of Sciences, today at the disposal of Stockholm University Library.

Peter Jonas Bergius (1730-1790) and Bengt Bergius (1723-1984) were the brothers who put together this collection. Peter Jonas was a successful doctor and contemporary of Carl von Linné who was very interested in botany and horticulture. Bengt’s interest was in history, and not only did he help Peter Jonas to acquire the literature he wanted but he also organised and looked after the library they accumulated together. Today, the Bergius brothers are best known for lending their name to Stockholm’s Bergius Botanic Garden, which was once part of the Bergielund estate in what is now the Stockholm borough of Vasastan.

What is less known is that their vast collections of natural-history specimens, including a herbarium that outrivalled Linné’s own, insect collections, books and monographs that the brothers kept at Bergielund are still preserved today. The printed books and a small portion of the handwritten material are now kept as the Bergius Library at Stockholm University Library and the archive material and copies are at the Royal Academy of Sciences; the herbarium is maintained by the Bergius Foundation in the Bergius Botanic Garden. However, it is important to remember that all these various material sources are part of one and the same context, and it is sometimes not that easy to decide what belongs to which category.

Thanks to the brother’s very clearly worded testament, which stipulates that the book collection may not be broken up and dispersed amongst different libraries, sold or traded in, the Bergius Library is still intact. In that the collection has remained in its original condition since 1790, we gain valuable insight into the contents of a late 18th century private book collection. A great deal of correspondence is preserved in the brothers’ archive at the Royal Academy of Sciences, shedding interesting light on how they went about purchasing and otherwise trading in books for their collection. All this makes the book collection and all the information surrounding it of importance for everyone interested in the history of private libraries during the 18th century in general, regardless of subject area.

The main bulk of the collection concerns natural history, botany (in the form of herbals) and gorgeous botanical charts and travelogues full of descriptions of the flora and fauna of distant lands. Other subjects covered include history, medicine and theology. There are also numerous private writings, such as Peter Jonas Bergius’s handwritten garden diary, which he kept from 1773 up until five days before his death in 1790. The diary also contains details of their private and social life at Bergielund. The brothers were members of the Royal Academy of Sciences, which not only provided them with a circle friends and acquaintances, but also gave them access to a useful network for the acquisition of scientific literature from all over the continent.

The collection extends over roughly 210 running metres. The number of titles is hard to ascertain, but has previously been estimated at approximately 10,000 based on the library’s extant catalogues. One single book was printed in the 1400s, and the rest make up one of the most complete collections of botanical works in Sweden between the 16th and 18th centuries. There are a great many catalogues of collections of natural-science specimens and cabinets of curiosities from all four corners of Europe. Amongst the monographs are catalogues of herbal cures and recipes for medicines collected in the late 1500s and early 1600s, as well as 18th century medical journals – items that Peter Jonas Bergius doubtlessly found fascinating.

The books are searchable online in the Royal Academy’s scanned card catalogue, but owing to its sheer size it is almost impossible to grasp the full extent of the Bergius Library. To make matters easier, I have therefore scanned in a two-part handwritten catalogue of the Bergius Library from the 1830s so that it may be made freely available on the net via the university library’s websites:

I would, however, like to emphasise that this must be seen as a temporary expedient only until the library’s material has once again be re-catalogued online in Libris, the Swedish Union Catalogue; only then will external researchers or booklovers truly be able to hunt out most and the best of what this remarkable book collection has to offer.

Most of the herbals and medical literature in the Bergius Library are also likely to be found in the Hagströmer Library. This reminds us how important it is for libraries to keep in contact and cooperate with each other on particular subject fields in which the content of the book collections are not only respectively tangential and overlapping but also mutually complementary.

Illustration from Plantae et papiliones rariores by engraver Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770), published in London 1748-1759.

The lecture was held at the Hagströmer Library, 8 October 2014.
Text and photos: Helena Backman, Special Collections Librarian.
Translation: Neil Betteridge.



Spring 2015

Look out for the coming announcement of exciting activities at the Hagströmer Library this spring.
(Timothy Bobbin. The Passions, Humorously Delineated. London, 1810)


God Jul och Gott Nytt År! Season´s Greetings and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Hagströmerbiblioteket är stängt 22 december - 11 januari.
The Hagströmer Library is closed between the 22nd of December - 11th of January.                                                                                                                                                                          


Varför samla fågelfjädrar?

Hösten 2014 års föreläsningar för Hagströmerbibliotekets Vänner vill uppmärksamma naturalie- och boksamlarna, vars samlingar idag utgör omistliga vetenskapliga och kulturhistoriska värden. Fåglars fjädrar stöter man ofta på i naturen och de talar om att en specifik art befunnit sig på platsen. Inte ens ornitologer och konservatorer är alltid säkra på vilken art fjädern man hittat är ifrån, men det vet Staffan Reinius, pensionerad läkare och en av Hagströmerbibliotekets flitigaste besökare, som avslutar höstens föreläsningar. Staffan visar och berättar om sin makalösa samling av fågelfjädrar, som han påbörjade redan som åttaåring och som idag torde vara landets största i privat ägo. Att samla, ordna och visa fågelfjädrar är en utmaning och samtidigt en skönhetsupplevelse.


Anmälan före 1 december
Telefon: 08 5248 6548
Förfriskningar serveras
100 kr kontant


Herman Nicolai Grim (1641-1711) Läkaren och resenären

TORSDAGEN 13 NOVEMBER 2014 Kl. 18.00
Gotlänningen och läkaren Herman Nicolai Grim var en av 1600-talssveriges mest vittberesta män. Som skeppskirurg anställd av Holländska Ostindiska Kompaniet och läkare i Holländska Ostindien skaffade han sig en unik förstahandskunskap om icke-europeisk medicin. Exotiska läkemedel spelade en central roll i 1600-talets läkekonst, och hade en given plats även i de enklaste apoteken. Grim hade sett var dessa dyra och uppskattade substanser växte, och menade sig veta hur de användes på de platser de kom ifrån. Hans första bok trycktes i Batavia på Java av Batavias förste boktryckare.
HJALMAR FORS, docent i idé- och lärdomshistoria vid Uppsala Universitet kommer i sitt föredrag att berätta om Grim och ge en inblick i hur "det exotiska" användes och uppfattades av läkare och patienter i Europa. 
För anmälan email:    telefon:08 5248 6828   
Förfriskningar serveras    
Inträde 100 kr kontant


Skatter i vått och torrt

Anmälan före 27 oktober till Gertie Johansson, telefon 08 5248 6548 eller
Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr kontant

Höstens föreläsningsserie vill uppmärksamma samlarna och deras samlingar. Samlarna äger kunskapen, intresset och söker målmedvetet med stort tålamod och uppoffringar och världsomspännande kontakter med andra samlare att berika sina samlingar, vilka ofta kan representera omistliga vetenskapliga och kulturhistoriska värden. Utan samlare hade inte forskarna något att forska i. 

TORLEIF INGELÖG, tidigare chef för Artdatabanken, har i den nyligen utkomna boken Skatter i vårtt och torrt – Biologiska samlingar i Sverige, beskrivit deras tillkomst från 1600-talet och fram till idag, deras spännande historia, liksom innehåll och viktigare samlare. En del föremål är särskilt unika, häpnadsväckande, vackra eller viktiga, t.ex. genom att ha fört vetenskapen framåt. Författaren kallar sådana föremål för juveler och presenterar några av dem i sin föreläsning med bildvisning.

Samtidigt visar Hagströmerbiblioteket böcker och planschverk av några kända samlare, bl.a. Carl von Linné och Charles de Geer, Anders Sparrman, Erik Acharius, m.fl.



Läkande bad för kropp och själ 
Anna Lantz

Redan under antiken fanns en utvecklad badkultur hos både greker och romare. Sedan dess har badandet varit en del av läkekonsten i Europa, även om synen på vattnets hälsobringande inverkan varierat genom tiderna.
Varmt välkomna! Biblioteket bjuder på lunchsmörgås.

27 oktober kl 12.00 Univ. biblioteket i Huddinge
3 november kl 12.00 Univ. biblioteket i Solna



Hagströmerbibliotekets föreläsningsserie för hösten 2014 vill uppmärksamma samlarna och deras samlingar och inleddes den 8 oktober då Helena Backman, berättade om Bergianska Biblioteket. Peter Jonas och Bengt Bergius byggde under 1700-talet upp en rik samling med böcker från 1400-talet och framåt, till största delen bestående av botanik, reseskildringar och naturvetenskap av sin tids mest framstående vetenskapsmän, men även tryck och handskrifter inom en mängd andra ämnen. Efter bröderna Bergius bortgång donerades deras boksamling bestående av ca 10.000 volymer till Kungl. Svenska Vetenskapsakademin, idag deponerad på Stockholms Universitetsbibliotek, för vars specialsamlingar Helena Backman ansvarar. Helena gav en strålade beskrivning och visade bilder av några av rariteterna i Bergianska Biblioteket, framför allt botaniska praktverk.



Medicinalväxter - örtaböcker i ord och bild
Välkommen till vernissage måndagen den 15 september kl. 12.00
Utställningen pågår 15 september 2014 - 17 april 2015 på Universitetsbiblioteket i Huddinge.

Till utställningen ges två lunchföreläsningar:
Måndag 29 september kl. 12.00 i Solna
Måndag 6 oktober kl. 12.00 i Huddinge
Föreläsare: Anna Lantz
Biblioteket bjuder på lunchsmörgås


Important acquisition

Among recent acquisitions, suggested by Hagelin Rare Books to enrich the collections of the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, is the following classic within the history of evolution. Such acquisitions of rare and important books are usually paid for by our Association of Friends to be deposited in the library, but in this particular case we are most grateful to its Chairman Sven Hagströmer, who made this important acquisition possible.



Känn dig själv! Vaxmodeller i anatomiska museer och populära vaxkabinett
Eva Åhrén

I det naturhistoriska museet La Specola i Florens vilar den pärlprydda anatomiska Venus på sidenkuddar, omgiven av hudlösa mansfigurer i naturlig storlek med prydliga peruker. Eva Åhrén, chef för den nya Enheten för medicinens historia och kulturarv vid Karolinska Institutet, tar oss med på en resa från vaxkabinett i upplysningstidens Italien till Lützes vaxmuseum i det tidiga 1900-talets Stockholm, där anatomiska modeller var både populärvetenskap och kittlande marknadsnöje.
Klockan 18.00
Hagströmerbiblioteket Haga Tingshus 

Förfriskningar serveras
Inträde 100 kr kontant
o.s.a. före den 25 april
08- 5248 6548