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Oskar Diethelm Library

Photo by Michael Beldoch

The Oskar Diethelm Library is a special collection devoted to the history of psychiatry. It is part of Weill Medical College's Institute for the History of Psychiatry and includes approximately 50,000 titles in English, French, and German dealing with psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis, mesmerism, spiritualism, phrenology, witchcraft and related topics. Journal holdings include long back runs of psychiatric journals as well as current journals dealing with the history of medicine, psychiatry and psychology (see Journal Holdings). Archival holdings include the papers of numerous organizations and individuals (see Archives and Manuscripts).

The Library counts among its holdings nearly every edition of the monographs of such important figures as Emil Kraepelin, Sigmund Freud, Isaac Ray and Benjamin Rush. The Library holds significant collections of works in such areas as the history of hypnotism and psychoanalysis, the American mental hygiene movement, and the temperance movement, as well as religious and medical debates on witchcraft, suicide, and sexual behaviors. There are also many early and rare first-person accounts of psychiatric illness, alcoholism, and drug abuse. An impressive collection of hospital and asylum reports of the 19th and early 20th centuries has been amassed, amounting to more than 3,500 items.

Reginald Scot, The Discovery of Witchcraft, 1665, title page. (click for larger view)

The manuscript division of the Library has grown in importance as a repository for the unpublished papers of many organizations and individuals vital to the history of psychiatry. It is the official depository of such institutions as the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the Cheiron Society. Its holdings of the papers of D.W. Winnicott and David Levy make it an important resource for the study of child psychiatry and psychoanalysis. There are also notable holdings related to the American mental hygiene movement and biological psychiatry, and letters by Clifford Beers, Sigmund Freud, Morton Prince, William James, G. Stanley Hall, Johann Spurzheim, Andrew and George Combe, Herbert Spencer, August Forel, S. Weir Mitchell, and Harry Stack Sullivan to name a few.

From its earliest days, numerous scholars have worked in the Oskar Diethelm Library, publishing their discoveries as articles or books. The list includes:

  • Biographies of psychiatrists, psychologists, and pioneers in mental hygiene
  • Accounts of the development of child psychiatry and the changing attitude toward children
  • Books on psychoanalysis and its reception in various parts of the world
  • Histories of psychiatry during specific periods
  • Histories of particular mental hospitals that epitomized the development of the field
  • Histories of particular sub-specialties such as the treatment of alcoholism or schizophrenia
  • Studies in legal psychiatry
  • Topics in British, German, and French psychiatry
  • Histories and analyses of ideas and concepts in psychiatry, psychology, and psychoanalysis
  • Works on the relationship between psychiatry and literature, and psychiatry and religion
  • Investigations of multiple personality and hypnosis
  • There are also two published volumes of symposia sponsored by the Institute

The library is open to researchers in the history of psychiatry and related fields by appointment. Please contact Marisa Shaari, Special Collections Librarian, at mas2155@med.cornell.edu or (212) 746-3728, to work with the library collection.

 
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