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‘Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS’ project

The ‘Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS’ project was established to promote the Medical Print Collection and enhance online access by cataloguing the entire Collection, with items published before 1900 to be digitised. The project began in November 2018 and was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Medical Print Collection

The Library is home to a substantial collection of Welsh and Welsh interest printed works on medicine and health. It includes over 6,500 individual items with the earliest dating from 1740.

The Medical Print Collection may be divided into 6 sections:

  1. Books on Medications and Health
  2. Medical Officer’s of Health Annual Reports
  3. Mental Institutions and Asylum Annual Reports
  4. Hospital Annual Reports
  5. Nursing Association’s Annual Reports
  6. King Edward the VII’s Welsh National Memorial Association publications

How to search the Collection online?

You can access the Collection via the Library's Main Catalogue and search exclusively within the Medical Collection by choosing the ‘advanced search’ option and applying the search limit. Over 40,000 images are viewable through a purpose-built online viewer and searchable using OCR technology (Optical Character Recognition). Scroll down to delve deeper into the Medical Print Collection.

For further information follow us on Twitter @NLWPrintandMore or contact the Enquiries Service by:

What’s in the Collection?

Books on Medications and Health (1740-1946)

The earliest and rarest books are found in this section. The earliest item dates from 1790 and is entited ‘Llyfr meddyginiaeth a physygwriaeth i'r anafus a'r clwyfus: Yn cynnwys gynghorion tra buddiol a llesol, i ddyn ac anifail; At yr hwn y chwanegwyd y gelfyddyd o goginiaeth’. There are also first editions of Nathaniel Williams' early herbal Pharmacoepia, early books on popular medicines such as Pob Dyn yn Phisygwr Iddo ei Hun ac i'w Anifeiliaid Hefyd and British Herbal or a British Herbalist by Nicholas Culpeper. The Library holds works on medical history in Wales and the Physicians of Myddfai and publications on the medicinal mineral waters of Wales including ‘A treatise on the three medicinal mineral waters at Llandrindod, in Radnorshire, South Wales’ by Diederick Wessel Linden.

Medical Officers of Health Reports (1854-1900)

Medical Officers of Health were appointed in Wales from the 1850s onwards, with the aim of restricing the spread of diseases through improved cleanliness and health facilities. One of the first Medical Officers of Health was William Kay who was appointed by the Merthyr Tudful Health Board in 1854. Early reports are variable in content (some as short as 4 pages) but gradually there developed a greater level of detail with statistical evidence.  They include general pronouncements on the health of the populace; statistics on adult, child and infant mortality; and accounts on contagious diseases.

Asylum Reports (1855-1900)

These were published by the management boards of asylums within Wales. They includes minutes and annual reports, with financial details such as accounts and staff salaries, asylum construction or extension plans, and perhaps most revealing of all, records of patients which include admisson and discharge figures, and details of ilness and symptoms. The Collection’s most comprehensive reports are those for the asylums of Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, North Wales, and Carmarthen.

Hospital Annual Reports (1808-)

The Collection reflects the various categories of hospitals which have served Wales during the past 200 years. They range from general hospitals to specialist institutions such as the ‘Cardiff Eye and Ear Hospital’. Records on disepensaries include the Denbigh General Dispensary, which was established in 1808 and was the first to be established in Wales. Also included are reports by convelascence homes, cottage hospitals, memorial hospitals, Red Cross hospitals and isolation hospitals.

Annual Reports by Nursing Associations (1901-1948)

The Medical Print Collection also includes records of nursing associations. The best preserved (most complete) are those for the ‘Queen’s Institute’ from 1901 to 1940, an institute established in 1887 to provide home nursing for the poor. Also held within the Collection are the publications of other nursing associations from Porthmadog (1901-1929), 40 years of records for Penllyn (Meirionnydd), Aberytwyth and Llanadarn, and later records up to 1948 for Monmouthshire, Dowlais and Pen y Darren.

Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association (1910-1948)

This Memorial Association was established in 1912 to provide free treatment for tuberculosis. The Library holds a full series of annual reports and minutes of numerous committees as well as a range of educational materials including pamphlets, handbooks and posters which were published to educate the nation about the disease. This section amounts to 40% of the materials which have been digitised as part of the project.