Body and mind

The Utrecht University Library Special Collections reflect the university interests with regards to all aspects of human and animal health. For centuries, there has been a focus on these disciplines, and this has resulted in a celebrated collection of early editions and manuscripts.

The older books in the veterinary collection clearly show the scientific developments in and professionalisation of equine medicine. With the foundation of the Utrecht veterinary school (Rijksveeartsenijschool) in 1821 – which became the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1925 – work started on a vast library to support it.           

With regard to physical and mental health, Utrecht University has had four relevant faculties in place since the day it was founded in 1636: the faculties of law, medicine, philosophy and theology. In 1636, the Catharijnegasthuis hospital became a teaching hospital for the Faculty of Medicine and in 1639 a medicinal herb garden was planted at the Sonnenborgh bastion.

Medical handbooks and reference books were acquired from the outset, resulting in the establishment of a rich collection. The same is true of the collections of the philosophy and theology faculties, which later became part of the Faculty of Humanities.

De consolatione philosophiae (1485), X fol 4 rariora
Das triumphirende perpetuum mobile Orffyreanum (1719), P qu 752

The history of science is an extremely varied research area. The origins of all of our achievements and knowledge can be traced back to the research and discoveries of scholars who have gone before us. This human quest for progress is a fascinating story.

Die plastische Chirurgie (1845), N qu 88

Since the Middle Ages, spectacular progress has been made in medical science, and this can be followed closely in manuscripts and printed works. While through modern eyes, early medicine sometimes seems more like quackery and fortune telling than science, it was firmly based on an extensive theoretical framework developed in classical antiquity.

Pieter Almanus van Coer (1688). ODA 5971

Utrecht University is the only Dutch university to offer a veterinary medicine programme. It started in 1821 with the veterinary school (Rijksveeartsenijschool), which in 1925 became part of Utrecht University as the Veterinary Medicine Faculty (Veeartsenijkundige Faculteit). Its extensive collection of manuscripts and printed works on veterinary medicine is unique in the Netherlands.

Sinnepoppen (1614), LBKUN: RAR LMY VISSCHER 1

Emblem books are collections of cryptic text and images. This literary genre was introduced in the first half of the 16th century and soon gained popularity among scholars. Emblem books had a great influence on the culture and daily life of the 16th and 17th century and they also had a significant impact on the painting and poetry of the period.