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Health Sciences Library Special Collections

Monro Collection

From 1720 to 1846 the Chair of Anatomy at Edinburgh University was held consecutively by the dynasty of Alexander Monro, father (primus), son (secundus), and grandson (tertius). Monro tertius had two medically qualified sons, the younger of whom, David, emigrated to New Zealand in 1841 to settle in Nelson. He became a sheep farmer, went into politics and eventually became speaker of the House, being knighted in 1866. It was to him that Monro tertius left the medical component of the library. The books arrived in Nelson in 1871.

Sir David Monro bequeathed the books to his son-in-law Sir James Hector, M.D., F.R.S. who in turn left them to his son Dr C. M. Hector. The latter deposited them in the General Assembly Library for safe keeping in return for their use by interested parties. Some years later, when Dr Hector made an effort to have the books sent to Dunedin, a dispute about ownership ensued which was not resolved until 1928. It was only in 1929 that the collection finally reached the Library of the Otago Medical School. The Monro Collection includes about four hundred volumes of early printed editions of ancient and classical texts (such as works by Galen, Hippocrates and Vesalius), contemporary texts, and their own published works and manuscripts. It is the most important of the historical collections held by the Medical Library.

A proportion of the Monro lectures have been digitised. For example, Anatomical lectures delivered by Doctor Alexander Monro, Professor of anatomy etc. in the College of Edinburgh winter 1773/4.

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Medical and Dental Historical Collection

A significant collection of medical monographs from the 17th to the 19th centuries, including major medical and surgical texts, anatomical atlases and contemporary material on diseases such as plague, yellow fever and malaria. Original works are supplemented by some facsimile editions, including Anatomical Studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Dental Historical Collection (now fully integrated with the Medical collection) is a small collection of late-nineteenth century monographs and journals, including the publications of Henry Percy Pickerill 1879-1956.

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Preventive Medicine Dissertations

An invaluable primary source of New Zealand medical and social history, this collection comprises more than three thousand public health projects written by fifth-year medical students from the 1920s to the late 1970s. Topics range from studies on current health issues, such as asthma, to health surveys of various occupational groups and of New Zealand towns and Maori. Permission is required from the Health Sciences Librarian to access the collection. Permission form

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Hercus Papers

Sir Charles Hercus (1888-1971) was Dean of the Otago Medical School from 1937-1958. His specialty was public health and he is remembered for his research into diseases of the thyroid gland, particularly goitre and its prevention by the use of iodised salt.

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New Zealand Medical Collections

These collections comprise health-related publications such as monographs, journals, pamphlets, special projects and theses of University of Otago health science students.

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Displays and Exhibitions


Regular displays are presented in the Medical and Dental libraries – check out some of those from the past through our Flickr collection.


In the Flesh : The Monro Dynasty 1720-1846 (2006)

This exhibition was co-curated by Kate Thompson, [then] Reference Librarian at the Health Sciences Library, and Emeritus Professor Douglass Taylor. Taylor's annotated bibliography The Monro Collection in the Medical Library of the University of Otago proved invaluable in piecing together the life and times of the Monro Dynasty (1720 – 1846).

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Resources in other Library Collections


The Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against medical practitioners under Part VIII of the Medical Practitioners Act 1995 (the Act).

Hocken Collections

The Hocken has published a guide entitled : Health Science Sources at the Hocken Collections. They also have a collection of public health posters in the Pictorial collections. Hocken Snap Shop and Photographic collections provide access to a wealth of photographic material that may be relevant to your research.


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