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Origins of the "Garrison-Morton" Bibliography of the History of Medicine (1912 – 1991)


In 1912 American physician, medical historian, and bibliographer Colonel Fielding H. Garrison, as Assistant Librarian of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office in Washington, D. C. (now the National Library of Medicine), compiled a classified listing of classical works in the history of medicine entitled Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine in the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, U.S. Army, Arranged in Chronological Order. This list, containing over 2,000 items, was published in the Second Series of the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, Volume XVII, 89-178.  As Garrison wrote in 1933, the incentive to this enterprise came from Sir William Osler, who advised the then Librarian Brig. Gen. Walter D. McCaw as to the advantage of segregating the more valuable historic items in the Army Medical Library for safe keeping under glass. This was done, and an exhibition of some of the library's greatest treasures was held in 1910. By 1912 Garrison compiled his listing, and then used it "as a convenient scaffolding" for his An Introduction to the History of Medicine issued in 1913—a classic textbook which Garrison saw through four editions, the last in 1929.

In 1929 William H. Welch offered Garrison the post of Librarian and Lecturer on the History of Medicine at the Welch Medical Library at the new Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Garrison moved to Baltimore in 1930. A product of his continuing scholarship was an expansion of his 1912 list as "Revised students' check-list of texts illustrating the history of medicine, with references for collateral reading," Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine I (1933) 333-434. This list contained over 4,000 items. 

In 1943 a young English medical librarian Leslie T. Morton, working in London during the bombing in World War II, expanded upon Garrison's 1933 list, and issued A Medical Bibliography. A Check-List of Texts Illustrating the History of the Medical Sciences. Originally Compiled by the Late Field H. Garrison and now revised, with additions and annotations, by Leslie T. Morton. Morton's book of 412 pages in small type was drastically expanded from Garrison's 101-page journal article. Over the next forty-one years Morton put the work through four expanded editions, the last of which contained 7800 entries.  It became almost universally cited as "Garrison-Morton" or "Garrison and Morton".

In 1991, while working in San Franicisco, I was pleased to issue a revised fifth edition of the work, retitled to give credit to Morton as Morton's Medical Bibliography. An Annotated Check-list of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (Garrison and Morton). For this edition I added 1051 new entries, and revised or rewrote 2313. From the 7800 entries in the fourth edition I expanded the work to 8927 annotated entries. To revise and expand the work I had to read and check virtually every word in Morton's fourth edition, and study the historical literature of most medical specialties up to the year 1980. In November 2013, when I created this database entry, the fifth edition remained a standard work. 

It was through the "Garrison-Morton" project that I learned to manipulate a large data set on a wide range of technical information, though at the time the only technology available was a series of about 15 Microsoft Word files, since MS Word could not handle a single file large enough to contain the complete text. Before the Internet I had to travel extensively to see a lot of the material cited in the bibliography, and I remember lugging a heavy laptop computer containing the wordprocessing files, and duly backing them up on a series of floppy discs after most writing sessions. 

The process of revising and expanding Morton's Medical Bibliography took me the better part of a year. Its publication coincided with the publication of the annotated bibliographical catalogue of my father's library, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine, on which my associate Diana Hook and I had labored for seven years. By the time these works were completed I had developed a love for writing large and complex historical bibliographical studies.