Clendening History of Medicine Library
University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, Kansas
The Clendening History of Medicine Library was named after Dr. Logan Clendening, whose collection of historical medical books formed the nucleus of the library. After graduating from the Kansas University medical school in 1907 with the second graduating class, he took post-graduate courses at Harvard and in Chicago, and in 1909 joined a private practice. That same year, in addition to publishing his first medical article, he was asked to travel with a Kansas City group on a European tour as their guest and private physician. These trips and writing continued through 1911, when he took time to attend some additional medical courses in London, Berlin, and Edinburgh, locations steeped in the history of medicine. For someone who was known to live life to the fullest, these opportunities had to influence his intellectual curiosity and continued writing.
Dr. Clendening may have started his collection during the travels to Europe, but his collecting passion was further encouraged when he married Dorothy Scott Hixon in 1914. Her enjoyment of collecting books and medical artifacts seemed to equal his own.
As an instructor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine from 1912 until his death in 1945, he truly felt that to know current medicine, one had to be in touch with the past. By knowing about the persons who made these discoveries and reviewing their eureka moment or dawning of discovery, new meaning was given to the diseases he was teaching. His love of the history of medicine was displayed in the title of his 1933 book, “The Romance of Medicine; Behind the Doctor.”
In 1939, Dr. Logan Clendening announced that “The Department of Medical History of the Medical School of the University of Kansas was given new quarters [and occupies] an entire floor in the Hixon Laboratory for Medical Research. A generous donation has permitted the building and furnishing of a library, museum cases and a lecture room; there are also two study rooms for research.” In this same news article, Clendening announced that he presented to the University, his “library of works relating to the history of medicine and the basic sciences” along with a collection of museum artifacts. As a vivid raconteur and lecturer in the history of medicine for over 15 years, his continuing goal was to build a well-balanced collection of historical material suitable for teaching. He made special mention of the following books in his announcement: the thick paper copy of the 1628 Harvey, the Geminus, a rare two-volume second edition of Vesalius, Paré’s “Cinq Livres” in mint condition, and his anesthesia collection.
Many physician collectors branched out to related collecting areas, in particular Sherlock Holmes. Clendening, noted for his authorship of the 1927 best seller, “The Human Body,” also ventured into collecting Holmes’ materials. Clendening wrote a short Sherlock Holmes mystery in 1934 at the request of Vincent Starrett, the “well-known author and book columnist on the Chicago Tribune.” Starrett was also a premier collector of Sherlock Holmes. Privately printed on a hand press in Ysleta, Texas, by Edwin B. Hill, this piece of “Sherlockiana” was to be included in a pastiche of a series of pamphlets commissioned and edited by Starrett.
Twenty-four years later in a letter to Dr. Major, Starrett related the history of this leaflet and how the story was picked up by other Sherlockians.
Collectors can be competitive but also compassionate. When Starrett had a reversal of fortune and had to sell his world renowned Sherlock collection, his depression led him to decide never to collect again. Imagine his surprise to receive a letter from Clendening mentioning he’d heard that Starrett had “parted” with his collection and he should really start another. Clendening noted that he wasn’t getting as much enjoyment out of his Holmes collection as he had expected, and it would relieve his mind if Starrett would accept his “small but goodish” selection. In his autobiography, “Born in a Bookshop,” Starrett recounted this generosity and his overwhelming sense of gratitude for such a thoughtful considerate gesture that started him back on the collecting path.
Clendening’s notations in his books tell the story of his passion and love of collecting.
What was it about this 1651 first issue of the second edition of Harvey’s “Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium” that inspired Clendening to note it as “The most beautiful book I own?” It probably wasn’t the monetary value—it’s still affordable. Was it the scarcity? There are 50 copies on one record in OCLC, so it’s not one of a handful. Provenance? It doesn’t have any notation of previous ownership.
In 1945 Pierce Butler wrote that book collecting psychology is specifically emotional. He suggested 5 major “bookish emotions” and therefore “five types of rare books”:
- Books reflecting human achievements that awaken reverence.
- Books with sheer beauty that stir aesthetic senses.
- Books that are relics of beloved persons, times, or places that appeal to ones affections.
- Books containing curiosities that tickle our humor.
- And the great rarities, books that are trophies of a competitive sport that minister to our pride.
My own feeling is that this book evoked emotions that appealed to the senses. The leather is so buttery soft it almost melts into your hand. It has the perfect scent of a rare book in wonderful condition. It’s appealing to the eye, no scuffing or scratching on the cover with a beautifully symmetrical text block. The rattle of the turning pages is musical. But the most important attribute, that I think Clendening may have appreciated, is that it fits.
It’s the perfect size to hold in one hand, and makes reading it so pleasurable that it would be read and reread. It’s the right size to fit into a pocket, but also big enough to read in dim light. As far as I’m concerned it is perfection and is the most beautiful book he owned!
If you’d like specifics about the Clendening History of Medicine Library collections, e.g., tours, fellowship opportunities, total volumes, collection strengths, new books, etc., please check out our homepage, or our images at the Digital Clendening, or contact me.