The BIU Santé (Paris) is a major reference library in health sciences in France. From its two Parisian sites (one covering pharmacy, the other medicine and dentistry), it welcomes medical, pharmacy and odontology students, as well as health professionals (doctors, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists, etc.) and researchers from France and the whole world.
The collection held in the site dedicated to medicine and odontology is the heir of the library of the former Faculty of Medicine in Paris (founded in the 13th century), of the Academy and College of Surgery and of the Royal Society of Medicine. That library first opened to the public in 1746. The collection was developed thanks to donations during the 18th century, but also thanks to the confiscations during the French Revolution when the properties of the clergy and the nobility were confiscated and made available to increase the collections of the newly created public institutions (such as museums and libraries).
The collection preserved in the site dedicated to pharmacy is inherited from the library of the Community of Apothecaries of Paris (1484-1777) which became the College of Pharmacy (1777-1796). The heritage collection was mostly extended by sales or donations at the end of the nineteenth century under the initiative of librarian Paul Dorveaux. Both collections increased massively as document production and scientific publications exploded during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
As a result, the library maintains an incredibly rich heritage collection not only in the fields of medicine and pharmacy but also in other sciences and even in other fields (history, literature, law, etc.): The BIU Santé is renowned for holding one of the three largest medical heritage collections (with the National Library of Medicine and the Wellcome Library)
Immersed in the 36 kilometres of shelves, the heritage collection contains, among its holdings:
- All medical dissertations defended in Paris since 1539 (online from 1539 to 1793)
- Some twenty medieval manuscripts
- A hundred incunabula
- The “Commentaires de la Faculté de médecine de Paris”: 26 manuscript volumes containing the history of the faculty written by each dean from 1395 to the French Revolution, an incredible source on the life of a European university
The essentials of occidental medicine are represented by tens of thousands of documents from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. These are mostly books but also archives, prints or original drawings (including the drawings from Gérard de Lairesse (1641-1711) which were used in the Bidloo’s Anatomia humani corporis or the original Sagemolen’s drawings (c. 1620-1669) for an unedited work directed by the Dutch anatomist Van Horn (1621-1670)).
The increase in publications during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as the central position of France in medical research during this period, make the BIU Santé a very important center of documentation for French and foreign researchers alike.