Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Osler Centenary Papers: Osler, inscribed
  1. Mary K K Hague-Yearl, Head Librarian, Associate1,2
  1. 1 Department of Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  2. 2 Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mary K K Hague-Yearl, Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada; mary.yearl{at}


Background As the centenary of Sir William Osler’s death approaches on 29 December 2019, it is worth pausing to reflect on the relationship between the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University and the image of William Osler, for the two are arguably inextricable. When Osler died he had not yet completed his library, yet his donation to McGill included nearly 8000 volumes that represented the foundations of western medicine. The Osler Library now boasts over 100 000 titles and is recognised globally as a centre for the study of medical history.

Methods The approach taken here was to examine inscriptions in the books that William Osler bequeathed to the McGill Medical Facultyin order to learn more about William Osler, the man.

Results By examining inscriptions William Osler and others made in his books, it was possible to learn more about how Osler interacted with his friends, his patients, and also his books.

Conclusion It is argued that these inscriptions are as instructive as they are enriching. They reveal information about Osler’s priorities and his personal and professional relationships; future scholars will likely find it useful to examine inscriptions more broadly, to gain insight into such topics as the book trade and world events.

  • medical history
  • medical book collecting
  • medical humanism

Statistics from


  • Contributors MKKH-Y is the sole contributor of this article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no additional data in this work.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.