Michigan State University

About the Veterinary Medicine Historical Collection

The initial efforts to establish this premier collection probably began long before the first classes leading to a doctor's degree in veterinary medicine were inaugurated in East Lansing in 1920. Detailed book acquisition records from this era do no exist, but by 1957 the collection numbered over 200 volumes published before 1950, and was housed in Giltner Hall, then the home of the veterinary college. At this time, Dr. J. Fred Smithcors, Professor of Anatomy in the college and veterinary historian, acquired for the library the distinguished Beaudette Collection which had been formed by his mentor and teacher at Rutgers University. The collection consisted of some 250 rare books, incunabula, and manuscripts. The purchase was made possible by the generous contributions of the alumni of Michigan State University.

Since the momentous Beaudette acquisition in 1957, the veterinary history collection has grown through purchase, gifts, and bequests. The holdings focus primarily on early works written or published before 1800 and the collection is especially strong in eighteenth century British imprints. Although a good number of the early works concern care of the horse, the most important domestic animal of this early period, the MSU collection covers other topics as well.

Some of the finest pieces in the collection are the manuscripts, which number over 30. Among the most outstanding is a rare fifteenth-century Italian copy of a veterinary treatise by Giordano Ruffo, stable master at the court of Frederick II, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. First written in 1250, it is considered the starting point for the regeneration of western veterinary practice.

Important printed books included the only known copy of the first edition of the veterinary manual Libro De Albeyteria (1547) by Francisco de la Reyna, who postulated the circulation of blood eighty years before Harvey's discovery; Albertus Magnus' De Animalibus (1478), the earliest attempt to consider systematically the diseases of the horse; and Von der Gestüterey (1584) by Marcus Fugger, the first illustrated edition of the first German work on breeding of horses.

Online Resources