Medical Education

The Le Roy Crummer Collection

LeRoy Crummer,M.D., drawn by British artist Dame Laura Knight
LeRoy Crummer, M.D., lithograph by
British artist Dame Laura Knight

Le Roy Crummer was born in Elizabeth (Illinois) on April 15 1872. His father, Benjamin F. Crummer, was a physician who eventually moved to Omaha (Nebraska), where he became a very successful doctor. Crummer junior graduated from the University of Michigan in 1893 with a bachelor degree and M.D. from Northwestern University in 1896. Next, he joined his father's practice in Omaha, becoming also an instructor at the University of Nebraska. During WWI Crummer was a captain in the Medical Corps stationed at Camp Greenleaf (Georgia), where he taught cardiology to medical officers. As a result of this teaching experience, he wrote a book on heart disease, Clinical Features of Heart Disease; an interpretation of the mechanics of diagnosis for practitioners. Introduction by Emanuel Libman (New York: P.B. Hoeber, inc, 1925). In 1919, he was named Professor of Medicine at the University of Nebraska, a position that he held until 1925. As his health began to deteriorate from a heart disease, he moved to Los Angeles (California), where,  he lived a pleasant life as a scholar and collector of rare books illustrating the early history of medicine. In the decade between 1920 and 1930, Crummer and his wife Myrtle Crummer, a collector of Dickens and Elizabethan literature, assiduously traveled to Europe in search of books and manuscripts. The importance of this growing collection was recorded in a printed catalog Myrtle presented to her husband for his fifty-fifth birthday: A Catalogue, Manuscripts and Medical Books Printed before 1640 in the Library of Le Roy Crummer, Omaha, Nebraska (Omaha: Priv.print., 1927). It lists 442 manuscripts and printed books. In 1927, Crummer  became one of the editors of the journal Annals of Medical History, where he had already published two important articles on the subject of anatomical fugitive sheets, of which he was a collector: "Early Anatomical Fugitive Sheets" (1923); and "Further Information on Early Anatomical Fugitive Sheets" (1925). In 1929, he published an edition of a manuscript by the distinguished British physician William Heberden (1710-1801): An Introduction to the Study of Physic (1929). In a preliminary essay, Crummer describes his excitement at finding this manuscript in a bookstore in south London. Le Roy Crummer died on January 2 1934. Most of his books were bequeathed to his Alma Mater, the University of Michigan, and is currently one of the jewels within the History of Medicine Collection at the Special Collections Library. 

Cyrurgia
Theodoric Borgognoni (1205-1296/8). Opening of the  manuscript Cyrurgia (Fourteenth century)

Overall, the Le Roy Crummer Collections focus on the early history of medicine, particularly from the late middle ages through the seventeenth century. It includes some extraordinary medieval manuscripts, such as a fourteenth-century copy of Cyrurgia, a four-book treatise on surgery by Theodoric Borgognoni (1205-1296/8), and a copy of Carmina de urinarum, a poem on the subject of uroscopy (examination of the urine as a means of diagnosis) by Aegidius Corboliensis (1140-1224). This latter manuscript was also copied in the fourteenth century. 

The collection contains numerous early-printed editions of the masters of Greek and Arabic medicine (Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, and Al Razi) most of them in Latin translations. There are some extremely rare early editions of the works of Galen in the original Greek: Galēnou tōn pros glaukoma therapeutikōn bibliō b. Galeni De ratione medendi ad Glauconem, libri duo. Cum Ioannis Guinterij ... ad Ioannem Tagultium ... De uetris medicinae interitu praefatione (Parisiis : Ex officina Christianus Wechelus, 1537). The overwhelming influence of Galen on western medicine for the last eighteen centuries is attested, for instance,  by the didactic poem composed in the medical school of Salerno (Italy), Regimen Sanitatis (Rule of Health), of which the Crummer collection includes thirty-four editions and translations. The Crummer collection also reflects the output in many different disciplines that were formerly considered part of the science of healing: astrology, astronomy, alchemy, magic, botany, and natural history.

The collection is extremely rich in the early history of anatomy, including the second edition of Andreas Vesalius's masterpiece: De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Basel: I. Oporinus, 1555).There are also subsequent editions and translations of this work, including a shorter version consisting of plates mostly: De Humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome (Cologne: Ioan. Buxmacherus et Georgius Meutingus, 1600). 

Estienne
Woodcut from Charles Estienne (1504-c.1564) De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres, à Carolo Stephano, doctore medico, editi. Vnà cum figuris & incisionum declarationibus, à Stephano Riuerio chirurgo cõpositis (Paris: S. Colinaeus, 1545)

The post-Vesalius era is illustrated by numerous masterpieces that integrate Vesalian anatomy in the study of surgery. This is well exemplified in the output of Ambroise Paré (c. 1510-1590):  Les oevvres d'Ambroise Paré ... Diulsees en vingt hulet liures, auec les figures & portralets.tant de l'anatomie, que des instruments de chirurgie, & de plusieurs monstres, Reueuës augmentees par l'autheur (Paris: G.Buon, 1585). 

As a cardiologist, and as someone suffering from a rare heart condition, it was probably natural that Dr. Crummer were interested in William Harvey's work. Indeed, the collection includes the first edition of Harvey's treatise on the circulation of the blood, Exercitatio anatomica de motv cordis et sangvinis in animalibvs (Frankfurt: William Fitzer, 1628).  Moreover, there are not only other subsequent editions of Harvey's masterpiece but also many works inspired by Harvey's findings like those of Richard Lower: Tractatus de corde. Item De motu & colore sanguinis et chyli in eum transitu (London: J. Allestry, 1669).

Dr. Crummer was also a great scholar. He was the first to inventory and catalog the so-called anatomical fugitive sheets. They were a popular version of the scientific treatises of anatomy published in the first half of the sixteenth century. In brief, these sheets were published in pairs and depicted the human body, in both male and female forms. Some of them were colored, often with a brief text added. Others were made of layered strips of paper so the user could lift them up to reveal the internal organs of the body. The Crummer collection includes a selection of examples of this rare and ephemeral material.

In 1927, Dr. Crummer realized that Dr. Pilcher had not included his extensive collection of  editions of Thomas Browne's Religio Medici in his gift to the U of M Library. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Crummer donated his entire collection on this work, containing thirty-nine editions and translations. In a Latin edition of 1743, published in Zurich, Crummer added a note that provides us with a vivid snapshot of Dr. Crummer as a passionate collector in the history of medicine at the beginning of the twentieth century: "The finding of this copy in an old bookshop in New York in 1915 was the beginning of this collection. I wrote Sir William Osler offering him the copy if it was not in his collection. I received immediately a characteristic Osler letter, saying he had the book and telling me about it, and so the seed was planted for my book collecting mania".

Selected Bibliography

Crummer, Le Roy. "Early Anatomical Fugitive Sheets." Annals of Medical History. Vol. 5, 1 (1923): 189-209.

________. "Further Information on Early Anatomical Fugitive Sheets." Annals of Medical History. Vol. 7, 1 (1925): 1-5.

________. An introduction to the study of physic. by William Heberden <1710-1801> A prefatory essay by Leroy Crummer; with a reprint of Heberden's Some account of a disorder of the breast; portrait in photogravure; six illustrations. New York, P.B. Hoeber, inc., 1929. 

Crummer, Myrtle. A Catalogue, Manuscripts and Medical Books Printed before 1640 in the Library of Le Roy Crummer, Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha: Priv.print., 1927.

Uhlendorf, B.A. "Dr. Le Roy Crummer. '93, 1872-1934: Collector of Rare Medical Books." Michigan Alumnus Quarterly. Vol. 41, 11 (1935): 307-311.

 

 

 

 

 

Page maintained by Pablo Alvarez
Last modified: 05/18/2015

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The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Database brings together details of completed and ongoing health technology assessments (studies of the medical, social, ethical, and economic implications of healthcare interventions) from around the world. The aim of the HTA Database is to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care.

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