Lecture notes on anatomy, [ca. 1781-1809]


Date: Circa 1781-1809 | Size: 4 volume(s)


These volumes contain notes from lectures taken by Wistar and lectures given by Wistar. Subjects include bones, teeth, amputation, and midwifery.

Background note

Caspar Wistar was a Philadelphia physician. He studied medicine for a year in London (1783) and then went to Edinburgh University (M.D., 1786). In 1792 he was made adjunct professor of anatomy, surgery, and midwifery at the University of Pennsylvania. He attained full professorship in 1808.

Collection Information

Physical description

4 volumes (volume 1-3 bound, volume 4 loose pages).


Presented by Mr. and Mrs. Henry G. Leach, 1952.

Processing information

Previously catalogued as 1 volume. Inventory updated with note from Rebecca Rosen in 2016. Additional finding aid corrections to reflect this note in 2022.

Early American History Note

These three volumes contain Caspar Wistar's lecture notes on anatomy, likely taken while he was a student in Great Britain in the 1780s. Its content may lend insight into medical thought, practice, and education during the early republic.

Updated description from Rebecca Rosen, APS Fellow, 2/12/2016:

"The 3 volumes held together under the call number 610.4 W 76, Lecture notes on anatomy, [ca/ 1781-1809], contain the following:

V. 1 Appears to be lecture notes taken when Wistar was a student; one page a few leaves from the end of the book is dated "Novr 24. 1783."

V. 2 This also appears to be lecture notes taken when Wistar was a student; the dates 1781 and 1783 appear within the volume. On p. 108 [counting from the first page with writing], the entry for "Midwifery" is dated 1783. Around p. 161, two descriptions of autopsies appear and are dated "February 1781" and November 1781"

[Because V. 1 ends around November 1783, and dates of 1781 and 1783 appear in V. 2, this suggests that either V. 1 was written first, or that they were used concurrently. The volume itself has the same dimensions and properties as V. 1, suggesting they were purchased/assembled at the same time. Based on these dates, and the biography of Wistar provided in the finding aid, V. 1 and 2 were probably taken at London, since he finished there in 1783, and finished his M.D. in Edinburgh in 1786.]

V. 3 These are most likely notes for lectures given by Caspar Wistar at the University of Pennsylvania. The book starts twice, and can be rotated to read each set of notes. Read from the side with the label and accession number, it's dated 1808-9; from the other side, 1796-7.

There's a suggestion that this might be a combination of lectures given and attended in a note on the inside back cover: Mr Prendergrast of kentucy Lent me by Dr Watkins $16- which I recieved Augst. 7-1800 for a ticket

Wistar began as an adjunct in 1792 and was made full professor in 1808, so he wasn't a student at that point, but could have attended other people's lectures during that period. But since there's no explicit indication that he took notes from other doctor's lectures within V. 3 aside from this record, rather than indicating a mixture of content in the volume, it may just be recording a debt for reference.

And finally, as you've both suggested, the fourth/unnumbered volume, also labeled 610.4 W 76, appears to be a lecture given by Caspar Wistar--it's written out neatly, and longform--probably during the early 1800s."

Indexing Terms


  • Educational Material
  • Lecture notes.
  • Scientific Data


  • Amputation -- Study and teaching.
  • Anatomy -- Study and teaching.
  • Education
  • Medicine
  • Medicine -- Study and teaching.
  • Obstetrics -- Study and teaching.