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Dental Library Special Collections

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  • Penn Dental Medicine is one of the oldest dental schools in the nation. Dr. Thomas W. Evans, a Philadelphia native, who became the dentist to the courts of Europe during France’s Second Empire and confidant of Napoleon III, left his estate in 1897 to create and maintain a dental school that would be “second to none.” Dr. Evans’ collection did not though fund the formation of a dental library that was left to future generations.


    Today the Leon Levy Dental Library, as it is now known, is home to a few rare dental tomes and artifacts, many of which came from the third Dean of the Dental School, Dr. Edward Cameron Kirk. Kirk’s donation of his personal collection of three to four thousand books lead to the first incarnation of the Dental Library, the Evans Dental Library. One of the rarest books in the collection is by Drs. Evans and Crane, the Fall of the Second Empire (1884) a tome about the French Emperor and Empress. The one existing copy is held by Dental Library, as Dr. Evans destroyed all others at the request of the Empress. Dr. Evans also bequeathed the Dental School his collection of Bibles. Penn’s library catalog lists more than 400 titles in the Thomas Evans Bible Collection. The Evans Bible Collection includes Roman Catholic and Protestant texts and texts to assist Biblical understanding.

    Oldest Dental Book in world

    The Library has one of the finest collections of rare dental books, about 1500 and journals in the world. Among those books included two monumental firsts: Die Arzney Buchlein wider allerlei kranckeyten und gebrechen der tzeen translates to “booklet of remedies against all sorts of diseases and infirmities of the teeth.” A mere 44 pages long, Die Zene Arzney is the first printed work specifically on dentistry. And as if that isn’t grand enough, it also bears on its title page the first dental woodcut depicting a timeless self-explanatory image, a tooth extraction.[1] The other monumental first is the first book in Spanish on dentistry Coloquio Breve y Compendioso Sobre la Materia de la Dentadura y Maravillosa Obra de la Boca by Francisco Martinez in 1557. Additionally, the Library holds the early works of French, German, English and American dentists including 150 works published before 1815.


    Other collections include:


    The collection of early dental journals (1839-1875) is especially noteworthy and includes complete sets of 35 dental journals out of 42 published during this time. Journals include, the American Journal of Dental Science (the first dental journal), the Dental Cosmos (1859-1936) and the Dental Register of the West (1847-1923)

    The Library is home to an extensive collection of dental dissertations (around 1000) from outside the United States, from 1900-1960.

    S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company scrapbooks containing patent information and clippings about an extensive range of dental equipment, including toothbrushes, dentures, furniture, tools, and machinery.





    [1] •Friedländer, Max J.: Der Holzschnitt. Berlin 1926

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