A beautiful oak box with a brass stomach pump and accompanying parts, including an ebony mouth gag, in an antique store window caught the attention of Dr. Jack Rosen, and subsequently launched for him a 30-year adventure collecting veterinary medicine books and memorabilia. Dr. Rosen first became interested in history as a student while attending the Ontario Veterinary College; this interest naturally developed into a desire to learn more about the history of his own profession. When the time was right to transfer his private collection to a public venue, Dr. Rosen sought out a library attached to a Canadian veterinary college that would keep the collection together and make it available for study by interested patrons: his search ultimately led him to the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine Library, which became the home of his specialized collection in 2004.
The Rosen Collection of Veterinary Medicine History consists of approximately 500 books, journals, newsletters, family records, offprints, pamphlets, clippings, certificates, and awards reflecting the history of veterinary medicine and agriculture from the early 16th to the mid-20th centuries, both in North America and Europe. The oldest book in the collection is a 1528 printing of Libri de re rustica, an anthology of ancient Greek and Roman agricultural manuscripts. This copy has been re-bound and is in perfect condition.
Dr Rosen's particular interest in the history of veterinary medicine lies in the use of the existing store of knowledge as one means to improve modern professional practice, an approach exemplified in the following item in the collection, A Treatise on the Prevention of Diseases Incidental to Horses, written in 1788 by J. Clark, who proposes a paradigm linking good hygiene and animal health.
The Rosen Collection also provides a glimpse of the birth pangs of the profession of veterinary medicine in Canada in the form of a diploma and textbook, Veterinary Science: The Anatomy, Diseases and Treatment of Domestic Animals, both of which were issued by a diploma mill that operated from 1896 to 1921 in London, Ontario. Although the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) had already been formed in 1863 in the United States, specialized training for veterinary personnel was not available in Canada until 1862 when Andrew Smith, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh's College of Veterinary Medicine, established a two-year training course in Toronto to counteract the trend of farriers in Canada providing veterinary services without specialized training.
Interested patrons may view the Rosen Collection either in a rare books room at the Veterinary Medicine Library or at a rotating display in the Veterinary College. It is the library's intention to fill in the gaps that exist in the veterinary history collection, although, according to an independent evaluator, the collection is focused and nearly complete. Because the collection is new to the library, plans are also in development to publicize its existence beyond the veterinary college and hopefully attract scholars and interested users from other disciplines on campus and abroad.
Collection Profile and Overview: Linda Fritz and Jill Crawley-Low
Illustrations: David Bindle and Luke Sather