Archive and library collections available online

For the first time, digital copies of thousands of items from our historical collections are available online. The RCP has joined several other internationally recognised scientific institutions in partnering with Wiley Ltd to develop an online resource on the history of science.

Wiley Digital Archives is a continuous program of new databases comprised of unique or rare historical primary sources, digitized from leading societies, libraries, and archives around the world, and made accessible in ways that tie directly to research outcomes and educational goals.

Currently, the other partners in the project are:

Improving medicine since 1518

The Royal College of Physicians of London was founded so that physicians could be formally licensed to practise and those who were not qualified could be exposed and punished. There are many archive records and print publications defining the RCP’s changing role in setting standards in medical practice. From the founding charter to 20th-century reports on the effects of smoking, there is a wealth of material available on the RCP's role in relation to contemporary medical advances.

Our members have always collected books, manuscripts and papers on a wide range of medical and non-medical topics. As a result, the collections contain an eclectic range of 14th- to 19th-century works. These provide glimpses into the lives and social concerns of many distinguished physicians.

Approximately 15,000 items from our collections are now available online Wiley Digital Archives. Everything from the mundane to the beautiful is included. We have the records of the RCP’s first official committee, Comitia, starting in the 1550s, also velvet and silver bound 17th century copies of the statutes. There is also a gorgeously illustrated 19th century Japanese medical scroll.

Colour drawing of a female body showing internal anatomy, with lines pointing to locations on the skin.
Internal organs and acupuncture points on the arms, in Shishi bessho zui (Illustrations showing how to perceive those who are to die and identify those who are to live). Hozumi Koremasa, Japan, 1820s. MS654.

Included is a mass of clinical research and teaching material. There are patient case notes and printed works from leading physicians such as Matthew Baillie. The records continue into the early 20th century with books and records on medical developments, ethical issues and legal constraints. For example, the many ethical and legal issues relating to abortion in the early 20th century.

The online resource is accessed via a subscription service and is currently available at a range of universities across the USA and UK. It is also freely accessible in the RCP headquarters at 11 St Andrews Place, Regents Park, London, at

Further digitised print works from our collections, 4,200 items, are also freely available via the Internet Archive. These were digitised in 2015 and 2016 for the UK Medical Heritage Library project.

The history of medicine is the history of life and death, and we are all connected to it. It is our mission to engage, inspire and entertain people with the history of medicine and the importance of physicians within it. This new resource is just one of the ways we are achieving our aims.

Pamela Forde, archive manager

Find out the wealth and variety of resources in the RCP collections, available for research by appointment.

Pamela Forde ,
Archive manager

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Library, Archive and Museum