Monday, April 23, 2012

Olof Larsell's dictionary comes home

 This unassuming book was among several new additions to our collections, recently routed back to us after being cataloged.

Yes, it's a 1929 Swedish-English dictionary. Why does it deserve a place in our historical collections? Because this isn't just any Swedish-English dictionary. It's a dictionary that belonged to Olof Larsell, Swedish-American anatomist and medical historian. He might well have used it in his translation of the autobiographical notes of Jöns Jacob Berzelius.

After Dr. Larsell had no further use for his dictionary, it appears that it was donated it to the library. There it stayed for many years. Given the low demand for Swedish-English dictionaries in our library, it was little-used. So it is entirely understandable, if unfortunate, that at some point it was weeded from the library's collection (for those of you not in the library field, "weeding" is a handy euphemism for recycling books that are no longer useful in the library's collections. It is done by absolute necessity, in order to free up space for books that patrons will actually use).

How did it come back to us? Well, it somehow caught the eye of the late Dr. Clare Peterson, who was known to browse the library's giveaways for additions to his own book collection. When Dr. Peterson passed on, his collection was dispersed. When it came to my attention, I decided it should come back home. If we do another exhibit related to Dr. Larsell, it will be a great way to illuminate both his heritage and his contributions to medical history.

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