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Library Collection | Bakken Museum

Library Collection

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The Bakken Museum’s library collections include approximately 11,000 books, journals, and manuscripts. The subject of the collections is the history of electricity and magnetism with a focus on their roles in the life sciences and medicine. Thus, it includes works in early physics (natural philosophy) and early works on magnetic cures, electrotherapeutics, electrophysiology, and their accompanying instrumentation. The library also possesses a fine collection of primary sources in mesmerism, animal magnetism, and hypnotism, and works documenting the history of para-psychology, psychical research, and phrenology. Additionally, there are some important early works on anatomy, physiology, neurology, acupuncture, and medicinal herbs.

Although primary sources date from the 13th century, the collecting emphasis is on the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Significant holdings include many of the writings of Hauksbee, Nollet, Franklin, Mesmer, Galvani, Volta, Matteucci, Du Bois-Reymond, Marey, and Einthoven, to name some of the most well-known. Also of interest to researchers are collections of 19th-century medical and electro-medical ephemera (about 400 advertisements, programs, postcards, broadsides, circulars, and pamphlets) and miscellaneous scientists’ letters from the 18th–20th centuries. Please follow this link to search or browse the ephemera collection online.

While the manuscript collection is not large, there are several fine items, a couple of which deserve special mention here: the Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism manuscripts collection, 1784–1787, which consists of fifty-six items of correspondence between the leaders of the French mesmerist movement in Paris and their disciples in Amiens, including letters, contracts, circulars, receipts, membership lists, and notebooks. A few of these are featured on our online Mesmer book exhibit. Another is Paul Richer’s Paralysies et contractures hysteriques; mémoire presenté au concours de l’année 1883 pour le prix fondé par M. Bernard de Civrieux. In one volume, it includes handwritten text and illustrative material consisting of several drawings, photographs, myograms, and printed and drawn charts, graphs, and diagrams. The book was published in Paris, by O. Doin, in 1892 (a copy of which is also held in the library).

There is a collection of about 400 trade catalogues and price lists representing the products of nearly 250 companies. Most of them were published during the period of 1850–1930, although there are a few from the second half of the 18th century. These catalogues offer for sale electrical apparatus, scientific instruments, and surgical and medical equipment (including electro-medical apparatus). Several countries’ products are represented, including England, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Scandanavian countries, and the U.S.A. These catalogues provide technical descriptions, clear illustrations, directions for use, and prices for a wide range of instruments and accessories.

A support collection of histories, biographies, and reference works is located in the library’s reading room. Books from the library do not circulate and there is no open browsing of the research collection (the stacks are closed). Readers are welcome to browse in the secondary and reference sections. For further information, contact the Chief Curator Juliet Burba, at 612-926-3878 ext. 217 or via email

Historical Journals

The historical journal collection consists of periodicals published between 1665 and 1940. It comprises 231 titles, about three-fourths of which (168) are represented by four volumes or fewer. Of these 168 titles, eleven are 18th century, 106 are 19th century, and fifty-one are 20th century. These volumes were usually acquired for single articles or because that was all available; examples include the first volume (1842–1843) of a scarce American magazine called The Magnet, devoted to articles exploring magnetic forces in relation to human magnetism, a single volume from 1897 of The Electro-therapeutist, and volumes one and two of The Electrical Age for Women, 1926–1935, which dropped its gender and changed its name to The Electrical Age in 1932.

The remaining sixty-three journal titles are represented by longer or complete runs. Two are 17th century, eleven are 18th century thirty-one are 19th century. (or began in those centuries), and nineteen are 20th century. The longest continuous run is the Philosophical Transactions published by the Royal Society of London beginning in 1665. Other lengthy runs include the Annalen der Physik (1795 on), the Philosophical Magazine (1798 on), the Journal de Physique, 1771–1817, the Journal für Chemie und Physik, 1811–1833, the Opuscoli Scelti sulle Scienze, 1778–1803, the 1792–1795 series of “Brugnatelli’s Journal” entitled the Giornale fisico-medico, and three titles from the Academy of Sciences at Bologna, the Commentarii, 1748–1791, the Memorie, 1850–1907, and the Novi commentarii, 1834–1849.

There are incomplete but goodly portions of the Annals of Electricity, Magnetism and Chemistry, 1837–1842, the Année Electrique, Electrotherapique, et Radiographique, 1901–1909, The Doctor, a medical and philosophical penny magazine, 1833–1836, and Isis… von Oken, 1817–1836, among others. Many journals undergo name-changes in their lifetime. One example is a French journal that began as the Annales du Magnétisme Animal (1814–1816), became the Bibliothèque du Magnétisme Animal (1817–1819), then the Archives du Magnétisme Animal (1820–1823). Other journals on this subject include the Archiv für den thierischen Magnetismus, 1817–1824, and The Zoist, 1844–1856.

The Journal du Galvanisme, de Vaccine, etc. is in a category all its own—it is the shortest complete run as well as one of the rarest journals in the collection. Published in 1803 in Paris, it consists of two volumes bound together as one and contains articles about vaccination, galvanism, and electrical medicine. The historical journal collection is informally catalogued on cards, providing verified titles, place of publication, and Bakken holdings.

Using the Catalog

The library collection is open to all researchers free of charge; anyone interested in conducting research is encouraged to make an appointment in advance. Items from the library do not circulate. Reference service to researchers unable to come to the library is provided by telephone, email, mail, and fax. For a modest fee, limited numbers of photocopies, scans, or photographs may be made, or, researchers may use their own cameras to make copies free of charge, provided it can be done without damaging the book or item and the request complies with the copyright law.

There are several finding aids to the library collection that researchers may consult, such as The Bakken library catalog. In the library itself is a card catalog that may be searched by author, title, subject, added entry, and date of publication. There is also an inventory of the ephemera collection and a listing of journal titles and holdings.

Catalog Search Tips

On the Advanced Search page, enter search terms in as many as three boxes; choose search categories by clicking on the drop-down menus.

Under “Limits,” you may choose “Bakken Library and Museum” to bring up only Bakken library holdings. Or, you may choose “Libraries Worldwide,” where Bakken holdings will appear first, and after that, other libraries where the works are held. You may wish to set other limits as indicated (year, audience, content, format, languages).

Once you have retrieved entries, you may sort them in various ways by using the “Sort by” box. You may also refine your search at this point by making use of the column running down the left side of the screen.

By clicking on an entry, you can see other details of the work, as well as other libraries that hold it. You may also click on “All editions and formats” to see which versions and editions of the title are held by the Bakken.

Sub-collections that do not appear in catalog include the Bakken library’s collection of ephemera and its collection of images.

For an overview of some highlights of the Bakken’s primary collection, scroll through Books and Manuscripts of The Bakken. This list was originally published as a book in 1992 by Scarecrow Press. It does not contain ephemera, reference or secondary works, nor works collected after 1991.