Housed in what was historically the study, the Thorek Manuscripts and Rare Books Collection consists of over 1,000 rare texts, spans over 1,200 years of history and over 500 feet of shelving! The Library itself represents the most in-tact and historically accurate room in the museum, most closely resembling the mansion’s original floor-plan and architectural details. The bulk of the library was donated to the Museum by its founder, Dr. Max Thorek in the early 1950s, and was one of the inaugural “exhibits” when the Museum opened in 1954.

The special collection holdings include specialized texts ranging from the 16th – 20th centuries. A list of holdings can be found below. Cataloging is ongoing. Additional holdings are not listed here.

The Museum opens the library to students and scholars working at the collegiate level, with a highly articulated research focus. General interest will not warrant access. Please email for more information.


The Thorek Medical Manuscripts and Rare Book Library is one of three special collections at the International Museum of Surgical Science. Like many collections of its kind, the Thorek Library is not climate controlled, and this raises serious concerns related to its longevity and condition. While climate-related damage cannot always be reversed, the processes involved can be slowed and sometimes stopped entirely.

Conservation is a core value of any Museum, but the associated costs can prove overwhelming for small to midsize organizations. Where state-of-the-art provisions may not always be affordable, or clash with other historic preservation concerns (historical architectural accuracy, material preservation, etc.), simple interventions and education can be a critical first step in preserving cultural heritage. With collections of books, this can be as simple as soft-packing or wrapping a volume in tissue.

Started in April 2016, The International Museum of Surgical Science has opened its Thorek Library to eager volunteers interested in learning basic conservation principles, condition reporting, cataloguing and applied conservation. Under the direction of the IMSS Curator, and using protocols developed by London-based conservation enthusiast Laura Chaillie, volunteers are given unprecedented access to over 1,000 rare books to catalogue and soft pack for posterity. This project was completed in 2018.