For centuries the RCP library and archives have collected and commissioned material to support physicians' learning and document our history, providing a fascinating record of the RCP’s activities and an insight into the world of medicine. These collections are made accessible to the public for their research.
Digitised versions of material are increasingly available online. The catalogue for archives, manuscripts and personal papers is also available via the National Archives, where you can search the collections of many other organisations.
The RCP has had a library since its foundation in 1518. RCP fellows including William Harvey have donated books over the centuries, so the library’s collections reflect the collecting habits of past physicians and the broad education they were expected to have. The subjects of our rare books include medicine, science, law, architecture, travel, cookery and medical advice for the public. The collections include:
Over 17,000 of our rare books and pamphlets dating from 1780 to 1914 are searchable in full text and free to download, having been digitised as a part of the UK Medical Heritage Library. Subjects include medicine, science, sociology, history, library science, antiquities, religion, magic, languages and general reference materials.
Our print collections include:
From the RCP's founding charter to 20th-century reports on the effects of smoking, there is a wealth of material on the RCP's role in relation to contemporary medical advances. There are many archive records defining the RCP’s changing role in setting standards in medical practice. This is also reflected in the publications the RCP has produced, including the RCP’s journals: Medical Transactions (1768–1820), the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians (1966–2000), Clinical Medicine (2001–) and the Future Healthcare Journal (2014–).
Unique obituaries of all RCP fellows are publicly available in Munk's Roll: the lives of the fellows.
'Voices of Medicine' is a collection of oral history interviews with RCP members and fellows. The interviews span multiple subject areas, including medical education, working lives in the NHS, medical developments over the past 70 years and the role of the RCP in the formation of health policy.
RCP members have always collected manuscripts and papers on a wide range of medical and non-medical topics. As a result the archives contain an eclectic range of 14th- to 19th-century manuscripts, including works on astrology, alchemy, religion, travel, medical theory and medical practice.
Personal papers of past fellows from the 16th century to the 20th century provide glimpses into the personal lives and social concerns of many distinguished physicians.
Offers of donations are always appreciated but be aware that restrictions on space and other resources mean that only some items can be accepted.
For offers of unpublished material or artefacts please contact us for details.
The library and archive catalogues and other collection management documents may contain information about living persons, in relation to collection items. The RCP also keeps records on research visitors, to meet access and security requirements.