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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 3, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 28
W.H. Wilmer's Rare Books Now On View at George Peabody Library

Illustration from 16th-century text on eye diseases titled 'Ophthalmoduoleia,' by George Bartisch. Dresden: Matthes Stockel, 1583.

By Pamela Higgins
Sheridan Libraries

A Perfect Vision: The Rare Book Collection of William Holland Wilmer, an exhibition of works from a collection of more than 400 books on astronomy, medicine, optics and ophthalmology that have been out of public view for nearly three-quarters of a century, opened on April 1 and will run through June 30 at the George Peabody Library.

William Holland Wilmer, pre-eminent physician and founder of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins, was also a passionate bibliophile who amassed an exceptional collection during the 1920s and 1930s.

The exhibition is curated by Richard Semba, associate professor of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine and a member of the Wilmer Eye Institute faculty since 1987. A bibliophile and collector, Semba became aware of the Wilmer collection through his research in the history of medicine. He will present a gallery talk on Monday, April 10, at 5 p.m., and the gallery will be open until 7 p.m. that evening.

Bequeathed to the university upon Wilmer's death in 1936, the Wilmer collection contains works tracing the medical and scientific discoveries that ultimately led to the understanding of vision and the modern era of the treatment and prevention of eye diseases. The exhibition features works dating from the 15th through the 18th centuries, arranged into seven overarching themes: astronomy, early medical teaching, optics, theories of vision, color, ophthalmology and spectacles.

Beautifully illustrated editions with 17th-century woodcuts and copper plate engravings and 19th-century hand-colored lithographs are among the items displayed. Spectacles and ophthalmological instruments from the 18th and 19th centuries are also included.

The George Peabody Library is located at 17 E. Mt. Vernon Place. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m on Sundays.


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