Parnassus Scientiarum

Catalogue of the Waller Collection of History of Science and Medicine


Edited by Marco Beretta and Andrea Scotti
Interface editor Daniele Nuzzo


Project promoted by Istituto & Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence ( Office for History of Science – Uppsala University (, Uppsala University Library (


right.gif (896 byte) Direct access to the database
right.gif (896 byte) About the name Parnassus Scientiarum
right.gif (896 byte) About Parnassus Scientiarum
right.gif (896 byte) Who’s who in Parnassus Scientiarum
right.gif (896 byte) The Sponsor
right.gif (896 byte) Introduction to the Waller Collection
right.gif (896 byte) The Book Collection
right.gif (896 byte) The manuscripts and autographs Collection
right.gif (896 byte) The Alba Amicorum
right.gif (896 byte) Iconographic material (Engravings and bookplates)
right.gif (896 byte) Medals
right.gif (896 byte) Bibliography on the Waller Collection
right.gif (896 byte) Further information



About the name Parnassus Scientiarum


In the 1650 inventory of the papers which after René Descartes' death were left in Stockholm, a scientific manuscript curiously entitled Parnassus was mentioned. It contained the first mathematical discoveries of the great French philosopher. Although this work was never recovered the Swedish libraries and archives preserve a number of scientific collections which amply compensate this early loss. Among them the most significant is undoubtedly the Waller collection, which for its invaluable richness may be certainly looked at as Descartes did with his Parnassus.


About Parnassus Scientiarum


The project Parnassus Scientiarum is the synthesis of two complementary projects. The first aims at providing a digital catalogue of the Waller Collection of history of Science and Medicine kept at the Uppsala University Library . The second aims at providing a new and more appropriate physical order and, when needed, a restoration of the whole collection.

The first phase of the catalogue, began in January 2000, has been completed in August 2000. In this interlocutory phase the users are provided with a digital catalogue of the Italian manuscripts (nearly complete) and of a certain number of French, Swedish and Danish manuscript and inconographic documents. Altogether the documents available in digital form are about 2000.

Thanks to the application of a relational data-base called Pinakes, the users will be able to consult the catalogue in an interactive way. He or she will be able to input suggestions and corrections right from the beginning of the project and the images of the scanned documents will allow the possibility of immediate research. These possibilities will make it possible to create a synchronic interactive network between the users and the editors of the catalogue. In a second phase of the project, the calendar of which is not yet set, the rest of the collection of manuscripts, the books, medals and Alba Amicorum will be included in the Parnassus Scientiarum.


Who’s who of Parnassus scientiarum


Editors : Marco Beretta and Andrea Scotti

Interface editor : Daniele Nuzzo

Cataloguers : Marco Beretta, Caroline Chevallier, Bo Jaensson, Andrea Scotti andLaila Österlund (co-ordinator).

Digital reproduction of over-size documents : Bo Jaensson

Physical handling and restoration : Per Cullhed and Anders Zitting

IT manager : Lennart Hognert

Head of co-ordination : Ulf Göranson and Viveca Halldin Norberg

Reference Group: Tore Frängsmyr, Paolo Galluzzi, Sten Hedberg, Monica Hedlund, Lennart Hognert, Karin Johannisson, Margareta Lindgren, Johan Mannerheim, Eva Müller, Magnus Nyman, Per Gunnar Ottosson


Sponsors of the project


Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (Stockholm)


Introduction to the Waller Collection


In 1950 the Swedish surgeon Erik Waller decided to donate to Uppsala University Library his Collections of books dealing with the history of medicine and science. Some three years later the Library succeeded in purchasing Waller’s Collection of letters, manuscripts, Alba amicorum, medals and engravings. As a whole this was the largest acquisition made in the history of this prestigious library. To give an idea of the magnitude of this acquisition it suffices to mention that the Waller Collection attained in quantity the number of volumes acquired by the Uppsala University Library in its first 164 years of existence (1621-1785). This, however, does not do full justice to a private library which in fact is in many ways unique in the world. All together the books, the manuscripts and the other items are approximately 110.000 divided in the following groups:


items groups

estimated n.



Uncatalogued pamphlets, booklets & offprints


Autographs & Letters


Alba Amicorum






Manuscripts and Diplomas




Estimated Total



These figures should be considered as a first approximate quantitative estimation of the whole Collection. Only a comprehensive survey and catalogue will provide a more precise information concerning the quantity and the typological richness of this library.


The book Collection


The richness of the Waller’s Collection of book is largely known from the catalogue published by Hans Sallander in 1955. The catalogue consists of more that 21000 titles but it does not include some 4000 small booklets and offprints published in 19th and 20th centuries. In the catalogue 150 incunabula are listed, 24 of which printed before 1480. Among them, there are some that are extremely rare and there is a unique copy of La Vie de Saint Roch (ca. 1496). The Collection lists many other rare items printed during the 16th century, such as for instance almost unique copies of works by Vesalius, Paracelsus, Saliceto, Lanfrancus, and Fracastoro. Waller also had the largest private Collection of editions of works by Ambroise Paré (45 items), William Harvey (43 items), Paracelsus (44 items). With respect to the medical literature printed during the 17th and 18th centuries, the richness of the Waller Collection defies even a rough description.

The Collection, however, does not only consists of medical books. Most of the works which had a relevant impact on the development of western science are also listed. Accordingly, first editions of the works by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Lavoisier, Linné, Einstein among others are to be found in the Collection.

The Waller Collection is unique also in another respect. It lists in fact a large number of books with ex-libris, bookplates, inscriptions and marginal notes of important scientists. Among these are books coming from the libraries of Aldrovandi, Banks, T. and C. Bartholin, Bernard, Berzelius, Bichat, Blumenbach, Boerhaave, Bonnet, Borelli, Buffon, Camper, Charcot, Cullen, Dee, Della Porta, Fabricius, Fracastoro, Gesner, Harvey, von Haller, Lavoisier, Linné, Marat, Moleschott, Oldenburg, Redi, Scaliger, Sennert, Vesalius, Virchow and many others.


The Collections of manuscripts and autographs


In contrast to the publicity and the fame surrounding the Waller Collection of books, the Collection of manuscripts, letters, medals etc., is hardly known to the international community of historians of science. A partial description of its richness can be found in Marco Beretta’s A History of Non Printed Science. A Select Catalogue of the Waller Collection.This part of the Collection is even more interesting than the book Collection, and contains many unique and extremely rare items. Furthermore, its quantity, consisting of more than 30.000 items, offers to historians an unexplored treasure-trove of manuscript sources of scientific thought dating from 1255 up to the first half of the 20th century. If the quantity of autographs and manuscripts in the Waller Collection is overwhelming, the quality of many of its items make them of great interest for both the historian of science and the historian of ideas. To quote some celebrities at random, we can see that the Collection lists letters and autograph by prominent physicians such as Baglivi, Blumenbach, Boerhaave, Cabanis, Camper, Fracastoro, Freud, F. Fuchs, Gall, Guillotin, Haeckel, Hales, Helvetius, F. Hoffmann, W. Hunter, Lancisi, Leewenhoek, Licetus, Malpighi, Marat, Mesmer, Pasteur, Quesnay, Pasteur, Pavlov, Pontanus, Quesnay, Ray, Röntgen, Virchow, Wassermann; by astronomers such as G.D. Cassini, Delambre, Flamsteed, Fontenelle, Galileo, Gauss, Herschel, Kepler, Lalande, Laplace, Maupertuis, Newton, Schiaparelli, Wargentin; by naturalists such as Adanson, Bonnet, Cuvier, Darwin (both Erasmus and Charles), De Luc, Dolomieu, Gouan, Lamarck, Linné, Lyell, Mendel, Needham, Owen, Redi, Senebier, Spallanzani, Thunberg, Treviranus; by mathematicians such as d’Alembert, Babbage, J. Bernoulli, Collins, Fermat, Monge, Wallis; by chemists such as Bergman, Berzelius, Boyle, M. Curie, Davy, Faraday, Kekulé, Lavoisier, Liebig, Priestley, Scheele; by physicists such as Ampère, Arago, Biot, Bohr, Borelli, Celsius, Einstein, Euler, Galvani, s’Gravesande, Hooke, Kelvin, Rumford, Torricelli; by philosophers such as Bacon, Bentham, Condillac, Condorcet, Descartes, Fichte, Hegel, Leibniz, Locke, Malthus, Mendelsshon, Nicole, Nietzsche, Ramus, Rousseau, Schelling, Voltaire; by prominent literary, political and cultural figures such as Algarotti, Bembo, Bodoni, Daguerre, Eiffel, Erasmus, Goethe, Guicciardini, Kircher, La Fontaine, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Manuzio, Napoleon I, Panckoucke, O. Rudbeck, W. Pitt, Sade, Strindberg, Swedenborg, Zwingli.

This long list of names, which only offers a subjective quantitative choice, suffices to provide a notion of its richness. The overwhelming quantity of autograph documents is complemented by a most important Collection of scientific manuscripts and medical diplomas.


Alba Amicorum


The Alba amicorum or Stammbuch has no corresponding in the English language. The modern term " visitor’s book " reflects but vaguely the meaning and the historical function played by these curious autograph’s albums during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. This tradition began in Germany during the 16th century when the gentry exchanged pictures of theirs arms with each other. This initial exchange developed into something more systematic during the 1550s when the Alba amicorum became small booklets where a traveller collected arms, mottoes, drawings, etc., of the distinguished persons he met. From Germany, where the Album had a successful tradition among university students and scholars during the 17th and 18th centuries, it expanded into Switzerland, the Netherlands, and into the Scandinavian countries.

The Swedish libraries and archives have a rich collection of Alba amicorum and according to Åke Davidsson their total amount is 360. Waller collected 37 of them, more than 10% of a collection which, after the German one, is regarded as among the riches in the world. The Alba amicorum owned by Waller date from the 16th to the 18th centuries and contain more than 4000 autograph entries. As in the other section of the Waller Collection, also among the Alba amicorum is not difficult to find some remarkable items. An interesting example is the Album belonging to Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg, physician, alchemist and poet, living during the first half of the 17th century in Kronstadt, a small village in Bohemia. This Album is particularly beautiful because it is adorned with 100 copper etchings of Stolz’s alchemical masterpiece Chymisces Lustgärtlein Frankfurt, 1624). The Album contains some 200 autographs collected during Stolz’s peregrinations through Europe in 1622-1627. Among the prominent figures who signed and wrote mottoes in Stolz’s Album one finds the English alchemist Robert Fludd, the Dutch cartographer Willem Blaeu, the Swiss naturalist Caspar Bahuin, the Paduan physicians Santorio Santorio and Fortunio Liceti, the philosopher Etienne de Clave etc. In other Alba amicorum one finds autographs by Newton, Wallis, Bentley, Scheuchzer, Kircher, Celsius, Linné etc.


Iconographic material


Waller owned a remarkably rich collection of woodcuts, engravings, caricatures and other iconographic material dealing with the most prominent figures in the history of science. The main bulk of this Collection is kept in 22 portfolio in folio containing some 3000 iconographic items illustrating the history of medicine and science. There are woodcuts, copper etchings, engravings, watercolours, drawings and photographs. Most of them are portraits of single scientists and in some cases they bear the autograph of the possessor. Most of the iconographic items are preserved together with the Manuscript and Autograph Collection and they also mostly include engraved portraits of scientists and physician. Altogether the estimated number of this precious collection amount to 10000 items. The most important item of the iconographic Collection is no doubt the painted portrait of Paracelsus coming from the Rubens’s atelier.

Waller owned a collection of bookplates from the private libraries of physicians. The collection is not very large and primarily lists items of the 18th and 28th centuries, although some beautiful and interesting examples of the 17th century are also included.


The medals


Waller owned a rich collection of medals (around 600) dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Most of the medals commemorate famous scientists.


Bibliography on the Waller Collection


  • Erik Waller, " Eine unbekannte Ausgabe von Vesals Epitome ", Lychnos, 1937, pp. 251-260
  • Emil Starkenstein, " Der Artz und sein Buch ", Philobiblon, 10, 1946, pp. 305-334.
  • Sten Lindroth, " Erik Wallers Bibliotek ", Svenska Bibliotek, 1946, pp. 3-58.
  • Hans Sallander, The Bibliotheca Walleriana in Uppsala University Library, Uppsala, 1951.
  • Hans Sallander & Tord Skoog, 100 Books from the Waller Collection in the University Library of Uppsala illustrating the Development of Plastic Surgery, Uppsala, Uppsala University Library, 1955.
  • Hans Sallander, Bibliotheca Walleriana. The Books illustrating the History of Medicine and Science collected by Erik Waller and bequeathed to Library of the Royal University of Uppsala, Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell, 1955, 2 vols.
  • Hans Krook, " Samlare och Konässör. Om Erik Waller och hans medicinhistoriska bibliotek ", Nordisk Medicinhistorisk Årsbok, 1976, pp. 1-8.
  • Marco Beretta, A History of Non-Printed Science. A Select Catalogue of the Waller Collection, Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1993.
  • Marco Beretta, " A Mecca for the History of Science ", Uppsala Newsletter in History of Science, 19, 1993, pp. 1-3.
  • Tor Hierton, " Medicinhistoriska glimtar från gryningstid för kirurgi och rehabilitering ", Vestrogothica. Skriftserie utgiven av Västgöta Nation i Uppsala, 1994, pp. 37-45.
  • Marco Beretta & Andrea Scotti, General Catalogue of the Waller Collection. Part I: Italian Manuscripts and Autographs, Florence, 1996. http//:
  • Marco Beretta, , " Parnassus Scientiarum. Catalogue of the Waller Collection of History of Science and Medicine ", Uppsala Newsletter in History of Science, 2000, pp. 1-3.


For further information:


Viveca Halldin Norberg (Head of the Manuscript and Music Department at Uppsala University Library):