Royal College of Surgeons of England Library

Contact details

Website: Email: Telephone: +44 (0)20 7869 6555/6

Royal College of Surgeons of England Library

About the library

The Royal College of Surgeons of England possesses an outstanding library on surgery, dental surgery and related subjects, that dates from the late 15th century to the present day. In 2013 the RCS collections were was awarded Designated status by Arts Council England.

The Library provides access to a wide variety of up-to-date surgical literature and textbooks, with a large selection available online to our Affiliates, Members and Fellows. These resources support surgeons and dental surgeons both in training and continuing professional development, helping them to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. The Library also acts as a repository for works published by the RCS, including Reports, Guidelines, RCS Council Minutes, Almanacs, Calendars and the Annals and Bulletin.

The historical, or special, collections are of national importance in documenting the achievement of British surgery from the 18th century onwards. The Library’s printed collections complement and are complemented by the collections held in both the College Archives and the Hunterian Museum. For more information about the history of the College library see the library webpages.

Highlights from the Library collections include:

  • Rare Books: The rare book collection comprises a nationally and internationally important collection of around 8,000 items including: 57 incunabula; an extensive collection of 16th and 17th century duodecimos; around 300 elephant folios; a significant collection of anatomical works by authors such as Vesalius, Albinus, Cheselden and most of the major anatomists from the 18th century onwards. The subjects covered are eclectic, as befits a library founded in the Hunterian tradition. Further information may be found in the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland, 3rd edition. Edited by Karen Attar. (London: Facet Publishing, 2016)
  • Journals: The Library has full printed back sets of key surgical and medical journals, including The Lancet, British Medical Journal, British Journal of Surgery, Annals of Surgery, and Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England and many others. In addition, the journal collections contain early journals from the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Tracts, Pamphlets and other Grey Literature: This collection includes over 30,000 tracts or pamphlets, many of them rare or unique in the field of medicine. Around 20,000 were digitised as part of the UK Medical History Library and are available via the RCS library, archives and museums discovery tool, Surgicat+, and via the Jisc’s Historical Texts service. The Library also has a significant collection of surgical instrument catalogues.
  • History of Medicine: The Library has a collection of over 3,000 secondary sources on the history of surgery and related subjects. Materials include standard works in the field and an extensive range of reference materials. It is particularly strong in hospital histories and biographies of individual surgeons.

The RCS Library catalogue is available online as part of Surgicat+. The full RCS museums and archives catalogues are also available online via Surgicat+ with full entries available via Surgicat. Researchers wishing to consult the collections or find out more, are welcome to get in touch by emailing us.

The local library catalogue (Surgicat+) is available online.

Royal College of Surgeons of England also contributes to the Archives Hub. To browse descriptions of their archive materials, visit their Archives Hub information page.

British Library inter-library loan codes

Library code


Policy code


For an explanation of these codes, and for more information on arranging inter-library loans, see the inter-library loans page on the British Library website.

Accessing materials

Can I see live document availability on Library Hub Discover?

Can I obtain items via inter-library loan? Yes - subject to the library's local lending policy. See their website for details. You must request an inter-library loan via a library of which you are a member. Talk to your own library staff for advice on ordering an item.

Can I visit the library to view materials? Yes - see the library's website for access details. If you wish to visit it is advisable to contact the library in advance, to ensure that they can accommodate you and that the material you need will be available.


Browse all of Royal College of Surgeons of England Library records in Library Hub Discover here.