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The Human Genetics Historical Library is a definitive international collection of books on or related to human and medical genetics. It covers all aspects of the field, providing a resource that contributes to the documentation of the history and development of the field.

This venture, supported by Cardiff University and the Wellcome Trust was initiated in 2003 by a series of generous donations of books by individuals and departments across Britain.

The Human Genetics Historical library was initially hosted at the Institute of Medical Genetics, Cardiff University (including transport!).

From the beginning of 2005 the Library has formed part of Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR). This has ensured that its development follows internationally accepted librarianship standards and policies, with professional curation by Cardiff University Library staff, and has provided a secure home for the collection, which can be visited by arrangement.

Human Genetics Historical Library, June 2010, on shelves and in exhibition at Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives.

Funding from Wellcome Trust has allowed the detailed cataloguing of the initial 3000 books.

Development of the Library

The collection continues to grow rapidly, with important donations from a number of individuals and institutions. As of February 2015 the number of books exceeds 3,300 volumes; the inventory is updated continuously, allowing workers to search for relevant volumes.

Among notable donations to the collection are:

  • The Treasury of Human Inheritance (1909-1958); main author Julia Bell (complete set of 24 parts)
  • Monographs from the Tage Kemp Institute of Human Genetics, Copenhagen (near complete set; 36 volumes)
  • Human gene mapping workshops (complete set)
  • Reports from the Moscow Medical Genetics Institute, 1933-6

A number of prominent workers have donated or bequeathed their entire working library; there have also been some important departmental donations. Some of the main donors are listed below:

  • Professor John Edwards (Oxford) (entire working library donated)
  • Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith (Cambridge)
  • Professor Paul Polani (London) (entire library donated by the Polani Library, Paediatric Research Unit, Guy's Hospital)
  • Professor H J Evans (Edinburgh) (collection donated by Mrs Rosalyn Evans)
  • Oxford Clinical Genetics Dept
  • Manchester Department of Medical Genetics (Prof Dian Donnai)
  • Northwick Park Hospital (books belonging to Professor Lionel Penrose)
  • Liverpool Cytogenetics Unit (books belonging to Dr Stanley Walker)
  • Collection of Finnish genetics theses from Helsinki Medical Genetics Institute
  • Book collection from Sir Walter Bodmer

We are most grateful to all donors and welcome new donations, large or small; contact Karen Pierce (PierceK(at) or Peter Harper (HarperPS(at) Please check with the inventory to see if the book is already in the collection.

A more detailed overview of the Library has been published by Harper & Pierce (2010).