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Historic Printed Collection:

This is the most comprehensive collection of English language nursing titles in Europe. It contains over 8500 titles dating from 1870 that represent the breadth and depth of nursing in all its forms.

You can find publications on all aspects of nursing including:

  • Education
  • History
  • Biographies, memoirs and autobiographies
  • Textbooks on nursing care and clinical practice
  • Research
  • Pamphlets
  • Reports from nursing and health organisations
  • Legal and ethical aspects
  • Fellows of the Royal College of Nursing items

This collection contains several personal nursing libraries donated to the Royal College of Nursing including the Lucy Seymer and Cecilia Cory Collections.

To search this collection, use the library catalogue. If you wish to view these items they are available for reference only appointment in the RCN Library and Heritage Centre

Unable to visit the Library and Heritage Centre in person? Try our Virtual Reading Room.

Appointments will take place online using Microsoft Teams. Researchers will meet one-on-one with a member of library staff, who will share the material through a high-resolution document camera, in an initial one-hour session.

Lucy Ridgely Seymer M.A., S.R.N. (1893-1971)

Seymer was a registered nurse and noted nursing historian and educator, author of works including 'A General History of Nursing' (1932) and editor of a volume of the writings of Florence Nightingale. Upon her death, some 130 books from her personal library were donated to the Royal College of Nursing. Books in the collection were published from 1637 to 1964 and include religious texts, memoirs of First World War nurses, nursing history, medical history, biography and nursing fiction. Primarily an English language collection, there are a small number of books written in French, Finnish, Czech and Swedish.

Cecilia Cory (1893-1957)

Corey was a founding member of the Royal College of Nursing in 1916.Upon her death her husband established a memorial fund in her name to purchase books for the Royal College of Nursing Library. The collection comprises 16 books, published between 1953 and 1980, primarily on medical history.


Image: Book cover for 'Hospital Nurse' by Doreen Swinburne, forming part of Lucy Seymer's collection. 

Rare Books

We have a rare books collection of over 100 titles. Most were published pre-1870, prior to the establishment of Nursing Schools, which led to a significant increase in the publication of nursing texts. A small number of items are from post 1870 these include Florence Nightingale's personal library.  The collection includes books on nursing education, public health, household and popular herbal remedies, and healthcare in religious orders.

To search this collection, use the library catalogue. If you wish to view these items they are available for reference only appointment in the RCN Library and Heritage Centre.

The Steinberg Collection

This collection comprises of UK doctoral theses written by nurses or about nursing. The collection was established in 1974 with money donated by Jack Steinberg, the founder of the Jack Steinberg Charitable Trust and includes former CEO and General Secretary Peter Carter’s thesis, University of Manchester lecturer Jane Brooks and one of the first RCN fellow Annie T. Altschul.

To search the Steinberg Collection use the Library Catalogue, these items are available for use in the main library. To access more recent theses we recommend using the BL Ethos service.