A layered image of a human body with flaps that open to show organs.

Scan-on-Demand: Home Health, 1903

By Krista Stracka, Ginny Roth and Anne Rothfeld ~

The National Library of Medicine’s Scan-on-Demand program provides the public with offsite access to digitized copies of historical medical materials published before 1924. Hundreds of requests have been fulfilled for users all over the world with research interests ranging from the earliest printed works of epidemiology to the detection of quackery in the medical profession. Depending on the condition of the item, the turnaround time averages about 1 or 2 weeks. These digitized copies are later also made accessible to the public through NLM Digital Collections.

The very first request to be filled through Scan-on-Demand was for Walter Camp’s Handbook on Health and How to Keep It, published in 1920. In this manual, the “Father of American Football” offered his advice on exercise and physical fitness, including a warning against tight-fitting clothing, collars, and shoes. This same warning was also addressed in another health manual that was scanned by request in 2017. Instead of tight collars, De Gezondheid in Huis, in 1903, warned against the dangers of tight corsets among the pages of this text on family health education in the Dutch home. Tucked in the back pocket of this volume is a vibrantly colored anatomical “flap” book that served to educate readers about the inner workings of the human body in a three-dimensional, interactive form. This paper manikin depicts an adult male with an artfully-groomed handlebar mustache. With a lift of each flap, the reader simulates a dissection that reveals the deeper layers of the muscles, organs, and bones. To avoid any potential damage to these intricate parts and delicate layers, the decision was made at the time to exclude the supplement from the digitized copy.  Here is a quick demonstration of the insert in the 1903 book:

These lift-the-flap anatomies were first introduced in the sixteenth century to educate adults about anatomy in print form and their popularity continued into the early twentieth century. The National Library of Medicine has an extensive collection of moveable or “flap” books dating back to 1538 with a copy of Anathomia oder abconterfectung eines weybs leyb, which depicts a female figure. Another significant item is a life-size figure intended for educational use that was featured in the NLM publication Hidden Treasure.

While NLM has not yet included these items in our digitization projects, we are exploring the methods used by our colleagues at other institutions to do so in the future. In 2016, staff at Columbia University’s Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library successfully digitized a copy the 1661 Kleiner Welt Spiegel (a German translation of Johann Remmelin’s 1613 title Catoptrum Microcosmicum). Read about and watch a video of their process on the Columbia University website.

If you would like to request a digitized copy of an item from the NLM historical collections, please make a request through your local academic or public library. For more information on how see Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery Services. If you do not have access to a DOCLINE® participating library, please contact our customer service and we will find a solution for you.

Krista Stracka is a Rare Book Cataloger for the Rare Books and Early Manuscripts Section in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

Ginny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

Anne Rothfeld, PhD, is a librarian and historian in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine.


  1. I wish all scholarly websites were as well-laid-out and pleasurable to use as the NLM one is — to mention the quality of the collection! Thank you.

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