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Gifts of Rare Books and Endowment Fund Bring Preeminent Dental Collection to HSL

Sheldon and Mrs. Peck in the home libraryUNC alumnus Sheldon Peck (B.S.’63, D.D.S ’66) and his wife Leena Peck, D.M.D., have donated 163 rare books to the UNC Health Sciences Library (HSL) to establish The Sheldon Peck Collection on the History of Orthodontics and Dental Medicine. In addition to the gifted volumes, valued at over $250,000, the Pecks also donated $100,000 to establish The Sheldon Peck Rare Books Fund for Orthodontics and Dental Medicine.

The books, along with prior holdings in the HSL’s Special Collections, establish a world-class collection of rare books for use by scholars, researchers and students. And the endowment further ensures that the HSL will be able to preserve and significantly grow the collection in the future.

“It is such a privilege for our academic community to be the home for this wonderful collection, and I’m so grateful that the Pecks have entrusted us with its safekeeping,” said Carol Jenkins, director of the HSL.

The Pecks chose to establish a home for the collection at the HSL because it offers such a progressive and expansive environment that is well-suited to preserving, growing and sharing the collection’s materials.

The endowment will allow for digitization of some of the rare volumes in the collection, making them available electronically to readers anywhere in the world. Regardless of future global accessibility, Sheldon Peck confesses that there is nothing quite like the personal excitement of holding and turning the pages of a 400-year-old handmade book, sometimes with notes in the margins from much earlier owners.

“UNC people will now be able to experience the thrill of proximity to these masterful old volumes, and that pleases us immensely,” said Peck.

On Nov. 13, at 5:30 p.m. in the HSL (Rm. 527), Sheldon Peck will give a lecture entitled “The Modern Value of Early Writings in Medicine and Dentistry.”  The lecture is open to the public and will focus on the newly gifted collection. The lecture is being presented by the HSL and the Bullitt History of Medicine Club

About the Peck Collection

A longtime collector and expert in European old-master artworks, Sheldon Peck says it was natural for him to seek out rare books of value historically and scientifically in the development of medicine and his dental specialty, orthodontics.

“It’s not easy to find such esoteric items these days, but my patience in hunting for great old art helped condition me over the years to recognize special opportunities in acquiring great old books,” said Peck.  “I happily discovered a few years ago that the history of dentistry was one of the core subject holdings already in the HSL Special Collections. That’s when I began focusing on acquiring only rare books that HSL did not already own. And now we are delighted to combine our collection with the present HSL titles to make a specialized historical collection of deep strength, arguably the best of its kind in the country.”

Many of the rare books in the Peck Collection were previously owned by two eminent orthodontist-bibliophiles: Bernhard W. Weinberger (1885-1960) of New York City and Samuel Fastlicht (1902-1983) of Mexico City. Sheldon Peck acquired a large segment of the book collection of Dr. Fastlicht, who in the 1950s had the opportunity to purchase many of these volumes directly from Dr. Weinberger’s legendary personal library.

The earliest book in the collection is Artzneybuch, a parchment bound German compendium dated 1555 that contains 13 essays on medical treatments of the time. This very rare volume is noted for its vivid prints of early medical procedures, including a woodblock print of a mouth operation, one of the first images recorded of dentistry.

Some other prized volumes in the Peck Collection are:

  • Bericht von den wunderbaren Bezoardischen Steinen (1589) [“Reports of wonderful magic stones, etc.”] by Johann Wittich of Leipzig, Germany, is about occult medicine and alchemy and is one of only five examples of this first edition in the United States.  There are 16 known copies worldwide.
  • Les Oeuvres (1614) by Ambroise Paré, often referred to as the "father of surgery,” is a groundbreaking work. This large manual of surgery was published in French rather than Latin, broadening its accessibility.
  • The Natural History of Human Teeth (1771). This first edition of John Hunter’s seminal book represents a key development in the beginnings of dental science.
  • Tratado Breve de Flobotomia (c.1642) by Diego Pérez de Bustos is a short treatise on phlebotomy and tooth extractions, in question-and-answer format, with illustrations of instruments designed for barber-surgeons and bleeders of the time. This is the earliest of 36 Spanish-language rare volumes in the Peck Collection.
  • Die orthopedische Behandlung der Sattelnase: mittelst von der Zahnheilkunde gebotenen Hülfsmitteln (1892) [“Orthopedic surgical treatment of saddle nose enhanced by dental devices”] by Matti Äyräpää, the “father” of dental medicine and surgery in Finland is an ingenious early work on facial reconstruction and dentistry.
  • Essai sur les Maladies des Dents (1743) [“Essay on the problems of teeth”] by Robert Bunon of Paris in which he proposes “preventative extractions” to treat tooth irregularity and other dentomaxillary dysharmonies. This volume and another French book in the collection, Traité d'Odontalgie (1771) by Pierre Auzébi (who invented the dental space maintainer), are early authoritative writings in the historical development of orthodontics and pediatric dentistry.

All editions (1887-1913) of the writings of Edward Hartley Angle (1855-1930), who is widely considered the founder of modern orthodontics. With other books related to Angle, this is probably the most comprehensive collection of Angliana in the world. In 2007, Dr. Peck edited a monumental four-volume publication on Dr. Angle’s correspondence and patents.

Sheldon Peck Bio

Sheldon Peck, a native of Durham, NC, is a prominent orthodontic specialist, educator and art collector. Following his seven years at UNC-Chapel Hill, he moved to Boston for a residency in orthodontics, after which he entered private practice and academics. Peck taught part-time at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and for 20 years served as a clinical professor of developmental biology at the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine. Today, he is an adjunct professor of orthodontics at UNC School of Dentistry. In addition to over 100 scientific publications related to orthodontics, Peck has written on biological anthropology, art connoisseurship, and the history of medicine.

About HSL's Special Collections

Special Collections at the HSL include not only printed works, such as books, pamphlets, journals, broadsides, posters, and ephemera, but also manuscripts, letters, photographs, student notebooks, drawings, and other documents, as well as medical instruments, artifacts, models, and other cultural objects. These materials range in date from the 1500s to the present day, encompassing the history of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, public health, and the allied medical sciences. The history of the health sciences in North Carolina is strongly represented. For more information, visit http://hsl.lib.unc.edu/specialcollections.

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