Gerald P. Rodnan, MD (1927-1983), spent most of his career with the Department of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In 1956 he was appointed chief of the newly formed Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology. He rapidly became noted as a teacher and clinical investigator and rose to the rank of professor of medicine in 1967. Dr. Rodnan published extensively and served as editor of several publications dealing with rheumatic disease. He was president of the American Rheumatic Association in 1975-1976 and became a member of the prestigious Association of American Physicians in 1983, the year of his death.
Whether Dr. Rodnan contracted his incurable bibliophilia as a result of his medical interests, or whether these interests merely gave it direction, is uncertain. However, his first research projects dealt with various aspects of gout, a disease that has a particularly rich representation in literature and art. His purchase of a few nineteenth-century books to attain a fuller understanding of the origins of scientific knowledge of gout proved to be the beginning of a quarter of a century of collecting which resulted in an outstanding library that was donated to Falk Library in 1985.
The subject of gout -- in its ancient humanistic conception, as well as its clinical and biochemical chemistry -- forms the largest and most valuable part of the collection. In addition, Dr. Rodnan gradually broadened the scope of his acquisitions to encompass all of the rheumatic diseases. Because of the clinical overlap between certain aspects of rheumatology and dermatology, a more limited selection of historically-important works pertaining to the skin can also be found.
The collection consists of approximately 750 volumes, 160 of which were published between 1522 and 1800; five date from the sixteenth century and 28 from the seventeenth century. Dr. Rodnan's last purchase is perhaps the collection's greatest rarity: the original Latin edition of Thomas Sydenham's Tractatus de podagra et hydrope... [Tract on gout and dropsy] (1683). This work, of which the collection contains several English editions, was the first to clearly distinguish gout from other varieties of joint disease. Two other works illustrate the humanistic breadth of this medical library: Willibald Pirckheimer's Apologia seu podagrae laus [Apology for gout] (1522) was the first of the medical discourses which sought to advise the laity how to avoid various ailments; Thomas Twyne's Phisicke against fortune... (1579) is the only English translation of the largest work of Petrarch and contains a fatalistic section on gout. At the other extreme, the development of contemporary rheumatology may be traced in a complete set of the editions of Arthritis, the standard American textbook, from its first edition by Bernard Comroe in 1940 to its ninth in 1979.
This generous gift was made to the Falk Library by the children of Drs. Gerald and Joan Rodnan: Leslie, Andrew, and Meredith.
[This text was adopted from a document created for the dedication of the Rodnan Rare Book Room, September 12, 1985.]