The NCNM Library maintains a large collection of rare and historic materials related to naturopathic medicine and similar health reform movements. The Rare Book Room began with donations from the University of California at San Francisco in 1978, from the estate of Dr. A.R. Hedges in 1982, and from the estate of Dr. Benedict Lust in 1985. Dr. Lust, regarded as the “father of Naturopathy”, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1892 after studying with many prominent European Nature Cure doctors, including Sebastian Kneipp. Lust coined the term “naturopathy”, formed the first school of naturopathic medicine, and published several books and periodicals.
Dr. Lust’s personal library formed the nucleus of NCNM’s rare book collection. This historic collection of books, which focuses on medical movements in Germany and the United States from the early 19th century until the mid-20th century, was recently named the Friedhelm Kirchfeld Rare Book Collection, in honor of NCNM’s first librarian. Mr. Kirchfeld was instrumental in building the collection to its current size.
The Rare Book Room currently contains over 1,400 volumes of books and bound periodicals, as well as numerous unbound periodicals, historic pamphlets, photographs, medical diplomas, and antique medical equipment. Much of this material is unique and unavailable anywhere else, even at the nation’s largest research libraries.