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Library Services

Bascom Palmer’s ophthalmic library was established shortly after the Institute first opened in 1962. Although at the time it offered little more than a handful of ophthalmological books transferred from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s library, Dr. Edward W. D. Norton, the Institute’s founder, envisioned it as ultimately becoming a repository for all ophthalmic literature — the most complete ophthalmological collection in the world. Thanks to his commitment, the energy and dedication of Reva Hurtes, the Founding Library Director, 1962-2004, and the generous contributions of such benefactors as Mrs. Rena M. Broidy, Mrs. Sebastian S. Kresge and the Bascom Palmer Alumni Association, Dr. Norton’s vision has been fulfilled.

Norton Library JournalsAppropriately, this library is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of ophthalmic wisdom. An architectural masterpiece, it encompasses 5,420 square feet on three levels, each enhanced by a glowing expanse of hand-sculpted Honduran mahogany panels, moldings, railings, furnishings and bookcases. More than 8,000 ophthalmic texts, 15,000 bound volumes, over 250 periodical titles and journals from around the world, in multiple languages, line its aisles for reference and reading in adjoining study and lounge areas.

Located on the lower level of the Institute, The Mary and Edward Norton Library of Ophthalmology serves Bascom Palmer’s faculty and students, visiting physicians, researchers, and scientists. The library also serves as an excellent reference and educational resource for ophthalmologists and optometrists worldwide. This unique center of knowledge also accommodates the Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Kirsch Rare Book Room.

Norton Library Rare Book RoomToday, the Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Kirsch Rare Book Room preserves 3,000 books dating from 1496 to 1900, including the first German textbook on ophthalmology written in 1583, a rare second edition published 100 years later, and a 1613 book on depth perception with drawings by Peter Paul Rubens, as well as books on optics by Johann Kepler (1611), Rene Descartes (1664), and Sir Isaac Newton (1704). There are even complete sets of old periodicals — German, Italian, French and English — dated in the 1800s.

The Rare Book Room is named in recognition of Dr. Kirsch, an original member of the Institute’s voluntary faculty who gave generously to furnish the room and procured one of its most prized possessions – a book written in 1583 by Bartisch, known as the father of modern ophthalmology.

The Mary & Edward Norton Library of Ophthalmology is a member of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine and the Association of Vision Science Librarians (AVSL).

For more information regarding the Norton Library, please contact Dennis Bermudez at 305-326-6078 or