The antique collection of the Biomedical Library was formed around a core group of books collected in 1679 in the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova, which in later centuries was enriched by book donations from the doctors and professors working at the hospital, many of whom left in legacy to the Library (in the nineteenth century transferred from the hospital to the Institute for Vocational and Advanced Studies, ancestor of the University of Florence) even their personal archives of thousands of handwritten papers.
Among the earliest donors there are Scipione Ammirato and Vincenzo Viviani; later, other donors distinguished themselves for the large quantities of books and documents that they left as a legacy, among which, Vincenzo Alberti, Pietro Betti, Carlo Burci, Pietro Cipriani, Vincenzo Chiarugi, Augusto Michelacci, Filippo Pacini, Pietro Vannoni, Ferdinando Zannetti.
Each year the Library organizes exhibitions of its antique collections to make it known outside its walls to the community at large.
The Biomedical Library and the University Library System are continuously investing resources for the implementation of their ambitious digitization projects: presently we have put online more than 90 thousand records of the historical paper catalogue, part of the handwritten archival collections, the records of the ancient Medical College and the texts of the incunabola and of several other antique printed books.
About three hundred volumes, published between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, donated in 2011 to the Medicine branch of the Biomedical Library. Among the works is a valuable Miscellanea Medico-physica of 1572 and the Commentaries of the humanist doctor Pietro Andrea Mattioli, published in Venice in 1565.
More than six hundred volumes, published between the end of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, and about 200 journals both Italian and foreign, transferred to the Medicine branch of the Biomedical Library between 2010 and 2014. The inventory and reorganisation of this collection have recently been completed by Dr. Riccarda Bernacchi as part of the "Beyond the cure"project, with the support of the Biomedical Library. The antique collection, known as Fondo Magni, collects forty volumes including eye atlases and interesting works of the eighteenth century.
Received as a gift in 1981, it consists of about 600 volumes on medical topics, dating from the nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth.