The library was established in 1791 and rapidly grew until by the end of the 19th century it was one of the great collections of medical literature. Its use then declined as it was replaced, for up-to-date information, by the University library. In 1967 a large part of the library was sold at Sotheby's, but much local material was retained. Items continue to be added through the generosity of members and friends and there is now a valuable collection of books and articles relating to medical history, particularly local.
The late Dr Ian Porter, the Society's Librarian from 1970 to 1980, left a large and valuable collection of books and papers to the library. These have been catalogued separately as the Ian Porter Collection.
Manuscript material includes:
- A complete set of minutes from 1789;
- Volumes of papers delivered to the Society from 1789 onwards;
- Manuscript volumes of text-books and student's notes from 1776;
- 60 Volumes of records of his military service kept by Sir James McGrigor, including his account of the Peninsular Campaign when he was Director-General of the Medical Services.
There is also a large collection of medical instruments and other artifacts dating back to the 18th century.