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Belt (Elmer) Collection of Vinciana Graphic Arts
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The Elmer Belt collection of Vinciana graphic arts is a special collection of original artwork, original printed lithographs, and materials concerning Leonardo da Vinci and the Italian Renaissance. It was donated to UCLA in 1961 by Dr. Elmer Belt, Professor Emeritus in the UCLA School of Medicine and a collector of Vinciana for more than sixty years.
Elmer Belt, M.D. (1893-1980), was a Los Angeles area urologist, bibliophile, and humanist who was instrumental in the founding of the School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). An avid book collector, Dr. Belt became an expert on Leonardo da Vinci and his time, amassing a large and important collection of books and other material related to da Vinci's life and work. He donated this collection to UCLA in 1961. Born Arthur Elmer Belt in Chicago, Illinois on April 10, 1893, his family moved to Los Angeles when he was nine and then to a small ranch in Orange County near Anaheim. Elmer Belt (the form of name he preferred) entered Los Angeles High School in 1907 and enrolled in Latin, a medical school prerequisite. There he met Ruth Smart whom, he said, he "never subsequently permitted out of my sight." The two were married in 1918. Dr. Belt began collecting books as a student in 1909 with works by Upton Sinclair; in 1934 he became involved with Sinclair's campaign for governor of California. The Upton Sinclair collection was eventually donated to Occidental College. Dr. Belt attended the University of California at Berkeley, obtaining a B.A. in 1916 and an M.A. in 1917. He attended the University of California Medical School in San Francisco and was chosen as a fellow of the Hooper Institute for Medical Research, working with Dr. George Whipple and Dr. Frank Hinman. After finishing medical school in 1920 Dr. Belt continued working in urology with Dr. Hinman. Early in his medical school career, Dr. Belt signed up for a non-credit elective course in the History of Medicine taught by Dr. George Washington Corner, an anatomist who had recently come to the University of California from Johns Hopkins University. It was in this class that Dr. Belt developed his fascination with and devotion to Leonardo da Vinci, inspiring the vast library of Vinciana he eventually donated to UCLA. Subsequently his collecting fervor also included Silas Weir Mitchell and Florence Nightingale and in the 1930s Dr. Belt began working with Los Angeles bookseller Jake Zeitlin to fulfill these and other ambitious collecting interests. After a year as Resident in Urology with Dr. Hinman in San Francisco, Dr. Belt spent a year as Resident in General Surgery at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, working under Dr. Harvey Cushing. In 1923, the Belts moved to Los Angeles where Elmer began a private practice. He soon established the Elmer Belt Urologic Group, a group practice which moved to its own building on Wilshire Boulevard in 1936; the upper floor of this structure housed his ever-expanding library. From 1939 through 1954 Belt served as the President of the State Board of Public Health, having been first appointed by California Governor Culbert Olsen and then reappointed by Governor Earl Warren for each of Warren's three terms in office. Dr. Belt had privileges as a staff, attending, or consulting urologist at many hospitals around Los Angeles County and taught as Clinical Professor of Surgery (Urology) in the UCLA School of Medicine. He was instrumental in the founding of the UCLA School of Medicine and finding its first dean, and continued as its staunch supporter throughout his life. Elmer Belt died on May 17, 1980 at age 87.
14 Linear Feet
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