In their authors’ note, “Chris” Ball and “Rod” Westhorpe introduce this hardcover book as representing “an evolution – of the Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History, the Anaesthesia and Intensive Care  journal and of anesthesia as a specialty.” In this long-awaited book, these honorary curators of the Geoffrey Kaye Museum have collated and expanded the cover notes that they penned from 1989 to 2011 for volumes 17–39 of the Australian journal Anaesthesia and Intensive Care . Revised but sequenced chronologically in their order of publication as cover notes, these “historical notes” fall naturally into the following unofficial groupings: clearing the airway, inhalers and vaporizers, flowmeters, intravenous and induction agents and equipment, local anesthesia, muscle relaxants, inhalation agents, patient monitoring, and analgesics and premedication.

Strengths of Historical Notes  include its scholarly content, pleasing readability, and splendid photography. The book’s weaknesses are those reflected by all such books. It represents a sampler of apparatus and pharmaceuticals and is consequently discontinuous in its timeline. Any such gallery-based book also manifests a geographic bias favoring the museum’s location (Melbourne, Australia) and the collecting bias of its founder (Geoffrey Kaye). Fortunately for the authors, Kaye traveled and collected widely. As illustrated throughout Historical Notes , anaesthetist Kaye was also a gifted machinist who enjoyed “sectioning” through apparatus for educational exhibits. Historical Notes  guides both professional and lay readers through an exhilarating review of anesthesia and analgesia through the ages, but particularly through the past 170 yr. The book’s end notes provide a bonanza of information for scholars. The 11-page index is similarly useful to both researchers and readers at large.

Because my own children have never grasped the historical tradition behind what anesthesiologists actually do for a living, I purchased a copy of Historical Notes  as a holiday gift for each of them. Whether buying for a library or a loved one, anesthesiologists will be hard pressed to find a better researched or better illustrated “coffee table book” in our specialty. Finally, an anesthesia book that does not induce general anesthesia!

A limited private printing by the Australian Society of Anaesthetists, this book can only be ordered from the merchandise section of the Society website.*

Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, and Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Park Ridge, Illinois.