Every pediatrician is familiar with the Harriet Lane Handbook. Long before the Internet and smart devices were available, pediatric residents were dependent on this “pocket brain” for guidance, and we called upon the wisdom contained within many times each day. It provided valuable information about differential diagnosis, recommendations for workup, and drug dosages, and lots of other information! It was as valuable as our stethoscopes, perhaps even more so, and we were ever so careful as not to misplace our Harriet Lane. It was also filled with scribbles notes we accumulated through our 3 years of residency.
This quote from the preface to the 21st edition of the Handbook details its history:
“The Harriet Lane Handbook was first developed in 1953 after Harrison Spencer (chief resident in 1950–1951) suggested that residents should write a pocket-sized “pearl book.” As recounted by Henry Seidel, the first editor of The Harriet Lane Handbook, “Six of us began without funds and without [the] supervision of our elders, meeting sporadically around a table in the library of the Harriet Lane Home.” The product of their efforts was a concise yet comprehensive handbook that became an indispensable tool for the residents of the Harriet Lane Home. Ultimately, Robert Cooke (department chief, 1956–1974) realized the potential of the handbook, and, with his backing, the fifth edition was published for widespread distribution by Year Book. Since that time, the handbook has been regularly updated and rigorously revised to reflect the most up-to-date information and clinical guidelines available. It has grown from a humble Hopkins resident “pearl book” to become a nationally and internationally respected clinical resource. Now translated into many languages, the handbook is still intended as an easy-to-use manual to help pediatricians provide current and comprehensive pediatric care.”
To this day the Harriet Lane Handbook is an indispensable resource for pediatricians in general practice and hospitalists as well. The hardcopy of the Handbook sells for $50 and one gets free access to the inkling (https://www.inkling.com/read/) presentation of the Harriet Lane content via web site and via the inkling application. Every 3 years a new edition is published, adding new content and updating existing content. The next edition, is due in May of this year.
By the way, there is an “Easter egg” in the Handbook. One of the lab values reported in Harriet Lane does not exist, and this “secret” has been carried forward edition after edition. If you are curious, email me at [email protected] for the answer!