Free Library of Philadelphia

NUC Symbol: PP

Special Collections Division

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-686-5416 voice
215-563-3628 (in ILL dept) fax

Monday-Saturday 9-5
Tours of the collections 11:00 a.m.
The Department does not schedule readers on Saturday



The Rare Book Department is one of the largest among public libraries in the United States. Its holdings span a period of over 4,000 years and number about 100,000 books and manuscripts. The Library's first gift of rare book was received in 1899, when the institution was only five years old. Others followed through the years and in 1949 the bequest of the entire private library of William McIntire Elkins, together with the paneled room which housed it, led to the opening of the Rare Book Department.

The collections include Sumerian cuneiform tablets; illuminated manuscripts of Europe and the Near East; incunabula; editions of the works of Horace; books and manuscripts illustrative of the development of the Common Law; Americana; manuscripts, letters and printed works of Oliver Goldsmith, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe; early American children's books including the publications of the American Sunday School Union; Pennsylvania-German Fraktur and printed books; and original drawings and books illustrated by Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, Arthur Rackham, A.B. Frost, Robert Lawson, Munro Leaf, and Howard Pyle and his students.