Collection Highlights

Early blueprint of the floor plans of the Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Central Library's 75th Anniversary

The Central Library, on Philadelphia's beautiful Benjamin Franklin Parkway, was dedicated on June 2, 1927. Seventy-five years later, it is a dynamic, evolving destination where the world is at your fingertips and you can travel anywhere in time or place through books and multiple electronic media.

Charles Dickens 1838

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was the most popular English writer of the Victorian age whose work continues to be studied, read, and enjoyed. In his career, which spanned a little over 35 years, he wrote 15 novels (if you count the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and countless shorter pieces of fiction and journalism, bringing into the world nearly 1,000 characters, many of them the most memorable characters in all of fiction.

Drawing (Bird on Flower)


Our collection of Pennsylvania German Fraktur and Manuscripts. The Free Library’ collection includes over 1000 pieces of fraktur folk art, 177 handwritten manuscripts, and more than 2000 books and broadsides produced by early German printers in America.

Broad Street Station #3

Historical Images of Philadelphia

This collection documents Philadelphia's past through its neighborhoods, buildings, and events. They are drawn from the Philadelphiana Collection, which contains over 20,000 historical images of Philadelphia. The earliest photograph in the collection dates back to 1841; most are from the latter half of the 19th century, with a few from the early 20th century. These images represent a small fraction of the photographs, drawings, paintings, and ephemera Philadelphiana has to offer.

Portrait of John Sartain

John Sartain

John Sartain was a well-known early 19th-century engraver who lived and worked in Philadelphia for much of his life.

Book of Hours, use of Rome

Medieval Manuscripts

This collection includes most of the kinds of books used between 1000 and 1500 A.D.: prayer books and poetry, Bibles and political propaganda, philosophical works, and fantastic histories. Some manuscripts are elaborate and beautiful works of art; others are humble "owner-produced" books, copied out from a borrowed copy by someone who needed a particular text. Each one tells us something about a long-vanished age.

[Season Centennial pass issued to H.W. Alexande...

United States Centennial Exhibition

We hold the largest extant collection of photographs documenting the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park. Almost all of the 1,283 silver albumen photographs in the Library's Centennial Collection were made by the Centennial Photographic Company. The Company held the sole license for photography issued by the Centennial Commission. The Company was headed by Edward L. Wilson, editor of the premier photographic journal of the time, The Philadelphia Photographer, and William Notman, the famous Scottish-born Canadian photographer. The Centennial Collection also includes twenty-three unmounted albumen photographs of the construction of the Centennial made by Robert Newell & Son during 1875; eighty-six mounted albumen portrait photographs by William Curtis Taylor made at his studio in Philadelphia during the Centennial; and four mounted albumen photographs of the Centennial made by James Cremer.