About This Project

Digitizing the Rare Book Department’s Pennsylvania German Collections

The Free Library of Philadelphia developed the Fraktur Digital Collection with the support of a three-year project grant from the Barra Foundation. The Pennsylvania German manuscripts were conserved and digitized with a Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The primary goal of these projects is to provide an up-to-date catalog of the Free Library’s Pennsylvania German holdings and to make these unique resources accessible to the broadest possible audience using innovative research technologies.

Visiting the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia

The Rare Book Department is free and open to the public, located on the third floor of Parkway Central, 1901 Vine Street. Visitors are welcome to view our exhibitions during our hours of operation, Monday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or stop by for our daily public tour of the department at 11:00 a.m.

If you are interested in consulting a particular item, please contact us at 215-686-5416 or erefRBD@freelibrary.org to request a research appointment. Find out more about our policies for researchers

Reproduction Services

Patrons interested in obtaining high-resolution images from our collections (for personal research use or for publication) are requested to visit our Reproduction Services page to initiate a reproduction request.

Please note the Free Library does not determine questions of copyright or licensing and reserves the right to decline to provide any of its images for any reason and at its discretion. Reproduction and licensing fees help support the collections, services, and programs of the Free Library of Philadelphia.


As a public institution, the Free Library of Philadelphia is committed to giving the broadest possible audience access to its collections. In 2007, the Free Library received a generous grant from the Barra Foundation to digitize the fraktur documents in our extensive Rare Book collection. In 2011 the Free Library was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant through the Save America’s Treasures program to conserve and digitize its small but significant collection of Pennsylvania German manuscripts. The goal of both of these projects was to dramatically increase access to these collections for scholars, local historians, and genealogists, and to give the general public greater awareness of this resource.

The Free Library of Philadelphia also aims to continue serving as a management model to other public libraries, providing guidance for expanding access to special collections through digitization. The project’s technical design incorporates industry standards and best practices for image capture, storage and metadata, as well as emerging digitization tools for the highest possible quality, sustainability and adaptability well into the future.

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