Don't know where to start? Let these librarian-written guides shape your search.

Searching for Rare Book Department holdings

Only some of the Rare Book Department’s holdings appear in the Free Library’s online catalog. You will find bibliographic records (with call numbers that begin with RBD) for books and periodicals in the following collections listed in the FLP Catalog:

  • Early American children’s books (before 1850) including the A.S.W. Rosenbach and Frederick Gardner Collections, additions, and some English and European imprints (RBD ROS; RBD CB)
  • The American Sunday School Union Collection (RBD ASSU)
  • Beatrix Potter Collection (RBD BP)
  • Arthur Rackham Collection (RBD RA)
  • Kate Greenaway Collection (RBD GR)
  • Department reference books (Dewey call no.)
  • Medieval European Manuscripts. Also available as a Digital Collection

Search strategy tips:

For the most basic search: Search the FLP Catalog by author/title/subject and limit By Location (Rare Book Department). Limiting to Rare Book Department will eliminate holdings in branches and other Central departments.

To see the entire record, including the notes fields, click on any of the results provided from your search.

To search by illustrator, printer, publisher, or place of imprint: select author > type search.

To search the notes field: select Keyword search.

The following collections have printed book catalogs that are available at the Free Library and may be available at other research or university libraries:

John Frederick Lewis Collection of European Manuscripts
  • Edwin Wolf 2nd. A Descriptive Catalogue of the John Frederick Lewis Collection of European Manuscripts in The Free Library of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1937.
John Frederick Lewis Collection of Oriental Manuscripts
  • Mohammed Ahmed Simsar. Oriental Manuscripts of the John Frederick Lewis Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1937.
Hampton L. Carson Law Collection
  • Catalogue of the Hampton L. Carson Collection Illustrative of the Growth of the Common Law in the Free Library of Philadelphia. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1962.
Pennsylvania German Fraktur
  • Frederick Weiser and Howell J. Heaney. The Pennsylvania German Fraktur of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Breinigsville: The Pennsylvania German Society and The Free Library of Philadelphia, 1976.
Oliver Goldsmith
  • Temple Scott. Oliver Goldsmith Bibliographically and Biographically Considered. New York: The Bowling Green Press, 1928.

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Catalogs or finding aids for most of the department’s other collections are available in the Rare Book Department, including:

  • Joseph E. Widener Collection of European Manuscripts(checklist)
  • Pennsylvania German imprints, broadsides, and reference books. (card file)
  • J.F. Lewis Collection of Illuminated Manuscript Leaves (card file)
  • J.F. Lewis Text Leaves (card file)
  • J.F. Lewis Oriental Miniatures (checklist with reproductions)
  • Works of Charles Dickens (card files)
  • Elkins Americana (checklist)
  • Moncure Biddle Collection of Horace (card file)
  • Frederick R. Gardner Collection of Robert Lawson (checklist)
  • Incunabula (annotated copy of Goff’s Incunabula in American Libraries, 1964)
  • The Thornton Oakley Collection of Howard Pyle and His Students: books, letters, manuscripts, and art (card file)
  • D. Jacques Benoliel Collection of James Branch Cabell (card file)
  • The Works of A. Edward Newton (checklist)

Literary And Historical Manuscript Collections (Letters, Signed Documents And Literary Manuscripts) have their own finding aids in the Rare Book Department:

  • Lewis Autographs of Engravers. (Autographs, notes, letters and receipts from 17th and 18th century British engravers).
  • D. Jacques Benoliel Collection of the Letters of Charles Dickens, also includes manuscripts, documents, illustrations and Dickens circle letters.
  • Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham and Kate Greenaway. Letters, manuscripts, artwork, and ephemera.
  • Presidential Autographs. These letters and signed documents are catalogued within the Historical Manuscripts finding aid.
  • Jay Treaty Papers. Part of the Elkins Americana Collection.
  • Historical Manuscripts. Other miscellaneous historical manuscripts and letters.
  • Literary Manuscripts. Other miscellaneous literary manuscripts and letters, including Samuel Clemens, Joseph Conrad, Bret Harte, George Bernard Shaw, James Branch Cabell, Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde.
  • The Col. Richard Gimbel Collection of Edgar Allan Poe. Manuscripts and letters.

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