Rare Book Department

Services and hours are subject to change — please call in advance.

Wednesday, February 23 – Message from Staff

"In the Path of Islam" programming has begun! The exhibition is now open on the 3rd floor of Parkway Central, and check out freelibrary.org/pathofislam for the full list of programs and events.

1901 Vine Street, Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open today 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, 5/22 Closed
Monday, 5/23 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, 5/24 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 5/25 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, 5/26 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday, 5/27 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. *
Saturday, 5/28 Closed
  • * Friday has hour changes – preparation for the Memorial Day holiday
Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday Closed

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., May. 30 : Closed Memorial Day
  • Sun., Jun. 19 : Closed Juneteenth
  • Mon., Jun. 20 : Closed Juneteenth (Observed)
  • Mon., Jul. 4 : Closed Independence Day
View all holiday closings

Upcoming Events

Headshots in the Rare Book Department!

Thu, June 2, 2022 1:00 P.M.

Calling all bibliophiles, history lovers, artists, curioseekers, and professionals! The FREE headshot service you love in the Business Resource and Innovation Center  will be offered in…

Headshots in the Rare Book Department!

Thu, June 23, 2022 1:00 P.M.

Calling all bibliophiles, history lovers, artists, curioseekers, and professionals! The FREE headshot service you love in the Business Resource and Innovation Center  will be offered in…

In The Path of Islam: Exhibition and Project Ending July 31, 2022

Now through Sun, July 31, 2022 9:00 A.M.

In the Path of Islam  is a place to share the stories of Islam and celebrate Philadelphia's Muslim communities, with special emphasis on the voices of indigenous African-American…

Happening Now! In the Path of Islam

In the Path of Islam is much more than an exhibition. This community-led project amplifies the voices of Philadelphia's Muslims, who curated exhibits around the city and are leading dozens of programs throughout the spring and summer. The majority of programs are not hosted at the Rare Book Department and will not appear on this page so please make sure to view the full list in our event calendar.

The Rare Book Department is open 9:00 - 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday, with visitors encouraged to explore our galleries. Free tours of the collections are given daily, starting at 11:00 a.m. Our reading room is available by prior appointment only from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Who We Are and What We Do

The Rare Book Department offers free access to exhibitions of historically important books, manuscripts, and works of art from 3,000 BCE to today. Among its collections are thousands of illuminated medieval manuscripts and cuttings; first editions, letters, and manuscripts of important writers, including some of the largest collections of Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe; nearly 50,000 early American children's books; original artwork by Beatrix Potter and other illustrators; Mughal court paintings; and Pennsylvania German fraktur, manuscripts, and printed books. Many, but not all, of the Rare Book Department's holdings have been cataloged or inventoried, but please feel free to contact us for more information about our holdings.

Group visits and educational programs are available by prior arrangement and researchers are invited to make an appointment to use collection materials. Guided tours of the department and the William McIntire Elkins Library are offered Monday through Saturday at 11:00 a.m. with no appointment necessary. For our friends on social media, highlights from our collections are regularly posted to our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. We also have a podcast series, Story Search from Special Collections, available on Anchor or Spotify, with accompanying booklists. We welcome all researchers, by prior appointment, and encourage you to learn more about what you can expect on our Visit page. We love when people use our collections but we ask you contact us for any published use; the Rare Book Department doesn't charge reproduction or use fees, we just want to provide high-resolution images and proper citations where possible.

You can reach the Rare Book Department at 215-686-5416 or by email, or check out some of our most frequently asked questions.