Rare Book Department

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

"Our 5 Senses" is now open in the William B. Dietrich Gallery. This fully interactive family-friendly exhibition highlights materials from the Children's Literature Research Collection and the Rare Book Department. As always, treasures from Rare Book Department collections can be viewed in our hallway galleries.

Open today 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., Sep. 2 : Closed Labor Day
  • Mon., Oct. 14 : Closed Columbus Day
  • Mon., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
  • Thu., Nov. 28 : Closed Thanksgiving Day
  • Wed., Dec. 25 : Closed Christmas Day
View all holiday closings


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Upcoming Events

Our 5 Senses Community Day

Sun, Sep 8, 1:00 P.M.

On Sunday, September 8, join us with your family in the Rare Book Department for a special Storytime in celebration of the Our 5 Senses…

Famous Toys and Their Creative Protections: Hands-on History at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Sat, Sep 14, 2:00 P.M.

Famous Toys and Their Creative Protections Ever wonder how your favorite toys came to be? Come and play with your best loved toys- Legos®,…

Life at Sea: A Rare Book Voyage

Sat, Oct 12, 2:00 P.M.

Life at Sea: A Rare Book Voyage Join us for an afternoon voyage into the Free Library of Philadelphia’s rare book collections. We’ll…

The Art of Suggestion: American Propaganda in Times of War and Peace. Part of the Hands-on History Series at The Free Library Parkway, Central

Sat, Nov 9, 2:00 P.M.

The Art of Suggestion: American Propaganda in Times of War and Peace Published as a method to inform the public, propaganda can be used as a…

Charles Dickens: Part of the Hands-on History Series at The Free Library, Parkway Central

Sat, Dec 14, 2:00 P.M.

Charles Dickens: Part of the Hands-on History at The Free Library, Parkway Central Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was one of the most successful…


Opening May 13: Our 5 Senses, a family-friendly interactive exhibition of science, technology, and literature.

For now: check out some highlights of our recent exhibition, Philadelphia: The Changing City in our Digital Collections.


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