Rare Book Department

Services and hours are subject to change — please call in advance. Before you visit, please review our new COVID-19 guidelines.

Friday, March 13 – Message from Staff

The Rare Book Department is happy to help with any questions at erefrbd@freelibrary.org and staff is on-site Monday - Friday 9:00a.m. - 5:00 p.m. for reference.

1901 Vine Street, Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open today until 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, 9/27 Closed
Monday, 9/28 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, 9/29 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 9/30 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, 10/1 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday, 10/2 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, 10/3 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • * Monday has hour changes – Closed to public.
  • * Tuesday has hour changes – Closed to public.
  • * Wednesday has hour changes – Covid-19
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., Oct. 12 : Closed Indigenous Peoples' Day
  • Wed., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
  • Thu., Nov. 26 : Closed Thanksgiving Day
  • Fri., Dec. 25 : Closed Christmas Day
View all holiday closings

Upcoming Events

Some Things Last a Long Time: A Medieval Life Virtual Program

Thu, October 1, 2020 12:00 P.M.

This virtual gallery talk focuses on the companion exhibition to Medieval Life: European Manuscripts in Philadelphia Collections . While medieval European manuscripts are just one kind of object, the questions explored in Medieval Life are universal: how people practiced religion, interacted…

Opening soon: Medieval Life: European Manuscripts in Philadelphia Libraries 


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.