Rare Book Department

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-686-5416

"Philadelphia: The Changing City" is now on view in the Rare Book Department's William B. Dietrich Gallery, spotlighting the world-class holdings of the Free Library's Map Collection and Print and Picture Collection. 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

  • Tue., Dec. 25 : Closed Christmas Day
  • Tue., Jan. 1 : Closed New Year's Day
  • Mon., Jan. 21 : Closed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Mon., Feb. 18 : Closed Presidents' Day
  • Fri., Apr. 19 : Closed Good Friday
View all holiday closings

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Upcoming Events

A Free Tour of Philadelphia: The Changing City Exhibition

Tue, Dec 18, 3:00 P.M.

Come and learn about our city’s exciting, dynamic, and often forgotten history with a guided tour of Philadelphia: The Changing City…

A Free Tour of Philadelphia: The Changing City Exhibition

Thu, Dec 20, 3:00 P.M.

Come and learn about our city’s exciting, dynamic, and often forgotten history with a guided tour of Philadelphia: The Changing City…

Hands-on History at The Free Library, Parkway Central

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

The Better Philadelphia exhibition of 1947 symbolized a key moment in Philadelphia’s history of planned change. Designed by planners and…

The Lost Islands of the Delaware River: An illustrated lecture by Adam Levine, Environmental Historian

Thu, Jan 31, 6:00 P.M.

Smith’s and Windmill Islands once sat in the Delaware River channel, between Center City Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey. Join Adam…

Hands-on History at The Free Library, Parkway Central

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

In this month's Hands-on History we celebrate Philly Theatre Week, as we explore materials relating to two of the most famous…

Hands-on History at The Free Library, Parkway Central

Sat, Feb 16, 2:00 P.M.

A son of formerly enslaved people, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906) was one of the first African American authors to become world-famous for…

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Check out some highlights of our recent exhibition, In Our Nature: Flora and Fauna of the Americas 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.