Rare Book Department

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Open today until 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, 4/21 Closed
Monday, 4/22 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, 4/23 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 4/24 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, 4/25 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday, 4/26 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, 4/27 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • * Friday has hour changes – staff development day
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

  • Fri., Apr. 26 : Closed staff development day
  • Mon., May. 27 : Closed Memorial Day
  • Thu., Jul. 4 : Closed Independence Day
  • Mon., Sep. 2 : Closed Labor Day
  • Mon., Oct. 14 : Closed Columbus Day
View all holiday closings


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Upcoming Events

Hands-on History at The Free Library, Parkway Central

Sat, May 11, 2:00 P.M.

In coordination with Tempesta di Mare GREAT BOOKS Classic Tales for Orchestra , Hands-on History explores literary masterpieces…

Slam Your Senses

Fri, May 31, 4:00 P.M.

Attention all teens! Join your friends for a special teen reception (this means free food!) followed by a Poetry Slam performance on Friday May 31…

Famous Queer Authors: Hands-on History at The Free Library, Parkway Central

Sat, Jun 8, 2:00 P.M.

Famous Queer Authors On Saturday, June 8th,  the Rare Book Department proudly honors Philly Pride Month with a Hands-on History program,…

Making Pictures: Hands-on History at The Free Library, Parkway Central

Sat, Jul 13, 2:00 P.M.

Making Pictures Art-makers have told stories through their pictures for at least 20,000 years. We won't have anything as old as the Lascaux…

Reading with your fingertips: Hands-on History at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Sat, Aug 10, 2:00 P.M.

Read with your fingertips, and learn about the history of braille, raised type, and moon type. This program is for all ages. This program is…

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…

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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, or check out some of our most frequently asked questions.