Rare Book Department

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Open today until 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., May. 28 : Closed Memorial Day
  • Wed., Jul. 4 : Closed Independence Day
  • Mon., Sep. 3 : Closed Labor Day
  • Mon., Oct. 8 : Closed Columbus Day
  • Sun., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
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Upcoming Events

Save money solarizing your house, and help save the planet!

Now through Tue, May 15, 2018 6:00 P.M.

On Tuesday, May 15 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA) will give an enganging presentation on  Solarize Philly  and how this program is helping make solar affordable for all Philadelphians. The presentation will be in the historic Elkins Library in…

Adult Senior Exhibitions Community Events Speakers and Lectures Art Environment & Nature Free Library of Philadelphia Programs & Services Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Digital Collections History Humanities

In Our Nature: Flora and Fauna of the Americas

Now through Sat, September 15, 2018 5:00 P.M.

An Exhibition in the Rare Book Department's William B. Dietrich Gallery (3rd floor) April 9 - September 15, 2018 The ecology of the Western Hemisphere has been shaped by human intervention. Landscapes and wildlife have been helped, hindered, moved, lost, displaced, and replaced, including a…

Adult Young Adult Senior Exhibitions Art Environment & Nature Literacy Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Digital Collections Science Social Science Special Collections History Animals and Nature Humanities Book Arts

Opening April 9!

In Our Nature: Flora and Fauna of the Americas investigates how the ecology of the Western Hemisphere has been shaped by human intervention.   

Landscapes and wildlife have been helped, hindered, moved, lost, displaced, and replaced, including a native American cactus that nearly conquered Australia, the fantastic “sea unicorn” that became the narwhal, and the gone-but-not-forgotten Carolina parakeet. Six centuries of illustrations of the natural world, from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego, demonstrate human attempts to profit from, understand, metaphorically transform, and celebrate both native and introduced species.

Stay tuned here for exciting programs both here in the Rare Book Department and elsewhere in the Free Library!

In Our Nature is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., through September 15, 2018. Or check out a small sampling of the highlights on view 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.