Manuscripts and Handwriting
Most of our manuscripts were collected by John Frederick Lewis, who was interested in the global history of writing. His widow, Anne Baker Lewis, donated several of his collections to the Free Library in 1933.
European Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts
This enormous and world class collection contains more than 250 handwritten books and scrolls and over 3,000 single pages (known as "leaves") and cuttings. Some items are more than 1,000 years old, but most are from the 14th and 15th centuries and include opulent examples of illumination.
Islamic and South Asian Manuscripts
Complementing our European materials is a large collection of Islamic and South Asian manuscripts, leaves, and album paintings. There are more than 150 books and 1,200 works on paper in this collection, primarily in Arabic and Persian, on topics ranging from astronomy to poetry.
Handwriting and Calligraphy
Our collection of handwriting focuses on everyday writing from the 14th century onward, and our small collection of calligraphy spotlights its art and craft around the world.