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.

Engraved portrait of Charles Dickens, 1838. Engraved by Edward Stodard from a drawing by Samuel Laurence.

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.

Digital Collection Catalog

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.

Digital Collection Catalog

Lacquered painting on wood, illustration for the <i>Vicar of Wakefield</i> by George Cruikshank, in the Free Library's Rare Book Department.

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.

Digital Collection Catalog