Library Company of Philadelphia

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Address and Contact Info

Address: 1314 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107-5698

Phone: (215) 546-3181

Fax: (215) 546-5167


Web page:

Director: John C. Van Horne

Online Finding Aid:

Archivists (principal contacts for advice on the collection):

Hours and usage restrictions

Collection Summary

The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library with collections documenting every aspect of the history and background of American culture from the colonial period to the Civil War. A rare book collection of national importance, its holdings number 450,000 books, 75,000 graphics, and 160,000 manuscripts. These collections are available to all serious researchers without charge.

From its founding in 1731 through the 19th century, the Library Company actively collected books, newspapers, pamphlets, and prints, British and continental as well as American, reflecting all the varied interests of its learned and cosmopolitan clientele. These materials have been reorganized to form an unparalleled collection of primary research materials, constantly augmented by gift and purchase, which provides a comprehensive representation of American print culture in the 18th and 19th centuries. The following areas receive particular attention: Afro-Americana; American science, technology, architecture, agriculture, natural history, education, philanthropy, and medicine; business and economic history; German-Americana; American Judaica; Philadelphia area history; the history of printing, book collecting, and reading; women’s history; household and family life; popular literature; and printmaking, mapmaking, and photography in Philadelphia.

The Library Company maintains a reciprocal housing agreement with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in which the historical society’s rare book collection is housed in the Library Company and the Library Company’s manuscript collection is housed in the historical society. Included in the Library Company’s manuscripts are several important collections: the papers of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière, an 18th-century ephemera collector and artist; Benjamin Rush, the physician and Revolutionary War patriot; and John A. McAllister, an early Philadelphia antiquarian. There is a relatively small museum collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, and an assortment of relics and objects dating from the 18th century (when the library maintained a “cabinet of curiosities” for research purposes) through the 1890s. Many of the items are displayed in public areas of the library.

Readers are assisted in their research by a knowledgeable staff. The Library Company provides a web site for further information about the library and its collections, with links to an online catalog of records for books, prints, serials, broadsides, and collections (WolfPAC) and to a second catalog for digital image collections (ImPAC).

Usage Discussion

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