Founded in 1731, the library that once served our founding fathers now serves the nation as an internationally renowned research center. Since the days of Benjamin Franklin, the collection has grown to more than half a million rare books, manuscripts, pamphlets, broadsides, prints, and photographs, making the Library Company one of the nation’s largest collections of printed and graphic materials relating to early American history.
The Library Company’s holdings include nearly a million rare books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and graphics documenting every aspect of American history and culture through the end of the 19th century. Its strengths include: African Americana; American science & technology, economics, art & architecture, agriculture, natural history, education, philanthropy, and medicine; art and architecture; German-Americana; gift books; the history of printing and publishing; serials, American Judaica; the history of women, domestic economy, and family life; printmaking, mapmaking, and photography in Philadelphia; music; and the libraries of James Logan and Benjamin Franklin.
The Library Company of Philadelphia maintains high cataloging standards, allowing readers multiple avenues through which they may access the collection.
The Library Company’s online catalog allows researchers to search nearly 100% of the Library Company’s rare books collection and over 22,000 descriptive catalog records representing approximately 50,000 items or roughly 65% of our graphic holdings.
Our digital collections feature a growing number of the Library Company’s graphic, ephemera and bindings collections. It complements and supplements the descriptive records in our online catalog, and the online exhibitions and featured collections mounted on our website. The online repository currently contains over 50,000 records representing numerous digital collections. The Library Company gratefully acknowledges the support of the Fidelity Foundation, which provided funding for the creation of this access system.
View our extensive list of subject guides to learn more about our collection strengths, including African Americana; American science, technology, economics, architecture, agriculture, natural history, education, philanthropy, and medicine; German-Americana; the history of printing and publishing; American Judaica; the history of women, domestic economy, and family life; printmaking, mapmaking, and photography in Philadelphia; and the libraries of James Logan and Benjamin Franklin.
A Learning Community
There are many additional ways to get involved with America’s first lending library.
The Library Company has had a hand in digital humanities since it launched its first online exhibition in 1999. With well over two decades of experience we continue to collaborate with scholars and educators to create exceptional online resources.
The Library Company provides a wide range of opportunities for scholars to collaborate. Through lectures, seminars, colloquia, workshops, and conferences we strive to provide an atmosphere for discussion, debate, and learning. Many events are free and open to the public.