How to Search the Collections
The Library Company of Philadelphia has a wealth of information about its collections available online, including digitized images and curated content.
- Become acquainted with our Subject Guides. These guides focus on the strengths of our collections. The list is not exhaustive, but instead helps broadly frame our areas of expertise and provides links to collections of note.
- Contact our staff with reference questions. Our reference librarians have an invaluable knowledge of the Library Company’s collections.
- Please read our Potentially Harmful Materials and Descriptions Statement which includes a form for submitting feedback about potentially harmful aspects of our collections
- Narrow Your Search By Type:
The Library Company’s catalog encompasses our vast collection of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and other materials. Anyone can access the catalog to explore the library’s holdings, discover specific items, and plan their research more effectively. Although the catalog serves as an organized and searchable inventory of most items held by the library, it’s important to note that it may not be all inclusive, particularly for graphic arts materials.
- Search Hints:
- Take advantage of advanced search features.
- Use the first column of drop down options to apply Boolean operators and, or and not in your search. For example, you could search [proprietary] or [popular] and [medicine] to retrieve all records having proprietary or popular in them, together with the word medicine.
- Use the second column of drop down options to search by keyword, subject, title, call number, author, publisher, publisher location, and more.
- Towards the bottom of the advanced search page, you can find options to limit your search by item type, publication date, and language. You may also choose to sort results by relevance, or ordered by author, call number, date, or title
- See this guide to access terms used in the Library Company’s catalog records.
- Lowercase letters will find matches of capitalized words also. For example, abolition will find matches for abolition, Abolition and ABOLITION.
- Use the * or % character to find matches that contain portions of words. For example, slave* will retrieve slave, slaves, slavery, slaveholders, etc. In another example, *manship will retrieve penmanship, horsemanship, workmanship, etc. The % character may be used to find variant spellings. For example, Smi% will find Smith, Smothers, Smelley, etc.
- Take advantage of advanced search features.
The bulk of the Library Company’s 550 linear feet of manuscripts are on deposit at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Finding aids are available online through the Library Company’s index on the Philadelphia Area Archives (PAA).
To request manuscripts you will need to have the collection name, item title, and any other relevant inventory information provided, such as series title/number, box, volume, and folder number.
The Library Company’s online exhibitions are curated digital displays that bring together a selection of documents, manuscripts, books, graphics, and other historical artifacts from the collection.
The Library Company of Philadelphia maintains over 200 digital collections, including over 45,000 images of prints, photographs, and ephemera, as well as some manuscripts, books, pamphlets, and more. These digital collections continue to grow.
Some Library Company collection items have been digitized through the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) and can be accessed only through those project sites. For instance, digital copies of our medieval manuscripts are available through Bibliotecha Philadelphiensis, and Dr. Benjamin Rush’s medical lectures and notes are available through For the Health of the New Nation.
The Library Company provides online access to over 36 databases with digitized primary and secondary source material. Resources are tagged by time period and topic. Certain online resources are subscription-based and can only be used on-site when connected to the Library Company’s wifi. Those resources include:
- Accessible Archives
- Alexander Street Press
- Ancestry Library Edition
- America’s Historical Imprints, including sub-collections such as:
- African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1922
- African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle
- African History and Culture, 1540-1921
- Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922
- Black Authors, 1556-1922
- Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920
- Evans, 1639-1800
- Evans: Supplement from LCP
- Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819
- Shaw-Shoemaker: Supplement from LCP
- House and Senate Journals
- Early American Newspapers, Pennsylvania
- Evans Digital Edition, 1639-1800
- Global Commodities
- Popular Medicine in America