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Collections Development Policies


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Bibliographer: Bob Walther, 215-898-5333,

I. Program Information

The Department of Philosophy includes a standing faculty of 13 and enrolls between thirty and thirty-five students in its graduate program. The Department offers a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. as well as two joint programs: a M.D.-Ph.D.program and a J.D.-Ph.D program. In addition to the undergraduate major in philosophy, it also participates in the new undergraduate major Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). The Department offers graduate courses in the major periods of the history of philosophy as well as in the major fields of and approaches to contemporary philosophy. It supervises advanced research in a number of areas, including metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of mind, logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of law, and historical as well as contemporary philosophy. In line with a long-standing tradition at Penn, the Department plans to continue building in three main areas: first, the history of philosophy; second, the intersection of metaphysics, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and philosophy of psychology; third, the Department seeks to offer a comprehensive program in ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of law.

The Department's special strengths in ancient philosophy are complemented by Penn's strong program in Classics, its strengths in the history of modern philosophy by Penn's general strength in intellectual history. The University as a whole has strong commitment to cognitive science and members of the Departments of Philosophy, Psychology, Computer and Information Science (SEAS), and Linguistics cooperate in a non-Degree graduate program as well as in the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science.

II. Collection Description

Because of the importance of philosophy to the University's curriculum throughout much of its history, the Library has a strong collection in this field. The precise size of the collection is hard to determine since it has evolved over many decades and is shelved according to several classification schemes. A rough estimate might put it at 62,000 volumes. The Library aims to acquire all standard critical editions and current works in both the historical and systematic areas of philosophy. The Special Collections Department includes approximately 600 Aristotle and pseudo-Aristotelian texts and commentaries written before 1750, both published and manuscript. The Lea Library is strong in late medieval and Renaissance philosophy. The Yarnall Collection is strong in medieval philosophy and theology. The Schrecker Collection, acquired in 1963, contains 5000 volumes on the history of modern philosophy from Descartes to Hegel, with special emphasis on Leibniz. The Library has also acquired 35 rolls of microfilm containing unpublished manuscripts and letters of Leibniz. The Library currently maintains subscriptions to roughly 115 philosophy journals.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    All periods: Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Modern and Contemporary.

  2. Formats

    Books, monographic series and print journals account for most of the material acquired. Dissertations are collected generally only by request. German Habilitationsschriften in philosophy, however, are currently collected. Microfilm is acceptable when necessary. Digital electronic texts, both as CD-ROM and via remote Web servers, have begun to be added to the collection.

  3. Geographical

    Primary emphasis is on Europe and North America. See separate collection policy statements for African, East Asia, South Asia, and Middle Eastern (including Islamic) materials. Jewish philosophy is covered in the policy statement for Religious Studies.

  4. Language

    Mainly Greek, Latin, French, German and English. Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish and Russian are collected selectively.

  5. Publication Dates

    No restrictions, but emphasis is on current material. Older material is purchased selectively to fill gaps in the collection.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

In addition to the Library's major approval plan for both university and trade publications in the U. S., there are smaller scale approval plans for German (Harrassowitz), and French (Touzot) and Italian (Casalini) language material. These are also supplemented by slip plans from the same vendors. Philosophy journals are scanned for book reviews, publication announcements and "books received " lists.

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

VI. Subjects Excluded


VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

The American Philosophical Society Library is strong in the history of modern philosophy, especially the eighteenth century. Other strong philosophy collections in the Mid-Atlantic region to which Penn faculty and students have access include Princeton, and Columbia Universities.
Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Ancient Philosophy 4/4W
Medieval Philosophy 4/4W
Renaissance Philosophy 4/3W
Modern Philosophy 4/4W
Modern Philosophy 4/4W
Aesthetics 3/4W
Epistemology 3/4W
Ethics 4/4W
Logic 3/4W
Metaphysics 3/4W
Philosophy of Language 2/4W
Philosophy of Mind 4/4W
Philosophy of Religion 4/4W
Philosophy of Science 3/4W
Political, Social & Legal Philosophy 3/4W