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Special Collections: Manuscripts

I. Program Information

Manuscript acquisitions principally support research and learning in the School of Arts & Sciences (undergraduate and graduate); they also supplement resources for PennDesign, the Annenberg School for Communication, the School of Social Policy & Practice, and the Wharton School. Subject matter, therefore, is broad and not tied to any single department, program, or set of academic units at Penn. Among factors that determine new acquisitions are (1) the relationship to existing collection strengths; (2) the relationship to interdisciplinary and/or developing fields of research and academic study at Penn; and (3) special opportunities to gain strength in a subject area relevant to an academic program at Penn. Manuscript acquisitions are available for consultation by all Penn faculty, students, and staff, as well as scholars and researchers worldwide.

II. Collection Description

Manuscript and archival holdings housed in Special Collections comprise approximately 14,000 linear feet. The number of of codices exceeds two thousand titles, and the number of manuscript collections is approaching 1,000, with an estimate of the number of leaves in the multimillion. The earliest manuscript dates from the sixth century A.D..; the latest is present day. Although English-language materials predominate, Penn holds manuscripts in many foreign languages, including Arabic, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Lithuanian, Persian, Portuguese, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Spanish, Tamil, and Turkish.

Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts were originally acquired for their textual significance and not for their illuminations; current collection development embraces all manner of pre-1601 manuscript materials. Of particular note are the holdings in medieval philosophy and theology; medieval Catholic liturgical and devotional literature, including legends and lives of the saints; rules of religious orders and other items documenting monastic life; late medieval and early modern French and Italian poetry; golden-age Spanish poetry and drama; Aristotle texts and commentaries, mostly in Latin; and materials extensively documenting the history of the papacy and of various Italian city states during the late Middle Ages and early modern period. In 2011 Lawrence J. Schoenberg and Barbara Brizdle signed an agreement with the Penn Libraries to donate their collection of 280 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The LJS Collection traces the reading and interpretation of ancient authorities who had central importance in the history of ideas, including Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy. It prefigures the advances of Copernicus, Descartes, Newton, and Leibniz, and it illuminates lesser-known figures like Nastulus, the inventor of astrolabes, and al-Zahrawi, devisor of medical instruments.

Individuals or institutions for which we are the major repository include American Musicological Society; Marian Anderson; Robert Montgomery Bird; Van Wyck Brooks; James DePreist; Theodore Dreiser; Ray Evans; James T. Farrell; Arthur Huff Fauset; Edwin Forrest; Waldo Frank; Horace Howard Furness, Sr. and Jr.; Wanda Gág; Institute of Contemporary Art; Henry Charles Lea; Horace Liveright; Alma Mahler-Werfel; Marlboro Music School and Festival; Harry Mathews; John W. Mauchly; Lewis Mumford; Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia; Margaret Naumburg; Eugene Ormandy; Maggie Paley; Joseph and Elizabeth Pennell; Philadelphia Art Alliance; Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture; Burton Rascoe; Agnes Repplier; George Seldes; Rudolf Serkin; May Sinclair; Edgar Fahs Smith; Leopold Stokowski; Franz Werfel; Vermont Marble Company; and Carl Zigrosser.

Notable additional holdings include the Benjamin Franklin Papers relating to his residence in France; the Wetherill Collection of business records; the Curtis Publishing Archives containing files from the company's advertising and marketing department; the Brinton Collection relating to Mesoamerican linguistics and anthropology; the U. S. Health Activism History Collection; the William Smith Papers and the William Pepper Papers (both former Provosts of the University of Pennsylvania); the Lemuel R. Boulware Papers related to industrial relations and labor management at General Electric in the 1940s and 50s; related various collections relating to nineteenth-century American theater history; various collections relating to Indian history from the eighteenth through twentieth century; and a collection of over 3,000 manuscripts in various Indic languages (Sanskrit predominates).

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    Materials that originate from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries currently predominate. Codex manuscripts from the Middle Ages through the early modern period are also acquired selectively, as opportunity and programs permit.

  2. Formats

    Archival research materials are acquired in a wide variety of formats. They include but are not limited to codices; personal papers; institutional records; photographic materials; prints; programs; playbills; music scores; original works of art on paper; individual letters, manuscripts, typescripts, and documents; audiotapes and transcripts; and to a lesser extent, various additional forms of realia and moving images.

  3. Geographical

    Emphasis is placed on American and European materials. Materials from India are also acquired selectively.

  4. Language

    The preponderance of materials acquired are English-language. Western European languages are also emphasized. An additional language strength is Sanskrit.

  5. Publication Dates

    500 A.D. to present day

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

Antiquarian dealers' catalogs and offerings; auction catalogs; estate and individual donations

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

 

VI. Subjects Excluded

We have an agreement with the University Archives and Records Center not to collect University records or faculty papers, except for those faculty papers that directly relate to current holdings. We do not actively collect architectural drawings, for which the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania remains the primary repository. We do not actively collect Hebraica, which remains under the purview of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, part of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

Penn's Rare Book & Manuscript Library is the archival repository for the records of the Institute of Contemporary Art and the American Musicological Society; transfers from both organizations are ongoing.
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