Special collections & collections of note

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All featured collections

The description of featured collections is an ongoing project.

Special collection materials must be consulted in a designated onsite library reading room.

Notable collections include materials that may be borrowed.

All featured collections

Collection groups and major special collections

Collection group webpages provide overviews of collections in particular subject areas. They may include special, notable, and general collections from throughout the Penn Libraries.

Major special collection webpages highlight collections with particular scope and significance.

Special collections

Special collections include rare books, manuscripts, and other materials identified as significant. These collections must be consulted in a designated onsite library reading room.

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Notable collections

Notable collections include materials from throughout the Penn Libraries, not limited to designated special collections.
These collections include materials that may be borrowed.

Collections by library

Bust of Eugene Ormandy

Albrecht Music Library

The Otto E. Albrecht Music Library and Eugene Ormandy Music and Media Center house scores, books on music history and theory, ethnomusicology, jazz, popular music, sound and video recordings. The Kislak Center for Special Collections houses the rare music and collections, including the papers of Marian Anderson, Rudolf Serkin, Alma Mahler Werfel, Eugene Ormandy, Leopold Stokowski, and the Musical Fund Society, Savoy Company, and Marlboro Music Festival.

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Annenberg Library

Annenberg School for Communication Library

The Annenberg School for Communication Library Archives’ collections comprise materials pertaining to communication scholarship, journalism, and broadcast media. Holdings currently include, among other things, the papers of George Gerbner and Elihu Katz, the International Communication Association records, around 50,000 daytime and primetime television scripts from the 1950s through the 1990s, and a growing number of oral histories.

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Map of showing the parts of Russia, East Africa, Middle east, Asia

Area Studies

Penn’s Area Studies Collections encompass materials in African, Chinese, Japanese, Judaic, Korean, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Russian, and South Asian studies, representing the study of more than half of the world’s population. Our special collections boast the largest number of Indic manuscripts and Japanese illustrated books in the Western hemisphere, a unique archive of more than 100,000 archaeological photographs, and an extensive array of colonial-era travelogues from South Asia. In addition, Penn holds manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish from the medieval to modern era; rare printed material from the 19th and 20th centuries from the Middle East and Japan; and a large number of rare works by noted European Orientalists. Growing collections include East Asian comics, colonial-era items from Manchuria, and ephemera in Middle Eastern languages.

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X-Ray Facility: Xenon atom trapped in a cryptophane cage (from the Chemistry Library homepage collage)

Chemistry Library

The Chemistry Library houses print materials that support the teaching and cutting-edge research taking place in Penn's Chemistry Department; as a result, the focus of the collection changes slightly as the research program evolves.  In general, however, we collect in the broad areas of organic, inorganic, physical, theoretical, and biological chemistry.  The full research collection includes over 200 current electronic subscriptions to chemistry-specific journals, and full runs of most core chemistry journals are available in either print or electronic format.  Monographs, collected in either print or electronic format, provide solid background information that supports the Chemistry Department's primary research interests, and the monograph collection is especially strong in organic synthesis and natural products chemistry.

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Image from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Fisher Fine Arts Library

The Fisher Fine Arts Library's Rare Books and Special holds approximately three thousand rare books as well as drawings and historic maps. The foundation of the collection is the single great book of Vitruvius Pollio (ca. 90-20 B.C.E.) together with works by the five figures from the Renaissance period: Alberti, Scamozzi, Serlio, Vignola, and Palladio.  The original collection was established in 1965 by G. Holmes Perkins who served as Dean of Penn's Graduate School of Fine Arts (today's Weitzman School of Design) from 1951 to 1971. While the charter collection is grounded in architecture, city planning, and historic preservation, it has since grown to reflect new areas of study and research within arts and design disciplines. 

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LJS 101 - Boethius - Periermenias Aristotelis..., decorated initial (P), f. 1v

Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

With over 300,000 printed books and codices and over 14,000 linear feet of modern manuscripts, the Kislak Center’s collections span the ancient world to the contemporary era and are global in scope. The collections are interdisciplinary and continue to grow. Particular strengths include but are not limited to medieval and early modern Europe; South Asia; the history of science; and American letters and publishing.

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Image from the title page of Artzney Buchlein wider allerlei Kranckeyten vnd Gebrechen der Tzeen (1520), the first printed book on dentistry

Levy Dental Medicine Library

The Dental Library is home to many curiosities in the form of texts and notable characters from the past. Among the Library’s holdings are a couple of firsts: the first printed book on Dentistry (1530) and the seminal book, Le Chirurgien Dentiste, ou Traité des Dents (1728). Notable collections include that of Thomas W. Evans, preferred dentist to the court of the French 2nd Empire, and Edward Kirk who served as Dean of the School of Dental Medicine from 1896 to 1917. As for notable characters, the School claims both Doc Holliday and Zane Grey as alums.

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Logo of the Library at the Katz CAJS

Library at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The Judaica collections at the Penn Libraries, as a whole, constitute one of the world's largest and richest resources on the history and culture of Jews. The collections are dispersed, mainly, among five library locations: the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, the Library at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library, the Fisher Fine Arts Library, the University Museum, and the Biddle Law Library. The combined holdings currently total between 350,000-400,000 volumes in 24 languages and dialects and in a range of formats from manuscripts to electronic resources.

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Puget Sound Power and Light Company, 1924, p.19, condensed milk has become an important product of this territory

Lippincott Library of the Wharton School

The Lippincott Library's Collection of Historical Annual Reports covers the period 1800 through 1955 for a selection of U.S. companies. The companion web site, Corporate Reports Online,   provides these reports in PDF format and is searchable by company or industry name, year, or words in the text.

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Two manuscript pages from the Berendt Brinton Collection

Penn Museum Library

With over 145,000 volumes on-site at the Penn Museum, the Museum Library’s collections focus on publications on archaeology throughout the world, biological anthropology, cultural and linguistic anthropology, and medical anthropology, as well as archaeological sciences and cultural heritage management. Included are two special collections: the Daniel Garrison Brinton Collection of Rare Books and Pamphlets and a miscellaneous collection of rare books and facsimiles.

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Shelf of comic books

Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center

Aside from housing several subject specific and special libraries, the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center holds over 1,500,000 works written in European Languages and printed from the late 19th century to the present.  The great majority of this material is in the humanities and social sciences, and can be checked out by members of the Penn community. The Van Pelt general collection includes prose, poetry, databases, datasets, videos, graphic novels, comic books, and sound recordings.  Within the larger collection are many sub-collections that are notable for their relevance, general interest, or pedagogical and research importance.  Such collections include Asian-American film, LGBT comic books and graphic novels, African American speculative fiction, and television news footage from the 60s to the present.

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Title page: Bourgelat: Le nouveau Newkastle (Fairman Rogers Collection)

Veterinary: Atwood Library (campus)

The Fairman Rogers Collection comprises over 1,000 titles, ranging from the sixteenth through the mid-twentieth century. The collection includes medical guides, stud books, and books on breed and breeding, as well as titles dealing with shoeing, harnessing, training, riding, driving, racing, and keeping a proper stable. The complete digitized collection is available thanks to the support of the Laurie Landau Foundation.

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No name: Collection groups and major collections

Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie, typescript, 1900, chapter 1, p.1 (detail) (Ms. Coll. 30, Box 126, folder 7075)

American Studies, American Literature, and American Publishing History

The Kislak Center holds numerous collections of manuscripts and printed books relating to American studies, American literature, and the history of publishing in America.

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W Steig_The Artists Gaze_ ED-5_13_UPenn Steig Collection

Art and Architecture Collections (Kislak Center)

Collections related to art and architecture held in the Kislak Center.

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Geniza fragment

Cairo Genizah collections at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania and its Libraries are home to over 650 Cairo Genizah fragments. Penn’s collections, mainly located at the Library at the Katz Center, as well as a collection at the Penn Museum, cover hundreds of years of medieval Mediterranean Jewish and Fatamid history and culture. There are roughly seven distinct subject areas represented in Penn’s collections: Bible, Midrash and Talmud, Liturgy, Secular Poetry, Documents and Letters, Philosophy and Kabbalah, and Miscellaneous items. Among the colletion highlights are the one of the two oldest known fragments of the Passover service, dating from the 11th century CE as well as the one of the longest continuous documents from the Cairo Genizah, a merchant correspondence written in Judeo-Arabic.

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Moses Aaron Dropsie

Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning collections

The Dropsie College Collection comprises approximately 180,000 volumes, including twenty Hebrew incunabula and over 8,000 rare printed works in Hebrew, English, German, Yiddish, Arabic, Latin and Ladino. Non-print materials include 451 codices as well as Cairo Genizah fragments and cuneiform tablets.

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Photograph of Edgar Fahs Smith

Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection

The Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection is devoted to the history of chemistry and collects broadly in that field, emphasizing periods prior to 1900. The collection includes early and modern works on chemistry, alchemy, early medicine and pharmacology, dyeing, metallurgy, mineralogy, and pyrotechnics; biographies of chemists; works on the chemical industry; and the history of chemical education.

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Edwin Forrest as King Lear, lithograph [19th c], Furness Theatrical Image Coll. P/Fo600.18 ML

Edwin Forrest Library and collection

The Edwin Forrest collection documents the career of Forrest (1806-1872), a major nineteenth-century American actor, noted for his Shakespearean roles. Originally housed in the Edwin Forrest Home in Philadelphia, the Forrest Library includes over three thousand titles dating from the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries. 

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Eugene Ormandy, ca. 1950 (Eugene Ormandy Photographs, Ms. Coll. 330)

Eugene Ormandy Collection

Ormandy served as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra (1937-1980) and was the beloved architect of the "Philadelphia sound." The Ormandy Collection includes music scores; papers and correspondence; programs; photographs; recordings; oral histories; and audiovisual material.

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Let 'em go from the Sport of Our Ancestors

Fairman Rogers Collection

The Fairman Rogers Collection includes of over 1,000 titles on horses and horsemanship, many from the personal library of Fairman Rogers (1833-1900), dating from the sixteenth through the mid-twentieth century. The collection holds works ranging from medical guides, stud books, and books on breed and breeding, to titles dealing with shoeing, harnessing, training, riding, driving, racing, and keeping a proper stable.

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Original sign of the Gotham Book Mart

Gotham Book Mart Collection

The Gotham Book Mart was a vital bookstore in the New York literary scene from its creation in 1920 to its closing in 2006. In 2008, after the closure of the bookstore, the Penn Libraries received the remaining stock of books, along with papers and other items from this landmark institution.

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Detail of photograph of Lea's library in his home at 2000 Walnut Street, Philadelphia

Henry Charles Lea Library

The Lea library collects primary materials for the study of the late medieval and early modern period, focusing on the history of the Catholic Church with a special interest in the institutional, legal, and ecclesiastical bases of Church organization and governance during these periods and, most especially, the Inquisition in Europe and Spanish America. Witchcraft and magic are also subjects that the Lea Library collects extensively.

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L. Fiorillo. Bedouins.

Holy Land Collections

Penn's libraries' Holy Land collections include primary sources such as rare manuscripts, early modern printed books, travelogues, early photographs and printed postcards, engraved and hand-illustrated maps and atlases, original archeological artifacts, field reports, and extensive circulating secondary sources.

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Photograph of Horace Howard Furness in the library of his summer home, Lindenshade

Horace Howard Furness Memorial Library

The Furness Memorial Library is devoted to the study of Shakespeare and other Tudor and Stuart dramatists. It includes most writings in English--as well as writings in many other languages--about Shakespeare and virtually all English-language editions of his plays and poems, including , the first four folios, some early quartos, and other editions up to the present time. Promptbooks, biographies, photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and playbills offer rich resources for early stage history.

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Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus in German

Incunable Collection

The Kislak Center holds over 570 exemplars of books printed in Europe from movable type before 1501. Sixty-six of these titles are the only recorded copies in North America. These volumes contain texts in religion, philosophy, and ancient and modern literature.

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Isaac Leeser

Isaac Leeser Collections at the Penn Libraries

The Reverend Isaac Leeser (1806-1868) was a Jewish minister, educator, writer, translator, editor and publisher. He proposed, founded, or led many of early American Jewry’s first civic, religious, and charitable institutions. Penn’s collections of Isaac Leeser historical documents, held at the Library at the Katz Center, include his personal papers, correspondence, drafts of materials for his monthly newspaper the Occident and American Jewish Advocate, as well as his personal library and publications. In sum, they bear witness to Leeser's pioneering efforts to build the infrastructure of organized Jewish life in an English-speaking environment.

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Japanese rare books

Japanese Special Collections

The Penn Libraries collects a variety of Japanese rare materials, including but not limited to books, periodicals, scrapbooks, limited-circulation newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, and art prints. These come to the Libraries both from targeted purchases from Japan, and from gifts in kind. The Penn Libraries, over time, has built on historic strengths and been guided by collection usage in teaching and research, as well as generous gifts and local community member discoveries and donations.

 

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The Pennsylvania March (Philadelphia 1835), Keffer Collection Box 13, no. 35

Keffer Collection of Sheet Music

The Keffer Collection of Sheet Music at the University of Pennsylvania contains 2,531 scores ranging in date from ca. 1790 to 1895. The great majority of the items were published in the United States and approximately 1,150 items were produced by publishers in Philadelphia. The musical content of the collection consists largely of American popular songs and piano music, but also includes works by famous European composers published in the United States.

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LJS 101, Periermenias Aristotelis, folio 1v.

Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection

The Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection includes nearly three hundred manuscripts and documents ranging in date from ca. 1900BC to the 20th century, with particular focus on the eras of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. With its emphasis on the history of science and the transmission of knowledge across time and geography, the Schoenberg Collection brings together many of the great scientific and philosophical traditions of the ancient and medieval worlds. Documenting the extraordinary achievements of scholars, philosophers, and scientists active in pre-modern Europe, Africa, and Asia, the collection illuminates the foundations of our shared intellectual heritage.

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Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, from the Leopold Stokowski Papers

Leopold Stokowski Collection

The Leopold Stokowski Collection includes papers, orchestral scores and transcriptions, research materials, and recordings documenting the musical career of this charismatic conductor.

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Photograph of Lewis Mumford, 1938 (Ms. Coll. 2)

Lewis Mumford collections

Lewis Mumford (1895–1990) was one of the foremost American intellectuals of the twentieth century. The Lewis Mumford Papers and associated collections document Mumford's work as scholar, critic, and teacher, and his personal life.

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Alma Mahler, ca. 1899: Mahler-Werfel Papers, Box 102, item 25

Mahler-Werfel Collection

The Mahler-Werfel Collection includes personal papers of Alma Mahler and Franz Werfel, memorabilia related to Gustav Mahler; research files; and a portion of the library of Alma and Franz Werfel.

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Marian Anderson, Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., April 9, 1939 (Acme Newspictures, Inc.), Marian Anderson Collection of Photographs, item 7.4.1

Marian Anderson Collection

Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was world-renowned as a contralto. The Marian Anderson Collection includes Anderson's personal papers--including letters, music scores, programs, photographs, and sound recordings--and affiliated materials, along with additional donations to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. All of these collections are housed in the Kislak Center.

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Hands of pianist Rieko Aizawa and cellist Paul Tortelier at the piano, 1992. Photo by Peter Checchia.

Marlboro Music School and Festival Records

The Marlboro Music School and Festival Records spans Marlboro’s history from 1950 through 2013 and showcases its influence on chamber music in America as it documents its growth from a small and informally organized summer school in the early 1950s to its current status as a prestigious institution that has shaped careers and inspired the formation of numerous renowned ensembles. The school's emphasis is on the intensive study of chamber music where young and senior professionals collaborate in a relaxed atmosphere that is removed from the demanding rehearsal and performance schedules that they face throughout the year. The collection comprises administrative documents, concert programs, printed promotional materials, articles and reviews, photographs, and audio-visual materials relating to the Marlboro School of Music and annual summer festival as well as the related Musicians from Marlboro touring series and the Marlboro Recording Society.

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Teacher and students, illuminated initial D, LJS 184, f. 1r

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts (Kislak Center)

The Kislak Center possesses over 1500 Western manuscript codices, collections, and fragments dating from ca. 850 to ca. 1700. The 2011 gift of the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection has greatly increased the breadth of Penn's holdings. Manuscript research is supported by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS).

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two pages from the Berendt-Brinton collection

Museum Library Rare Book Collections

The Museum Library houses two special collections: the Daniel Garrison Brinton Collection of Rare Books and Pamphlets and a miscellaneous collection of rare books and facsimiles. In the Franklin catalog, these items will be listed as being held in "University Museum Library - Brinton Collection" or "University Museum Library - Locked Cases."

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Drawing of Rudolf Serkin, Penn Rare blog post

Rudolf Serkin Papers

Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991) was an American classical pianist known as one of the 20th century’s greatest soloists and for fostering a vibrant culture of chamber music via the Marlboro Music School and Festival. The papers consist mainly of materials collected by Serkin himself (including his personal correspondence, performance records, papers relating to Marlboro, Curtis Institute of Music, and the Institute for Young Performing Musicians) as well as a small amount of related material added by his wife and his biographers.

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