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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Lippincott Library of the Wharton School: Collection groups and major collections