While the Rare Book & Special Collections at the Fine Arts Library are 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.
Significant examples of Benjamin Franklin's work as a Philadelphia printer are preserved in the Curtis Collection, donated by the Curtis Publishing Company in 1920 and containing more than 300 titles printed by Franklin and his associates between 1719 and 1786.
The Robert Dechert Collection includes over 1600 printed books focusing on American travel, exploration, and Native American relations with settlers. Materials date from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. French Americana and the writings of Las Casas are particular strengths of the collection. A Dechert fund supports ongoing acquisitions.
Penn Dental Medicine is one of the oldest dental schools in the nation. Dr. Thomas W. Evans, a Philadelphia native, who became the dentist to the courts of Europe during France’s Second Empire and confidant of Napoleon III, left his estate in 1897 to create and maintain a dental school that would be “second to none.” Dr. Evans’ collection did not though fund the formation of a dental library that was left to future generations.
The Library at the Katz CAJS is the permanent home of the extant library collection of the Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning. Dropsie College was founded in Philadelphia in 1907 under Jewish auspices. It was established on democratic principles of open admission without regard to “creed, color or sex,” or even financial ability since originally no tuition was charged.