Library Resources

Penn Libraries

The Penn Libraries include some of the oldest academic libraries in the country and their collections are particularly valuable to history students. Special collections at the libraries include areas of concentration in classics, history, linguistics, literature, the history of science, religion, anthropology and archeology, with emphasis often on primary sources.

For example, the Henry C. Lea Library, part of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, collects primary materials for the study of the late medieval and early modern period. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds in total over 250,000 printed books, over 10,000 linear feet of manuscript collections, and over 1,500 codex manuscripts.

For the study of European History, the library possesses most of the important serial publications of documents issued in England, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. For U.S. History, extensive collections of federal, state, and municipal documents are available. For the study of Asian History, the library contains one of the most complete collections of South Asian materials in the U.S. as well as extensive holdings in Chinese and Japanese sources.

In addition, the Penn Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library holds approximately 200,000 volumes, including 32 (17 Hebrew and 15 Latin) incunabula and over 8,000 rare printed works, mainly in Hebrew, English, German, French, Yiddish, Arabic, Latin, and Ladino.

A City of Resources

Philadelphia provides not only an amenable and affordable place to live for graduate students, but also an unparalleled constellation of historical museums, libraries, and archives. In addition, there are many historical resources in the city and its environs that afford fine opportunities for original research.

  • The Historical Society of Pennsylvania possesses extensive collections of manuscripts dealing with both the American colonial and national periods, including transcripts of important documentary material from English sources.
  • The Library Company of Philadelphia houses a large collection of European and American books, pamphlets, periodicals, and publications of societies, extending back to the eighteenth century.
  • The Free Library of Philadelphia has extensive holdings of government publications.
  • The American Philosophical Society has important historical manuscripts and pamphlets.
  • The Franklin Institute maintains a library of technical literature that is particularly valuable in the field of science.
  • The collections of the Chemical Heritage Foundation include instruments and apparatus, rare books, fine art, and the personal papers of prominent scientists, all related to the chemical and molecular sciences.
  • The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Historical Library is one of the world's premier research collections in the history of medicine. The unique holdings of the library include 411 incunables (books printed before 1500), an extensive collection of manuscripts and archives, and a comprehensive collection of 19th and early 20th-century medical journals.
  • The Presbyterian Historical Society is headquarted in Philadelphia and serves as both the national archives and historical research center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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