The Penn Libraries comprise fifteen physical libraries on the main campus and Center City Philadelphia. With more than seven million volumes, a vast digital collection, and millions of manuscript items, it is the premier research collection of the region and a destination for scholars world wide.
At their core, the Libraries boast a distinctive collection of special collections. Some three centuries in the making, they bear the imprint of Penn’s founders and illustrious faculty, from the private collections of Franklin to the historian Charles Henry Lea and Eniac inventor, John Mauchly. These Special Collections are also the product of dedicated scholar-librarians, who have built, not the largest, but surely one of the more distinctive cultural resources in the Ivy League.
The Special Collections Center, based in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, is home to these extraordinary primary source collections and the backdrop for a world-class series of public events which attract scholars and public alike. These include the renowned A.S.W. Rosenbach Lectures and the Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age.
The Center is also the venue for a lively program of exhibitions which showcase the book arts and the intellectual culture of civilizations ancient and modern. Visitors can view a rare edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, a Shakespeare first folio, autographed letters of Benjamin Franklin, rare photos and recordings of Marian Anderson, fragments of ancient papyri, and the home movies of Theodore Dreiser. The Center’s exhibitors also include contemporary artists, craftsmen, book designers, and historians of science.