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The Walter & Leonore Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The intellect flourishes in this Ivy League inner sanctum


The Experience

Modern elevator doors open onto a hall paneled in authentic medieval oak, carved to represent open books. To the left is a gallery lined with cases featuring highlights from the collections as diverse as American poetry to the Italian Renaissance, from the papers of Marian Anderson (with a dedicated Website) to a collection of Shakespearean promptbooks.

A glass door leads to the reading room where scholars and students consult selections from 250,000 of the library’s rarities. At the other end, another door opens up onto an unforgettable bit of authenticity: a Victorian library interior built in 1881 by Henry Charles Lea, Philadelphia publisher and reformer. Lea’s love of books is readily apparent in this living tribute to the printed word.


Roots of the Ivy League go deep at the Van Pelt Library. On the sixth floor is an inner sanctum with a stunning array of book and manuscript collections mostly assembled in the 19th century and acquired by the university in the 20th century. They document nothing less than the history of intellect.

Other Information

Open Mon – Sat during the academic year

Insider Tip

Henry Charles Lea was the nation’s first historian of the European middle ages and had a special passion for magic and witchcraft. In his paneled library, which originally graced his house 14 blocks to the east, Lea wrote about the Inquisition.

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