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Pictured: Haverford College Libraries Quaker and Special Collections

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Libraries & Literature

Books were always so abundant and access to them so easy in Philadelphia, that scores of libraries and archives preserving national treasure have long offered their own brand of memorable visits.

Encountering a pamphlet that changed history, or discovering a long-ignored fact about the life of an ancestor can be both educational and life affirming.

You can sample these experiences over the course of a day or two, and many older repositories can be found in vintage landmark buildings, on public squares, on side streets, and tucked away on college campuses.

Featured Listings

  • Haverford College Libraries Quaker and Special Collections

    All things Quaker on a quiet Main Line campus

    The Haverford College Library.

    Ever since the Quaker founders of Haverford College set to work here in 1833, the library has grown into a dedicated repository for exceptional collections. In addition to materials that are just simply rare (Benjamin Franklin’s classic printing of Cicero’s Cato Major) Haverford’s Quaker Collection manages the office of the Friends Historical Association.

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  • The David Library of the American Revolution

    Revolutionary War documentation on sacred historical ground

    Studying at the David Library.

    The David Library was founded by Sol Feinstone (1888-1980), a businessman and collector who dreamed of turning his Washington Crossing farm into a library devoted to the study of the Revolution. The library, opened in 1974, contains Feinstone’s personal collection, which continues to grow through the nonprofit foundation he established to support it.

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  • National Museum of American Jewish History

    Preserving and interpreting the American Jewish experience

    The New National Museum of American Jewish History

    Rising five stories above Independence Mall, in the heart of historic Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History brings to life the 360-year history of Jews in America.

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  • Historic Germantown Visitor Center

    Let the Germantown Historical Society welcome you

    The Historical Society’s 50,000 objects, library and archives guarantee a memorable experience.

    The Germantown Historical Society has preserved and interpreted Germantown’s nearly 350-year history since 1901.

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  • Stenton

    William Penn’s powerful agent-secretary, James Logan, made Stenton his country seat

    Stenton was one of the grandest houses of its time.

    Ben Franklin thought it was worth the trip to Germantown’s Stenton, one of the grandest houses of its time. Original hardwood floors, enormous multi-paned windows, 18th-century furniture, huge fireplaces, icehouse and a barn with pre-industrial agricultural tools can be found on a tour of the early Georgian-style estate of James Logan, secretary to Pennsylvania founder William Penn.

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  • Bloomsday at the Rosenbach

    A daylong celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses

    The Bloomsday festivities underway outside the Rosenbach Museum.

    This year marks the 106th anniversary of Leopold Bloom’s fictional journey through the streets of Dublin, as imagined in James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, with the Rosenbach Museum’s day-long celebration of Bloomsday.

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  • Kelly Writers House

    A place for pens at Penn

    Penn students, faculty, staff and alumni founded this gathering space for writers inside an actual 13-room house on campus. Each semester, the staff hosts around 150 public programs and projects that include poetry readings, film screenings, seminars, dinners, workshops, art exhibits and musical performances.

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  • New Africa Center/Muslim American Museum & Archive

    First Western Islamic museum of its kind

    Dedicated to preserving the history of Islam in the West, this is the first museum of its kind in the country.

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  • Brickbat Books

    Literary retreat on Fabric Row

    Rare first-edition poetry tomes and brand-new graphic novels populate the wooden shelves of this Fabric Row shop. With creaky floors and a quiet atmosphere, it’s a great spot to discover a fondness for Edward Gorey or to rediscover that once-obsessed-over children’s book.

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  • A-Space

    Center of attention

    More neighborhoods need a pace like the A-Space, an anarchist “infoshop” that focuses on the enrichment of its community. Come for the free books, art shows and vegan potlucks, stay for the anti-war think tanks and NORML meetings.

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  • Free Library of Philadelphia

    Incredible collection of rare books, special collections and media

    Free Library of Philadelphia

    A stunning Beaux-Arts building along the culture-heavy Benjamin Franklin Parkway serves as the hub for the Free Library of Philadelphia, which includes 50 branches around the city.

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  • Philadelphia Book Festival

    Celebration of the joy of reading

    Philadelphia Book Festival logo

    Now in its eighth year, the annual Philadelphia Book Festival hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia is a city-wide celebration of the written word.

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  • Center for Architecture

    Home of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Community Design Collaborative

    The Center for Architecture offers walking tours, exhibitions, lectures, kids workshops, films, book talks and other events on the topics of architecture, urban planning, and design.

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  • AIA Bookstore & Design Center

    A fun, sophisticated store selling architecture books, unique designer gifts, and creative children’s toys

    The AIA Bookstore & Design Center is a recognized leader in architecture books, unique designer gifts, and creative children’s toys. The bookstore is operated by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, one of the oldest Chapters of the AIA.

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  • Museum Week

    Consider it arts and culture… on a budget.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Consider it arts and culture… on a budget.

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  • Fisher Fine Arts Library

    Frank Furness (1888-90)

    Fisher Fine Arts Library

    On the University of Pennsylvania, Frank Furness (1888-90)

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  • The Union Library of Hatboro

    Second oldest library in the state, twelfth oldest in the country

    This library began in Hatboro’s Crooked Billet Tavern in August 1755, when 38 local citizens met and signed an “Instrument of partnership” to create the “Union Library Company of Hatboro.” The library, albeit with a shortened name, continues to operate under its original charter, making it the second oldest in Pennsylvania and the twelfth oldest in the United States.

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