Printed Book Collections
The Department holds over 560 exemplars of books printed in Europe from movable type before 1501. Sixty-six of these titles are the only recorded copies in North America. These volumes contain texts in religion, philosophy, and ancient and modern literature.
A few notable exemplars include the Aldine Aristotle (Venice 1495-1498), which complements the Department's many other early printed editions of and commentaries on Aristotle, as well as its manuscript commentaries on Aristotle; Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus in German, Von etlichen frowen (Ulm: Johann Zainer, [not before 15 August 1473]), a copy with beautifully hand-colored illustrations; the Inamoramento di Carlo Magno ([Venice:] Georgius Walch, 20 July 1481), one of the only two known surviving copies of this vernacular (Italian) verse romance on the life of Charlemagne; one of two recorded copies in North America of the editio princeps of Horace (Venice, ca. 1471-2); and a number of titles "not in Goff"—not listed, that is, in Incunabula in American Libraries: A Third Census, comp. and ed. Frederick R. Goff (New York 1964)—such as the Summa in virtutes cardinales et vitia illis [con]traria . . . [Paris: Ulrich Gering and Guillermus Maynyal, 16 August 1480] (Hain 15173), a treatise on the virtues and vices that is part of a collection of texts on this subject.
Early Modern History - Printed Books
The Department contains many older works on national, regional, and local history and customs. Both universal histories, such as Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle (the Liber Chronicarum of 1493), and more modern historical works, including those by writers such as Machiavelli, Seyssel, Hume, and Voltaire, are represented. The history of Italian city-states is one focus of the Henry Charles Lea Library. An extensive collection of broadsides and pamphlets documents multitudinous aspects of civic life and its regulation in Brunswick (Brauenschweig) from 1547 through 1857, while a substantial collection of mazarinades documents seventeenth-century French political controversies.
American history is heavily collected. The Robert Dechert
Collection contains printed materials relating the experiences of
French explorers of North and South America, as well as documenting North
American Jesuit relations. Works that illustrate Native American life and
costumes are another emphasis of the Dechert Collection. Early examples
include several volumes of Theodor De Bry's India occidentalis
(Frankfurt 1591); later examples include M'Kenney and Hall. Later North
American travel literature is also strongly represented. Early narratives
of the Lewis and Clark expedition and such nineteenth-century illustrated
books as those by Maximilian Wied von Neuwied and Karl Bodmer complement
some of the great rarities of later western overland travel, including
works by Zenas Leonard and John Hale.
Philadelphia-centered materials include early works by William Penn and
other Quaker leaders of the Pennsylvania colony, and historical
narratives. Significant examples of Benjamin Franklin's work as a
Philadelphia printer are preserved in the Curtis
Collection, donated by the Curtis Publishing Company and
containing more than 300 titles printed by Franklin and his associates
between 1719 and 1780. Of particular importance to the history of the
University of Pennsylvania are Franklin's pamphlets—some written as well
as printed by him—concerning the educational philosophy upon which he
hoped to establish the Academy out of which Penn was to grow. For related
holdings see the list of manuscripts concerning
political and social history in modern America.
A recently-acquired collection—The Esther B. Aresty Collection of Rare Books in the Culinary Arts—includes predominantly printed sources but also some manuscript items that document the history of cookery and also shed ancillary light on women's literacy, the history of medicine ("recipes" could be medical as well as culinary), household organization, behavior, and other aspects of early modern and recednt life. Texts run from fifteenth-century editions of Platina and manuscripts of Apicius, through La Varenne, Brillat-Savarin, and other seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century cookery writers, to a small selection of twentieth-century cookbooks.
Early Modern History of Science - Printed Books
Especially for chemistry and the related field of alchemy—but with notable collections as well in dentistry, botany, and agriculture—Departmental resources are strong. Resources in other areas of the sciences include such standard works as those by Vesalius, Copernicus, Pare, Hooke, and Newton; but these works are not always works represented in their earliest printed editions.
The history of chemistry before 1850 is the special focus of the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection. Smith holds some material relevant to the history of science generally, as well as materials which postdate 1850, but its major strength is chemistry before that date. Its subspecialties include the history of chemical education; such allied fields as metallurgy and mining, dyeing, and fireworks; alchemy, especially in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries; illustrative materials (including portraits of chemists and depictions of chemical laboratories, processes, and apparatus); and the publications, and some manuscripts, of Robert Boyle and Joseph Priestley.
The Thomas W. Evans Collection gathers resources for the
historical study of dentistry. These extend back to the seventeenth
century and supplement area medical history collections. Runs of
nineteenth-century dental journals are well-represented.
Botanicals, many from the collection of Penn Professor of Botany John W. Harshberger, include such books as the Hortus sanitatis; a beautifully-bound, heavily-annotated, and hand-colored illustrated copy of Leonhart Fuchs, De stirpium (Basle 1549); works by Brunfels and Gerard, and other similar works.
Agricultural history is the special province of the library of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, the oldest American agricultural improvement society, which is housed in the Department. Classical as well as modern texts are preserved in this library; so are many of its own printed and manuscript records.
Early Modern Literature - Printed Books
Extensive resources facilitate study of European literatures. Materials from the English tradition are strongest, but considerable holdings reflective of the literary traditions of France, Spain, Italy, and Germany also distinguish Departmental holdings. In addition, the Department contains some resources for the study of many other national traditions.
In English literature, the Department's foremost collection is the
Horace Howard Furness Memorial
Library. This collection is devoted to the study of
Shakespeare and his contemporary Tudor and Stuart dramatists. The Furness
Library also supports study of world and British theater history. Theater
history is also well documented in the department's manuscript holdings.
Additional significant holdings in English literature include extensive holdings of Restoration and eighteenth-century plays in first and early editions; the Teerink Collection of Jonathan Swift, the major repository of its kind outside the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland; and the Singer-Mendenhall Collection of the English novel before 1820, which—in addition to many "standard" canonical works of period fiction—is especially strong in novelists, many of them female, not often re-edited or reprinted.
Earlier American literature is distinguished by a number of high spots. These include, for instance, the first edition of the poems of Phyllis Wheatley and the works—sermons and other prose tracts—of both New England Puritan and Middle Atlantic Quaker divines. Colonial poetry and fiction are also collected in some strength.
In French literature, the Department holds representative sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetical texts and eighteenth-century novels. More than 1,000 imprints, with many variant editions, record French drama of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Penn's collection of Spanish literature of the Golden Age, strong in poetry, also contains early prose texts, including early editions of Cervantes and Montemayor. But it is most notable for its special strength in the drama of the period: early editions of 300 of the 431 extant plays of Lope de Vega; two of the four North American holograph copies of his plays; two manuscripts of Calderon de la Barca; and a large collection of comedias sueltas (most now available in a commercially-produced microform). Such minor forms as the emblem book are also represented in significant exemplars (including, for example, both the first [Prague 1581] and second [Brussels 1680] editions of the first Spanish emblem book).
The Department's 2,600 volumes of Italian Renaissance literature are dominated by editions of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Ariosto. Torquato Tasso is collected in special depth. Good resources support study of Italian drama of the period. Resources in Renaissance Italian literary criticism are well-represented.
The Department holds a representative collection of German literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Early Modern Philosophy and Social Thought - Printed Books
The Department collects the works of philosophers and social theorists in manuscript and printed book formats. Numerous schoolbooks illustrate the ways in which these subjects were taught. Early modern logic and metaphysics are particularly well-represented. Resources for the study of Enlightenment philosophy benefit greatly from the presence of the Paul Schrecker Collection of the work of Leibniz. Numerous works of contemporary psychology illuminate another aspect of later eighteenth-century thought about mind.
Dr. E. B. Krumbhaar's gift of approximately 1600 volumes
published by the Dutch firm of Elzevir and its branches between 1583 and
1712 includes more than 400 Leiden dissertations, most on medical and
scientific subjects. Elzevir publications were characteristically small
and easily portable volumes. They fall into no single category. The
collection includes classics, works of history, travel, description,
philosophy, science, and imaginative literature, as well as occasional
uncharacteristic large-format and heavily-illustrated treatises on (e.g.)
fencing. The Elzevir collection alone documents the ordinary range of
seventeenth-century intellectual life.
German intellectual and academic history is illuminated with similar breadth by a large collection of German university dissertations which date from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.
English and continental economic and social thought—especially monetary
theory, international trade, and criminology and penology—are represented
both by standard monographs of older date and by large collections of
pamphlet literature. Nineteenth-century books and pamphlets in these
fields are part of the same collections.
Early Modern Religion - Printed Books
The Ross, Block, and Evans collections contain Bibles written and printed in many languages over many centuries. These include several Bibles in so-called "exotic" languages and types.
Fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century theological works, sermons, and devotional handbooks—most of them in Latin, Italian, German, Spanish, and English—illuminate religious thought and life in the early modern period. So do works of Reformation and Counter-Reformation theological controversy. Many of the controversial works concern marriage and family issues and thus illuminate gender-related topics, as well. A few specific controversialists (e.g., Matthias Flacius Illyricus) are collected in strength, as are representative early texts by early Reformers and their Counter-Reformation counterparts, and works devoted to the virtues and the vices.
The Yarnall Collection documents theological and liturgical practices, church architecture, and devotional literature with special reference to England and the Anglican Church as well as to the Episcopal Church in America, and to the Roman Catholic antecedents of both. Older Yarnall books are housed in and made accessible through the Department of Special Collections. More recent imprints are accessible through the general collections.
Department holdings facilitate study of several aspects of early American religion. Especially rich are resources which concern the intersections of European and Spanish American religious history. The organization and activities of the Inquisition in Europe, Spain, Mexico, and Central and South America are documented by both manuscript and printed materials in the Henry Charles Lea Library. More than 1400 books, pamphlets, and broadsides in the Sydney Keil Collection document Spanish American Church history, parish administration, and devotional literature. Mexico's struggle for independence from Spain is another focus of the Keil Collection, whose contents range in date from roughly 1650 to 1850.
Modern History—Printed Books
Prominent among the Department's modern European historical specialties, the Maclure Collection (also available on commercially-produced microfilm) contains some 20,000 pamphlets published in France, by and large between 1788 and 1802. This collection documents French Revolutionary political and economic concerns, and political processes during the Revolution, in great depth.
Materials documenting British rule in India (among them manuscripts) and a small collection consisting primarily of printed books and some illustrative materials concerning World War I are among other Departmental historical concentrations.
The Department also holds the Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Dreyfus Affair, which includes broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, postcards, books, and other materials documenting the history of the Affair.
A small collection of German imprints from the period of the Third Reich illuminates ordinary publishing during that period.
Many of the Department's significant resources for the study of American history are in manuscript form. Among printed materials, however, later United States history is represented by, for example, early national and regional histories; works, especially pamphlets and newspapers, by abolitionists and their pro-slavery opponents; documents which concern the progress of the Mexican-American War; and photographic records of the Civil War. The Dechert Collection contains illustrated books, with an emphasis on both travel and the depiction of native Americans; and overland travel narratives that relate to the exploration of the American west in the nineteenth century include several exceptionally rare titles.
Modern Literature—Printed Books
Earlier American literature is distinguished by a number of high spots, including, for instance, the first edition of the poems of Phyllis Wheatley and the works—sermons and other prose tracts—of both New England and Middle Atlantic Quaker divines.
Modern literary specialties include, in English, the Meyer Davis, Jr., Collection of George Gordon, Lord Byron, containing some manuscript materials. Other English authors collected extensively (largely in printed book rather than manuscript form) include Arnold Bennett, Rudyard Kipling, George Meredith, John Cowper Powys, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Provision of primary source materials for the study of post-colonial American literature is a special strength of the Department. Special strengths among the Department's printed book resources in this field include many works of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American prose, poetry, and drama; nineteenth-century American gift books; cryptography; spiritualism; and American theater history.
American authors represented in the Department by extensive printed book collections, drawing upon their own works or books from their libraries, include: Robert Montgomery Bird, Van Wyck Brooks, James Fenimore Cooper, Theodore Dreiser, James T. Farrell, Howard Fast, Arthur Huff Fauset, Edwin Forrest, Waldo Frank, Wanda Gag, Bret Harte, Lafcadio Hearn, William Dean Howells, Washington Irving, Rockwell Kent, S. Weir Mitchell, Thomas Paine, Joseph and Elizabeth Pennell, Ezra Pound, Burton Rascoe, Agnes Repplier, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams (a self-portrait painted by Williams is one of the Department's special holdings), and Carl Zigrosser.
The manuscripts and library of modern Austrian-American emigri writer Franz Werfel and his wife, Alma Mahler-Werfel (most written in German), preserve information about the lives and careers of two people who, artists and creators in their own right, were also variously involved with many other figures important in modern literature, art and architecture, and music. Anna Mahler, the daughter of Alma and her first husband, Gustav Mahler, sculpted a portrait bust of Franz Werfel held in the Department.
German nineteenth century drama and a representative collection of German books printed during the Third Reich (1933-1945) are among the Department's more modern German-language concentrations.