Hidden Jewel Of Philadelphia: The Rosenbach Museum & Library

Life is about education, but it is not limited to classes and books.


All the hype in Philadelphia had been about the new Barnes Foundation when it first opened, it was supposed to put the City of Brotherly Love on the map for a cultural destination. However, there is another institution which has been in the city for many years and deserves as much promotion – the Rosenbach Museum and Library.

Native Philadelphian Dr. A S. W. Rosenbach was a successful rare book dealer and formed a vast private collection of documents and decorative arts with the help of his brother, Philip H. Rosenbach. After their deaths, their private collection was preserved in their house at 2010 DeLancey Place in the center of Philadelphia. It was turned into an institution of the Rosenbach Museum and Library in 1954. The two brothers had compiled about 2,500 volumes and almost 100,000 pieces of manuscripts. In the 1960s, the Rosenbach Museum added to its collection by purchasing more manuscripts and letters from poet Marianne Moore. The Museum’s impressive holdings continued to grow as years went on. Currently, the institution boasts a collection ranging from manuscripts to paintings and sculptures to antique furniture, lighting and textiles. Highlights of the collection include an inventory of his own slaves by Thomas Jefferson, the extremely rare first edition of Don Quixote, and over 150 drawings of Girolomo da Carpi.


Because the museum was preserved in the old home of the Rosenbach brothers, the museum and library was located in a residential neighborhood. The impression of the museum itself was similar a little home. Unfortunately, the it did not allow photographs. The staff was extremely friendly and greeted visitors as old friends. The lady at the front desk recommended that I went on a guided tour, which they offered hourly. The tour started in the living room of the Rosenbach home. It was decorated with portraits of important figures of Philadelphia. There was a grand crystal chandelier that branched out from the middle of the ceiling. Underneath was an antique wooden couch with red cushion. We were told that most furniture pieces dated back to at least the 18th century.

When we were led into Dr. Rosenbach’s library, I had the urge to settle down and live there. Every wall was covered with shelves, each seven feet tall and filled with old manuscripts and books of writers of the caliber of Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens and Cervantes. Unfortunately, books at the Rosenbach Museum were only available for visitors if notified in advance.

I was upset with myself for having lived in Philadelphia for over two years and not knowing about the existence of the Rosenbach Museum. I encourage everyone, no matter where you are, to go out and explore your city. Life is about education, but it is not limited to classes and books. You can learn a lot from the city too.

Article written by Panarat Anamwathana.

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