RARE BOOKS, PRINTS AND DRAWINGS and More at the Philadelphia Free Library


Entrance to the Free Library of Philadelphia
It may seem like a bus-man's holiday, but as I often do when I travel, I like to visit the local library. On a recent visit to Philadelphia, I stopped by the children’s room in the Central branch of the  Free Library of Philadelphia. I had a delightful visit with the head of the department, who pointed out the series of beautiful N.C. Wyeth paintings that decorate the walls of the room.

The paintings are part of the library's extensive Children’s Literature Research Collection. I was pleased to discover that the research collection also includes quite a few of my books. I returned two days later to meet the curator of the collection and sign some of my books.

Later that afternoon I visited the Rare Book Department of the library, featuring a temporary exhibit called Or Else: Cautionary Tales for Children, where I saw the dummy of one of my all time favorite books, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Historic books were on display as well examples from more modern illustrators including Munro Leaf ("Watchbirds" cartoons in the Ladies Home Journal and Ferdinand the Bull), Robert Lawson, Maurice Sendak, Tomi Ungerer and Barry Moser. The Or Else exhibit is now closed but the permanent exhibits are well worth a visit.
The permanent exhibits in the Rare Books Department include examples of ancient cuniform writing  (done with sticks on clay), a number of original works by Beatrix Potter, a display of Grip, the pet raven of Charles Dickens and inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", the entire collection of William McIntire Elkins, a Philadelphia philanthropist, and much more. As it turned out, a staff member was giving tours of the Elkins library, and invited me to come along. The Elkins library reproduces the actual library of its donor (chairs, curtains, carpets, shelves, etc.) exactly as it was in his home, along with his huge Dickens collection and other books.
Grand main staircase of the Philadelphia Free Library
I also stopped by a temporary exhibit from the library's Print and Picture Collection. It is called Fur and Feathers: A Cautious Pairing of Cats and Birds and features intriguing prints, drawings, and photographs by Audubon, Dali, Muybridge and others.
For more about my visit to the Children's Collection, see my post for 6/8/16 at my Art and Books Blog.

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