text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

Free Library of Philadelphia

Ben Franklin Parkway 03

The Free Library of Philadelphia, to the right of the Shakespeare monument (its balancing building is the County Court Building behind the Pennypacker monument), is one of the great libraries of the country. The main library of the Philadelphia system, anyone may use its resources on the spot. There are always exhibits of interest in the entrance hall, concerts, lectures and films throughout the year. There is a cafeteria on the roof, and during the summer you can eat alfresco and enjoy the panorama of Philadelphia.

One of the riches of the Free Library is the Rare Book Department, which has holdings spanning 5000 years, from cuneiform tablets, European manuscripts dating from the 9th through the 18th century, examples of calligraphy, Oriental manuscripts and miniatures, incunabula, Pennsylvania German frakturs and the William McIntire Elkins library. This handsome Georgian room was removed from Mr. Elkins home in Whitemarsh, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and installed in the library in 1949. Richly paneled, the room contains Mr. Elkins own fine library, a notable collection of Dickens' letters and editions, Dickens' desk and candleholder and even his pet raven which was stuffed in 1841! There is a Poe connection, too, for Poe had reviewed "Barnaby Rudge" and didn't feel Dickens had done justice to the raven in this portrait of it. "The Raven," more in keeping with Poe's idea of the bird, was the result. The library also has the gravestone of Dickens' pet canary ("Dick the Best of Friends"), something of which no other rare book department can boast.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway