Print & Photograph Collections

18th- and 19th-Century Printed and Graphic Ephemera Collections

From 2010 to 2012, through a grant received from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Library Company cataloged and selectively digitized collections of printed and graphic ephemera from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Library Company has been collecting ephemera since 1785, and today holds one of the largest, most important, and most varied collections of ephemera in any American library. Begun with the generosity of the NEH, items received following the grant period continue to augment this digital collection.

African Americana Collection

This collection contains a selection of materials from our African Americana Collection (over 13,000 titles and almost 1,000 graphics, and growing). The collection includes books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, broadsides, and graphics documenting the western discovery and exploitation of Africa, the rise of slavery in the new world along with the rise of movements against slavery, the development of racial thought and racism, descriptions of African American life, slave and free, throughout the Americas, slavery and race in fiction and drama, and the printed works of African American individuals and organizations. The collection ranges in date from the mid 16th century into the early years of the 20th century.

American Song Sheets, Slip Ballads and Poetical Broadsides Collection, 1850-1870

Contains 5,462 lyric sheets, also known as slip ballads, published in the nineteenth century and offered for sale by stationers, street-corner vendors, and by catalog through the mail.

The Art and Artifacts Collection

The Library Company’s impressive collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, scientific instruments, and other artifacts.

Database of 19th Century Cloth Bindings

Library Company of Philadelphia History

McAllister Collection of Civil War Era Printed Ephemera, Graphics and Manuscripts

The John A. McAllister Collection is as massive as it is diverse. At its core are tens of thousands of examples of printed ephemera, most from the Civil War years, including ca. 600 recruiting posters, as well as newspapers, political broadside and leaflets, tickets, trade cards, cartoons, and a complement of ribbons, buttons and other ephemeral items constituting the largest such collection documenting the Philadelphia home front.

Peter Collinson’s 1739 Annotated First Edition of the History of London

The Library Company of Philadelphia recently acquired this copy of the first edition of William Maitland’s History of London that belonged to the London merchant and naturalist Peter Collinson (1694-1768) and was heavily annotated by him throughout. Not only did Collinson “discover” Franklin, he also served as the first book purchasing agent for the Library Company of Philadelphia. Over his years of ownership, Collinson tipped in numerous additional plates, plans, notes, documents, and clippings, with the last note dated just two years before his death. The hundreds of annotations and notes in Collinson’s hand deal with both the changing physical fabric of the city of London and events of daily life.

Philadelphia on Stone

In 2007, the Library Company of Philadelphia embarked on Philadelphia on Stone, a three-year collaborative project that examines the first fifty years of commercial lithography in Philadelphia, 1828-1878. Lithography, a planographic (flat-surface) printing process in which large slabs of limestone were used as the printing surface, was the first new printing method to be introduced in more than three centuries when invented by Alois Senefelder (1771-1834) about 1798. Lithography transformed the printed landscape, giving rise to a popular visual culture that continues to influence American society today. It was the first cost-effective method for printing in color, allowed long print runs and larger sizes, and facilitated design innovation because text and images could be easily combined. In the 19th century, lithography was the primary method used to print images, music, and day-to-day items of business -- forms, tickets, letterhead, circular letters, and most importantly advertising. More...

Portraits of American Women

The Library Company's ongoing Portraits of American Women project identifies portraits that appeared in books and periodicals before 1861 and makes them accessible online. In antebellum America, before the development of photomechanical processes of reproducing images, such portraits represented a significant investment of time and money and appeared for many different reasons. Some of the women portrayed had achieved renown and continue to be well-known, while others, obscure in their own time, are known chiefly through the books in which the portraits appear. More...

The Rose and Leon Doret Collection of Business Ephemera

Printed ephemera related to American business and commerce. The core of the Doret collection, and the material that is digitized, consists of over 150 pieces of printed advertising ephemera sent by suppliers of stationery and related products to the Philadelphia firm John C. Clark from 1866 to 1868. Products represented include writing inks, papers, envelopes, pens, sealing wax, rubber stamps, embossing stamps, adhesives, twine and twine holders, pens and pencils, and many other items "in the stationery line." In addition to the material on ImPAC, the collection also includes printed business forms (such as deed transfers, bills of lading, and insurance certificates) and various types of advertising such as trade catalogues, circulars, and broadsides. More...

Teitelman Collection of American Sunday-School Union Woodblocks and Imprints

Based in Philadelphia, the American Sunday-School Union was the most prolific publisher of children's books in 19th-century America. The Union illustrated its books and periodicals copiously, mainly with wood engravings. The original woodblocks were used through multiple printings and retained by the Union. S. Robert Teitelman, who was a longtime member of the Library Company, purchased the entire collection when the main office in Center City closed in the 1960s. Following the death of Mr. Teitelman in 2008, the collection of some 6,500 blocks plus a proofbook and sample imprints came to the Library Company. It is possibly the largest collection of 19th-century woodblocks in America, and represents the work of engravers such as George Gilbert (fl. 1818-1836), Alexander Anderson (1775-1870), John Warner Barber (1798-1885), Augustus Kollner (b. 1813), and James Barton Longacre (1794-1869). More...