Always on the hunt for new adventures, I started this overcast Monday with a few goals in mind: add a new "culture" notch in my belt, have my mind blown, and spend zero money. Sounds impossible, right? I have 3 words for you: Rare Book Department. From cuneiform tablets to an installation of William McIntire Elkins's library, the third floor of the Free Library on Vine is a treasure trove.
I was able to snag a fantastic parking spot and make it inside with a few moments to spare before the complimentary tour. While I have been to the Rare Book Department previously, I had not taken part of the tour. I completely regret not doing so earlier! This was not someone reciting off memorized facts or asking you to step back from the cases because you're too close. This in an engaging conversation: a recounting of the human desire to communicate through words and the creativity involved.
A fool for the craftsmanship that goes into book binding, getting the fun facts while admiring case after case of essentially artwork (a copy of Horace's work from 1470!), hand written manuscripts, and a leaf from one of Gutenburg's original bibles was a treat. I would not have known that in the original 100 copies of Peter Rabbit that she had printed herself, Beatrix Potter included a drawing of Peter's father cooked into a pie. Or that the printer Aldus Manutius was the Louis Vuitton of his time and inspired many knock offs. Inability to read Greek or cuneiform will not keep you from enjoying what the third floor offers.
"There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts."
Today was a great success: all goals accomplished and no parking ticket! I am already looking forward to returning for their special exhibition opening in April and visit the ever-rotating displays in the Rare Book Department.
Philed by Kimberly Iburg
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103 US