Rare Book Library

Penn has amazing resources. You’ll hear all about career services, academic advising, and the technology that pervades campus, but one of our most extensive and impressive resources is the Penn library system. I’m currently taking History of Medieval Europe, and last week we had class in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The original space is currently being renovated, but the collection was still available to our class. We were sitting in front of books that are literally thousands of years old, and we didn’t just get to look at them through glass like a museum. We turned the pages— parchment is such an odd material.  We investigated the way things were formatted on a page—medieval scholars loved to fill up the margins with their own interpretations.  History was truly in our hands.  Holding real artifacts from the Middle Ages made that period so much more real to me. History can often seem so far removed, but Penn’s collection of rare books and manuscripts really brought it back to life. The collection includes 125 manuscripts written before the 15th century, and over 500 books printed before 1501, 66 of which are the only recorded copies on the continent. The rare book collection is really one of Penn’s hidden gems.