Friday, May 26, 2017

The International Reach of Rights and Reproduction

Our hope as a free research library is that our collections reach far beyond our exhibitions, programming, reading rooms, and catalogs. One way we do this is by issuing rights to include reproductions of pieces from our collections in the published works, exhibitions, television productions, and online resources created by our patrons. We fulfill requests that bring the Library Company’s collections to audiences we may never reach alone. From short blog posts to textbooks distributed to students worldwide, there is seemingly no limit to the subjects the Library Company can inform or illustrate.

Many cultural institutions question how to truly measure their impact. At the Library Company, seeing our collections go out into the world and meet new audiences is one of many quiet reminders that the exceptional work of our Curators and Librarians is more valuable now than ever.

In the past decade, our Rights & Reproductions operation has shifted in ways that mirror our increased online presence and collections acquisitions. Fewer patrons order physical prints now that a high-resolution digital copy can be delivered at a lower cost. The materials requested over time paint a picture of broader trends in scholarship. More, if not most of our requested uses are born-digital (created with a computer).

Recently, we’ve provided pieces from our Aero Service Negatives to help identify long-demolished buildings. Library Company classics like “Liberty Displaying the Arts…” and the silhouette of Moses Williams accompanied exhibitions. Scholars in Europe and North America requested images to accompany their upcoming works on subjects like the Nullification Crisis, petroleum, and Octavius Catto.

Samuel Jennings, Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, or The Genius of America Encouraging the Emancipation of the Blacks,
1792, oil on canvas, 
 60 1/4 in. x 74 in., the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Rights and Reproductions not only provides vital service to communities and institutions worldwide, but also provides financial support to the Library Company. Many thanks to all of the donors, scholars, and life-long learners who make the work of the Library Company of Philadelphia possible. If you have any questions or wish to use our materials in your own works, please feel free to place an order using our online request form  or contact our Rights & Reproductions team at

Thank you for your interest in our collections.

Ann McShane 
Digital Collections Project Assistant

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anthony Trollope’s Orley Farm: Or, the Mysterious Journey of a Book.

I will admit to a passion for Trollope. During a recent trip to Ireland, I had the author’s complete works downloaded on my Kindle (along with Thackeray and Tolstoy – I seem to have gotten stuck in the “T’s”). Sipping afternoon tea by a peat fire and nibbling a scone, I indulged myself in yet another Trollope wonder, The Claverings, while the sun turned red, then lavender and then was gone. As the hotel library in Clifden, Connemara darkened, I began exploring the books stacked haphazardly on the shelves. Always curious about other travelers’ cast-off reading, I picked up one volume after another and soon found a friend: Orley Farm – Anthony Trollope. Vol 1. Inside was a surprise: a Library Company bookplate, and the words “Duplicate sold”. Spidery letters spelled F.L.P. indicating the Free Library of Pennsylvania had rebound the 1908 Dodd, Mead edition. August 14, 1959, was the novel’s due date when last borrowed. 

Cordelia Biddle
I turned the book over and over, imagining that some truth of its wanderings would seep through my fingers. How had the novel come to the Abbeyglen Hotel? In a suitcase full of books to be enjoyed on vacation? Was it carried here by a family on holiday, or a single person intent on fly-fishing during the day and reveling in Trollope at night? And what had happened to the other volumes? I searched each shelf. They weren’t to be found. As everyone knows, no sane person stops reading Orley Farm (or any Trollope) after Vol 1. The mystery deepened.

Of course, I carried my treasure back to the Library Company, thinking of Fanny Trollope and her American adventures, and of her son with his unhappy childhood and prodigious gifts of invention and language. Finally, my mind’s eye saw him settled in his official post in Clonmel, a spot where I’d vacationed as a child long before I’d been introduced to his extraordinary universe. The novel’s peregrinations remained elusive, however, even with the aid of Connie King and her able staff.

My electronic device may permit me to carry a steamer trunk full of books within a single tablet, but it can never replace the human heft of paper and ink and buckram. Nor can it replicate the magic of printed words winging through time and space, or the tactile marvel of faded gilt edges and a worn bookplate reminding a reader on Ireland’s far western peninsula that an American institution was founded in 1731.

Cordelia Frances Biddle is an author and a long-time shareholder of the Library Company. Her most recent book is Saint Katharine: the Life of Katharine Drexel. Currently, she’s writing a biography of Nicholas Biddle and haunting the Library Company’s reading room. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Welcome to the New Edwin Wolf 2nd Director

2017 Director's Reception

As the new Director of the Library Company, Dr. Michael Barsanti understands that “shareholders are the foundation of our great institution.” More than fifty shareholders came together on April 27, 2017, to welcome Dr. Barsanti as the next Edwin Wolf 2nd Director. He expressed his dedication and commitment to the mission, history, and future of our historic library created by Benjamin Franklin, an institution that was designed to ensure that everyone has access to knowledge and education through the acquisition of literature and books. More important than the acquisition of historic materials are the communal conversations and personal interactions that occur within the walls of our institution. These conversations harken back to the days of the Junto and the origins of our great library.  As an institution dedicated to the concept that “knowledge is power,” our scholars, curators, and shareholders continue to discover and discuss the important issues of the past as they relate to their impact on present and future generations. The Library Company’s future is steeped in our ability to continue to inspire our scholars to explore history, literature and the arts while also working with them to create new and innovative ways for interpretation and expression.  Dr. Barsanti expressed his gratitude and excitement to contribute to these important conversations that continue within the walls of Benjamin Franklin’s Library. 

Raechel Hammer
Chief Development Officer

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