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Pennsylvania Hospital's Historic Library, the first medical library in the United States, was begun in 1762 as a teaching and reference library for the hospital's managers, physicians and medical students. In addition to thousands of medical and scientific volumes, the library contains many books on natural history and botany.

Also present are several rare incunabula, books printed before 1501 during the infancy of printing press technology. The library's collection is historically significant in that it was created not as a collection of rare books but as a working library. It was assembled at a time when Philadelphia was recognized as the center for medicine and science in the United States. Through the selection of books, it is possible to trace the history of medical education and treatment in the United States.

For more historical information about the Library, please explore the Historic Timeline. In regards to visitation and other related issues:

  • The Library's books are searchable on the University of Pennsylvania Library's on-line public access catalog known as FRANKLIN.

  • The Historic Library is open for visitor's tours and is used for scholarly research. The library is open weekdays from 9am to 4:30pm. To view materials, an appointment is necessary.

  • For an appointment or for information about the Historic Library's holdings, please call
    (215) 829-5434 or email peepless@pahosp.com.


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