A Collector’s Collection:The Rosenbach Museum & Library

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The historic Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, PA is the former home of A.S.W. and Philip Rosenbach.


By Abby Tallmer
The Rosenbach Museum & Library is the former home of Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach and his brother Philip, international dealers in books, manuscripts, and works of art during the first half of the twentieth century. Their elegant 1865 Center City [Philadelphia] townhouse preserves a world-renowned collection of 330,000 books and manuscripts amid choice English and American furnishings and fine and decorative art. A collectors’ collection -- left as a legacy for us and future generations of museum members, students, and visitors.
   ---From “Meet Me At The Rosenbach!” promotional membership brochure, n.d.
It is impossible to approach The Rosenbach Museum & Library without appreciating the significance of A.S.W. Rosenbach and his brother Philip amongst the world of collectors, and without acknowledging A.S.W. Rosenbach’s role as perhaps the most influential book collector and dealer of his time. To quote from one of the Museum’s own pamphlets, “From 1903 to 1953, the Rosenbach Company achieved international fame as the preeminent source for rare books and manuscripts.”

As a means of honoring the Rosenbach brothers’ legacy, we at AE are proud to announce that as of today, some nearly 8200 records of the Rosenbach Company’s catalogues are now available in AE’s Bibliographic Database. They are a tremendous resource in terms of book history and bibliography. To specifically access them, AE subscribers must use the Advanced Search mode and put in “Rosenbach” as the Source field.

To say that A.S.W. Rosenbach was one of the most influential book dealers of the early twentieth century is no understatement. Dr. Rosenbach, as he was affectionately referred to, dealt with literally everyone who was anyone in American society during the height of their business. During the first half of the twentieth century, many of the greatest and most valuable books and manuscripts in the world passed through A.S.W. Rosenbach’s hands, and A.S.W. Rosenbach virtually single-handedly curated collections that would become the backbone of some of the country’s leading research libraries (Harvard’s Widener Library; The Folger; The Huntington).