Releases: Expanded View
Philadelphia's Literary Legacy Makes For A Novel Visit
Visitors Can Get Their Read On At Authors’ Homes & Independent Book Stores
Literary roots run deep in Philadelphia, a city that has inspired countless authors and continues to nurture their legacies. Throughout the region, lovers of literature can connect with such classic authors as Poe, Whitman and Michener in places where they lived, worked and created some of their most celebrated works. And with so many libraries, book collections and indie bookstores, literature lovers can delve deeper into the collected works of these and other favorite authors.
Here’s a look at some of the region’s literary locales and independently owned booksellers:
Attention On The Author:
- The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, where the critic, editor, poet and author lived when he published The Black Cat and The Spectacles, offers self-guided and 30- to 45-minute Park Ranger-led tours Friday through Sunday. As guests wander the six rooms and basement of the house, they conjure images of the erratic and gifted Poe, best known for his macabre mysteries and credited with inventing the detective fiction genre. After touring the house, visitors may step into the reading room, patterned after Poe’s essay The Philosophy of Furniture, to listen to various recordings of Poe’s works, including Christopher Walken’s reading of The Raven. 532 N. 7th Street, (215) 597-8780, nps.gov/edal
- Bucks County has been home to several famous authors throughout the centuries (Oscar Hammerstein II, James McBride, Margaret Mead, Elizabeth Gilbert), as evidenced at the James A. Michener Art Museum, named for the Doylestown native son and Pulitzer Prize winner who penned such books as Tales of the South Pacific. Tucked into a corner of the art museum is a recreation of the Bucks County office where Michener worked for more than 35 years. Objects on his desk include two autographed baseballs from the Baltimore Orioles, his Olympia typewriter and a Doylestown High School T-shirt. 138 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, (215) 340-9800, michenerartmuseum.org
- In pastoral Bucks County, the Pearl S. Buck House Museum keeps alive the legacy of the first female to receive both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes for literature. At Buck’s home of almost 40 years, the author penned most of her 120 books, more than 400 short stories, 10 children’s books and numerous non-fiction articles. Now, visitors can appreciate her life and works through her still-furnished house and permanent and rotating exhibitions that display her prizes, art, manuscripts, correspondence, memoirs and personal effects. Highlights of the one-hour tour include the desk and typewriter she used to write The Good Earth. Buck is buried on the National Historic Landmark site. 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, (215) 249-0100, pearlsbuck.org/tourthehouse
- Constructed in 1848, The Walt Whitman House, the only home ever owned by Walt Whitman, sits just a few blocks away from the Camden, New Jersey waterfront. While living in Camden, the Leaves of Grass author hosted visitors such as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker and completed his last comprehensive volume of poetry before his death in 1892. Today, the restored New Jersey State Historic Site and National Historic Landmark contains Whitman’s original letters, personal belongings, the bed in which he died and the death notice that was nailed to the front door, as well as a collection of rare 19th-century photographs, including the earliest known image of Whitman. 330 Mickle Boulevard, Camden, NJ, (856) 964-5383, state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/historic/whitman/
- A stunning Beaux-Arts building along the culture-heavy Benjamin Franklin Parkway serves as the hub for the Free Library of Philadelphia, flagship of an organization that includes 61 neighborhood libraries, as well as a research center and community-based hotspots. In addition to typical library activities—borrowing books and free Internet—visitors to the Parkway Central Library can explore a massive collection of notable and rare works by Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Beatrix Potter and others. The library hosts author readings and lectures, special exhibitions and events all year long. Insider tip: Charles Dickens’ pet bird Grip, thought to be Poe’s inspiration for The Raven, is stuffed and hanging on the wall of the Rare Books Department in the Parkway Central Library branch. 1901 Vine Street, (215) 686-5322, freelibrary.org
- Many of the world’s greatest literary treasures are on view at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, a 1860s row house that holds the personal collection of the Rosenbach brothers, who dealt in fine and decorative art, rare books and manuscripts. Perhaps the best-known feature of the collection is James Joyce’s manuscript for Ulysses, but equally impressive are more than 600 Lewis Carroll books, letters and rare photos, many of which are directly related to Alice in Wonderland. Not to be overlooked: Shakespeare’s 1664 folio and several playbills from 18th-century Shakespeare performances in Philadelphia; important first editions of Don Quixote and other works by Cervantes; William Blake’s original drawings and books; portions of Charles Dickens’ manuscripts; notes and outlines for Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and almost all of modernist poet Marianne Moore’s manuscripts and correspondence, plus many personal effects. 2008-2010 Delancey Place, (215) 732-1600, rosenbach.org
- The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries serves as one of the nation’s leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of people of African descent. The compilation of 500,000 items includes contemporary and rare publications, prints, photographs, slave narratives, manuscripts, letters, sheet music, foreign-language publications, film and ephemera and boasts first editions by Phyllis Wheatley, W.E.B. Du Bois, George Washington Williams and other notable authors. Visitors can page through narratives written or dictated by Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho, Prince Lee Boo, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Nancy Prince in the slave narratives section. Sullivan Hall, 1330 Polett Walk, 1st Floor, (215) 204-6632, library.temple.edu/collections/blockson
- Housed inside the Vernon House in historic Germantown, The Black Writers Museum showcases exhibits of contemporary and classic black writers and their works. The only museum in the U.S. that focuses on black literature, the space holds hundreds of significant items and artifacts, such as rare newspapers and documents, manuscripts, recordings, photographs and first-edition and autographed books. Inside the museum’s Ida B. Wells Library and Resource Center, shelves contain more than one thousand books, including titles by Zora Neale Hurston, Michael Chowder, Sapphire and Jacob H. Carruthers. Visitors can attend the museum’s writing classes, book clubs and other events and festivals. 5800 Germantown Avenue, (267) 297-3078, blackwritersmuseum.com
- In a century-old, brick and marble building that is listed on the City of Philadelphia’s Register of Historical Places, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania maintains 600,000 printed books and 21 million manuscript items. The collection covers topics from more than 350 years of U.S. history, and occasional evening programs feature notable speakers, including historians, authors and archeologists. 1300 Locust Street, (215) 732-6200, hsp.org
- Benjamin Franklin founded The Library Company in 1731. Today, the independent research library focusing on 16th- to-19th-century American society and culture is said to be the country’s oldest cultural institution. The library is free and open to the public. It houses a rare collection of books, photography, manuscripts and art and regularly hosts exhibits, lectures and other special public programs. 1314 Locust Street, (215) 546-3181, librarycompany.org
- The sprawling five-story Baldwin’s Book Barn in Chester County is a bibliophile’s wonderland. Throughout the converted stone barn’s nooks and crannies, avid readers and collectors find shelf after shelf lined with antiquarian, rare and fine books, as well as thousands of used books, maps and original prints. 856 Lenape Road, West Chester, (610) 696-0816, bookbarn.com
- Rare first-edition tomes and brand-new graphic novels populate the wooden shelves of Brickbat Books, a small shop along Philadelphia’s Fabric Row. With creaky floors and a quiet atmosphere, it’s a great spot to discover a fondness for Edward Gorey, score a hard-to-find book on design or rediscover that once-obsessed-over children’s book. 709 S. 4th Street, (215) 592-1207, brickbatbooks.com
- For more than 45 years, Farley’s Bookshop has surprised readers with its collection of small- press publications, works by local authors, blockbuster and indie bestsellers, literary gems and children’s books. In addition to a monthly book club, the store keeps a busy schedule of author events and book signings. 44 S. Main Street, New Hope, (215) 862-2452, farleysbookshop.com
- When book lovers ascend the steps into Joseph Fox Bookshop, they find a finely edited selection of literature, non-fiction works, art, architecture, design, music and poetry, as well as new and classic children’s books. The shop, a staple of Philadelphia’s literary scene since 1951, sponsors or participates in 300 author events a year and offers an impressive selection of signed first printings. And if it isn’t on the shelves, the staff can turn around special orders quickly, often the next day. 1724 Sansom Street, (215) 563-4184, foxbookshop.com
- Students, professors and anyone who loves to read consider the Penn Book Center a favorite. The independent bookstore has served the academic community in University City for more than half a century. Course textbooks are big on the list of offerings here, but it also stocks a range of popular reads, including books authored by local students and professors. 130 S. 34th Street, (215) 222-7600, pennbookcenter.com
- Two of Philadelphia’s iconic indie shops, Giovanni’s Room and Philly AIDS Thrift, merged to revive the nation’s longest-running LGBT bookstore. Now known as Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni’s Room, the landmark bookstore continues to sell a huge selection of new and used LGBT-themed books and has expanded its offerings to include a small selection of household goods, clothing, CDs, vinyl and other items. 345 S. 12th Street, (215) 923-2960, queerbooks.com
- When the tall shelves of Old City’s The Book Trader get too packed with used books, the overflow makes a home wherever the staff can find space, adding an element of discovery to each visit. The two-story shop offers store credit for trade-ins and maintains one of the largest collections of books in the city. 7 N. 2nd Street, (215) 925-2080, phillybooktrader.com
- Housed in a renovated silent movie theater, Port Richmond Books boasts a collection of 200,000 volumes covering everything from sci-fi and pulp fiction to rare and collectible first editions. Readings and events are held on the Author’s Lounge and Stage, decked out with overstuffed chairs, and there’s even an indoor basketball court. 3037 Richmond Street, (215) 425-3385, portrichmondbooks.com
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On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.
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