Philadelphia’s literary legacy presents a novel way for groups to engage with this historic city. From writerly attractions that invite visitors to explore where writers lived to expansive collections of literary treasures, book lovers will find plenty of stories in and around Philadelphia. Classic American authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, and Pearl S. Buck resided in the region, and their homes are among the literary locales that immerse visitors in their lives and the tales they told.
The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site offers self-guided and ranger-led tours. An hourlong visit allows time to meander the six rooms and cellar while thinking about the macabre mysteries that made Poe famous. The Reading Room, fashioned in the style of Poe’s essay “The Philosophy of Furniture,” offers visitors a chance to listen to recordings of his most iconic works.
Outside the city, the Pearl S. Buck House, a National Historic Landmark museum, welcomes visitors to explore the legacy of the acclaimed author. The first woman to be awarded both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, Buck wrote most of her books, stories, and articles in this idyllic setting. An interactive tour presents the furnishings, effects, and legacy of the author. “Visitors can expect to hear not only about the award-winning author but also stories that illuminate her passion for her many humanitarian causes,” says Samantha Freise, curator at the Pearl S. Buck House museum.
“Our docents are very passionate about Pearl Buck’s legacy—not just her prolific literary legacy, but also her humanitarian, cross-cultural, and advocacy legacy as well—and that comes through in their tours,” Freise says. “Many of them have read many of Pearl Buck’s books and other writings. This gives them a great background on her thoughts and feelings on a number of topics.”
Visitors to The Rosenbach Museum & Library can access a dynamic collection of rare books, manuscripts, and artifacts. “The Rosenbach’s vast collection means that there are a wide variety of tour topics that our visitors can choose from. Everything from the Founding Fathers and queer history to the art of books and manuscripts, or dive into the work of a specific writer like Lewis Carroll or Emily Dickinson,” says Emilie Parker, director of education and interpretation at The Rosenbach. James Joyce’s manuscript for “Ulysses” and William Shakespeare’s 1664 folio are among the impressive items.
“Tours of our world-renowned collection are led by Rosenbach staff, who know our collections inside and out,” Parker says.
Groups can check out the nooks and crannies of several independent bookstores in search of a souvenir. With more than 300,000 books, maps, and prints, Baldwin’s Book Barn is a book lover’s dream. Brickbat Books offers everything from first editions to new graphic novels in an atmosphere that invites readers and collectors to browse and discover.
An itinerary built around Philadelphia’s literary legacy promises groups another way to experience this iconic American city.
Article by Michael McLaughlin
Main image: Rare books and first editions,The Rosenbach Museum and Library; Credit: The Rosenbach