Special Collections & Archives

Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books

Welcome to the George Peabody Library

Interior of a Crystal Palace Tunnel Book, 1851

19th Century Baseball Book

H.L. Mencken Collection

View from the Third Floor

George Peabody Library: Read All About It Here


About the Peabody Library

The George Peabody Library is a remarkable research library housed in a remarkable building. The brainchild of the philanthropist George Peabody, the goal of the library was to create a publicly-accessible collection that contained the best and latest literature in all branches of knowledge except law and medicine.

The George Peabody Library, formerly the Library of the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore, dates from the founding of the Peabody Institute in 1857. In that year, George Peabody, a Massachusetts-born philanthropist, dedicated the Peabody Institute to the citizens of Baltimore in appreciation of their "kindness and hospitality." Begun in 1860, the library collection contains over 300,000 volumes largely from the 18th and 19th centuries. Notable collection strengths are archaeology, British art and architecture, British and American history, biography, English and American literature, Romance languages and literature, Greek and Latin classics, history of science, geography, and exploration and travel including a large map collection.  We continue to add books to the collection.

The Peabody Library building, which opened in 1878, was designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind, in collaboration with the first provost, Dr. Nathaniel H. Morison. Renowned for its striking architectural interior, the Peabody Stack Room contains five tiers of ornamental cast-iron balconies, which rise dramatically to the skylight 61 feet above the floor. The ironwork was fabricated by the Bartlett-Robbins Company. The architecture of the Peabody Library is discussed in James D. Dilts and Catharine F. Black's Baltimore's Cast-Iron Buildings & Architectural Ironwork (1991).

Maintaining the provisions of Mr. Peabody's original gift, the George Peabody Library is a non-circulating collection open to the general public, and we encourage the use of its collections. The collection is represented online in the JHU Catalog. You can also peruse the library's pioneering printed catalog, Catalog of the Library of the Peabody Institute. Issued in 1883 and 1896, these detailed dictionary catalogs described books as well as articles within journals held by the library. Copies are available on site and in many research libraries. For more information contact Paul Espinosa at pespino3@jhu.edu or 667-208-6715.