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Manuscript studies collection

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The University of Pennsylvania Libraries are home to the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS), a world-leading research center for the study of the hand-written document before the age of print. SIMS promotes the study of manuscripts in a global and digital context. In the words of the institute's mission statement:

Guided by the vision of its founder, Lawrence J. Schoenberg, the mission of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at Penn Libraries is to bring manuscript culture, modern technology and people together to bring access to and understanding of our intellectual heritage locally and around the world.

SIMS engages in a large number of projects and programs at Penn and beyond, details of which can be found on the institute's website.

SIMS also publishes a twice-annual peer-reviewed journal, Manuscript Studies, which is available in print and online via Project Muse (paid institutional subscription) and Scholarly Commons (open-access, with a one-year moving wall).


Special collections

The pre-modern manuscript holdings of Penn Libraries consist of two major collections, both of which are housed and available for consultation at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts: ms. codices, acquired over time as part of the general special collections holdings, and the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection (LJS), donated to Penn Libraries in 2013. Both collections are fully digitized and can be browsed on the Penn in Hand platform. Open-access metadata and full-resolution digital images can found via the OPenn repository.


Another resource available to researchers is the Lawrence J. Schoenberg collection of auction catalogs, including Christie's catalogs (finding aid here) and Sotheby's catalogs (finding aid here).

Links to special collections will go here if they exist.
Links to policies will go here if they exist.

Doing research

To consult pre-modern manuscripts or any special collections items at Penn, researchers should register for a Research Account for Special Collections. Items requested through this system can be consulted in the Kislak Center Reading Room, located on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center (Room 620). Patrons can also use their Research Account to request special collections items held in the Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Library at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, and the Museum Library.


For questions about Penn's pre-modern manuscript holdings, contact Nicholas Herman, Curator of Manuscripts.

For questions relating to manuscript digitization and digital humanities projects, contact Dot Porter, Curator of Research Services.

For questions relating to SIMS programs and projects, including fellowships, contact Lynn Ransom, Curator of Programs.