Philomathian Society, College Hall, Univ. of Pennsylvania

The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Library, Philomathean Halls

Philomathean Library Catalogue
The Society’s collections have been catalogued in their entirety, but owing to an unfortunate breakdown of our internal server combustion engine it is out of service at this time. To inquire about a specific volume, please contact the Librarian.

History of the Phibrary

The very heart of the Philomathean Society, the library, has been the home of impromptu impassioned debates, and lonely scholars working late into the night. Lining the shelves are nearly two centuries worth of books donated by members upon their induction into the society, and again upon their graduation.


Before the University moved west to its current campus, before the 1888 construction of its Furness Library, it was the Philomathean Society’s collection which served as the de facto University library. It found a new home on the fourth floor of College Hall when the University built quarters for both the Philomathean and Zelosophic Societies.


In 1916, with $1,500 dollars worth of profits from their production of ‘A Comedy of Errors’ the Philomatheans changed their “library chambers into an experimental theater complete with portable stage. The library book cases were removed, and new meeting room seats with overhanging book shelves were installed.” (Philomathean Society History).


Eleven years later the society was booted out of its roost atop College Hall, and forced to share a room in Houston Hall with twelve other student groups. This meant that most of the collection was forced to be disbanded.


By 1954 the society had only 157 volumes. It did not take long for the collection to grow with dedication of incoming Philomatheans, and their families. The induction of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Library shortly after also boasted our collection. When Betty Rosencrantz passed away, her parents endowed the library with a goodly sum of money to purchase books in her name once a year. In 2002, Dr. Robert Sebastian passed away. His son donated a sizeable portion of his library to the Society.


Today the library, restored to its former home in College Hall, has amassed a sizable collection ranging over a wide array of materials. In the main library, generous fiction and biography sections compliment a wide range of books from anthropology to a subject beginning with “z” less trite than “zoology” (although our zoological collection is extensive). Our poetry section is regularly raided for use in the Keats & Beats poetry readings. In the office, serving as the Library Annex, primary source documents, and bound collections of journals such as Foreign Affairs, can be used for research. The annex is the home of books by Philomatheans, and a selection of books from the Zelosophic Library as well.


As the Society changes its face the Library has changed its fundamental political character. Thus, in recent history the Library has been ruled by a Communist dictatorship, a Mugabe-style socialist regime, theocracy, a committee for public safety, a “Bibliotechnion” run by machine intelligences, a Dinocracy, and, today, as a Galactic Empire.