Q: How long has the museum been here?
A: In 1954, the Rosenbach Museum & Library opened to the public.

Q: Who are the Rosenbachs?
A: The Rosenbach Museum & Library was founded by Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach and his brother and business partner Philip, who were preeminent dealers in rare books, manuscripts, and fine and decorative art.

Q: Is this a public library?
A: The Rosenbach is a historic house museum and research library, for which you can make appointments with the librarian to view items from our collections.

Q: Can I go through on my own?
A: Exhibitions are self-guided. The historic house and the collections are available by guided tour only.

Q: Is photography allowed?
A: Photography is encouraged in the lobby and historic house. Unless otherwise posted, photography is not permitted in the exhibition galleries.

Q: Do you have a café on site?
A: No, but we can direct you to many restaurant options in the area.

Q: What does Sendak have to do with the Rosenbach?
A: The artist and author Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) was a longtime friend and supporter of the Rosenbach, becoming a trustee in 1973 and later serving as honorary president. Sendak was also an avid rare book collector, and bequeathed the Rosenbach more than 600 rare editions which expanded and complemented the library’s existing collection.
From 1968-2014 the Rosenbach was the sole repository for the picture book illustrations of Maurice Sendak . After his initial visit here in 1966—and thanks to a kinship the artist felt with the rare books and artwork collected by the Rosenbach brothers—Sendak began to leave his artwork for such books as Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), and Outside Over There (1981) on deposit at the Rosenbach where they were regularly exhibited to the public and accessible to researchers. The deposit comprised more than 10,000 pieces of original artwork, as well as manuscripts, dummy books, correspondence, printer’s proofs and other working materials, plus first editions of Sendak’s books. In 2014 the Rosenbach returned the collection to Mr. Sendak’s estate and Foundation, the legal owners of the deposit.

Rosenbach Collections

Q: Was all of this collected by the Rosenbachs?
A: Most of what you see on tour was gathered by the Rosenbachs. Our collections have grown by about one-third since their deaths, mostly due to the addition of several large collections like the Marianne Moore Papers and the Rush-Williams-Biddle Family Papers.

Q: Does the Rosenbach still purchase items for the collection?
A: Yes, though we have very limited funds for the purpose. We focus our purchasing on items that are closely related to our present collections, and fill significant “gaps.”

Q: Does the Rosenbach accept donations?
A: We do accept donations of items that fit within the scope of our collections and meet our criteria for significance and condition. If you have an item that you would like to have considered for donation, please contact Judy Guston, Curator & Director of Collections. Please note that we cannot accept donations of objects that are left at the museum without prior arrangement.

Q: What’s the oldest material in the collections?
A: Our oldest printed book is a copy of the I Ching (Book of Changes), printed in China during the Sung Dynasty, about the tenth century. We also have one leaf of the Gutenberg Bible (1455), the oldest Western book printed in movable type. Our oldest manuscript books are three Christian commentaries dating from the twelfth century.

Our oldest art object is a small sardonyx gem amulet with an inscription in the name of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon from 606 to 561 B.C.E.

Q: What’s the most valuable thing in the collections?
A: There are many kinds of value: cultural, aesthetic, and research value among them. Since these cannot be measured objectively, it is impossible to point to a single item as the most valuable on any of these scales. Even monetary value, which seems so concrete, is largely determined by subjective criteria, and it can only be established with certainty when an item is sold.

Q: How do you pronounce “Rosenbach,” anyway?
A: People who knew the Rosenbach brothers testify that they pronounced their last name “Rosenback,” and this is supported by documentary evidence.

Research Services

Q: Why do I need an appointment?
A: We need to be sure there will be space for you in the reading room, since at times it is filled to capacity with researchers. We need to schedule time for staff members to work with you. And we can make the best use of your time by taking time before your arrival to locate the materials appropriate to your research and to make sure they will be available (not, for example, on exhibition or loan or undergoing conservation) when you want to come. For more information, visit our Research Policies page.

Q: Can I check out books?
A: Because our books need special handling, and many are irreplaceable, we do not check them out or lend them through interlibrary loan. We do lend materials for exhibition to other museums and libraries that meet our rigorous display and care criteria.

Q: Who owns the copyright to works in the collections?
In almost all instances, the Rosenbach owns only the physical property in its holdings—not the intellectual property, or copyright, associated with them. For items not in the public domain these rights are retained by the authors and artists or by their heirs or estates.

For help in identifying copyright holders, consult WATCH, an extensive database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields. WATCH also has links to other useful information about copyright and intellectual property.

Q: Does the Rosenbach offer fellowships for research in its collections?
A: At this time the Rosenbach cannot offer financial support for research in its collections. These sites may help you locate funding:

Questions About Your Books, Manuscripts, and Art

Q: Can you tell me if my old book is rare?
A: For a helpful explanation of the concept of rarity, and answers to other frequently asked questions about rare books and book values, look at the excellent Your Old Books, from the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association.

Q: Can you tell me what my book/manuscript /work of art is worth?
A: The Rosenbach cannot appraise or authenticate objects. The following sites will help you find qualified dealers and appraisers who can do this for you.

Q: Can you give me advice about conserving, repairing, or restoring my books, manuscripts, and art?
A: The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works operates a free conservation referral system and offers some other useful documents:

Q: I have a book or manuscript that may have come from the Rosenbach Company. What can you tell me about it?
A: The Rosenbach Company archives include book and manuscript stock books and files with descriptions of and information about the purchase and sale of items. There are also vouchers documenting purchases by the company, sales books documenting every purchase from the company, customer account records, correspondence, and catalogs of many auctions at which the Company purchased material.

You may submit an inquiry about your item using our web form here.

Q: I have an old painting/print that has a “Rosenbach Galleries” label on the back. What can you tell me about it?
A: The Rosenbach Company, whose showrooms were also known as the Rosenbach Galleries, was in business from 1903-1953. Rosenbach Company records will typically indicate an object’s purchase price, its sale price, its buyer, and its sale date. Sometimes records will indicate where the Company acquired the object and/or the date of purchase, but this information is spotty. Company records will not help in authenticating a piece of art (since their own attributions were often faulty) or in establishing current market value.

The Rosenbach Company both sold artwork and framed clients’ art. Typically art they sold would be marked with a stock number in the form of a number between 1 and 821, followed by a slash (/) and another number between 1 and 30 (for example, 364/21). Items they framed would typically have a label saying “to reorder this frame, please mention” followed by a two to four digit number.

The best way to track down the original sales record is through the stock number or frame number. It is also often possible to track down the record if you know the original purchaser. Please include any additional information you may have regarding artist, title, and the framed size of the picture. Unfortunately the art sales were not indexed by artist or title, so we cannot look up records this way; however you are welcome to make a research appointment and look through the complete stock books yourself.

You may submit an inquiry about your item using our web form here.

Q: Can you help me find biographical information about an artist?
A: Our reference collection is small and focused on people and objects represented in our own collections. The reading room does have copies of biographical dictionaries, including The Benezit Dictionary of Artists, which you are welcome to consult. The following online resources may also be of use:

  • Union List of Artist Names
  • Artnet
  • And don’t overlook that great resource, your local reference librarian, who can help you use print and electronic resources in the library and direct you to additional sources at other libraries or on line.