The Library Company Of Philadelphia Signs A Contract With Its First Librarian

On November 14, 1732 the Library Company of Philadelphia signed a contract with its first librarian.

Founded by Benjamin Franklin and friends in November 1731, the library enrolled members for a fee of 40 shillings but had to wait for its books to arrive from England before beginning full operation.

Many subscription libraries—founded to benefit academies, colleges, and other groups—were established from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The Library Company of Philadelphia grew out of the needs of the Leather Apron Club, also known as the "Junto," of which Franklin was a member. In addition to exchanging business information, these merchants discussed politics and natural philosophy, contributing to their requirements for books. Volumes were purchased with the annual contributions of shareholders, building a more comprehensive library than any individual could afford.

The Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP) is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based non-profit organization. Founded by Benjamin Franklin as a library, the Library Company of Philadelphia has accumulated one of the most significant collections of historically-valuable manuscripts and printed material in the United States.

The current collection size is about 500,000 books and 70,000 other items, including 2,150 items that once belonged to Franklin, the Mayflower Compact, major collections of 17th century and Revolution-era pamphlets and ephemera, maps, and whole libraries assembled in the 18th and 19th centuries. The collection also includes first editions of Moby-Dick and Leaves of Grass.

The Library Company was an offshoot of the Junto, a discussion group in colonial Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that gravitated around Benjamin Franklin. On July 1, 1731, Franklin and a number of his fellow members among the Junto drew up "Articles of Agreement" to found a library, for they had discovered that their far-ranging conversations on intellectual and political themes foundered at times on a point of fact that might be found in a decent library. In colonial Pennsylvania at the time there were not many books; Books from London booksellers were expensive to purchase and slow to arrive. Franklin and his friends were mostly of moderate means, and none alone could have afforded a representative library such as a gentleman of leisure might expect to assemble. By pooling their resources in pragmatic Franklinian fashion, as the Library Company's historian wrote, "the contribution of each created the book capital of all." The first librarian they hired was Louis Timothee, being America's first.

Franklin came up with the idea of a subscription library for members of the Junto, and the concept was expanded to include the citizens of Philadelphia. Before this, there were only private libraries owned by the rich. The Library Company was founded on July 1, 1731, with 50 subscribers who paid 40 shillings each to join and pledged 10 shillings a year to remain members.