“I wish to provide for an extensive Library, to be well furnished in every department of knowledge, and of the most approved literature; which is to be maintained for the free use of all persons who may desire to consult it.” George Peabody

So wrote George Peabody, the Massachusetts born philanthropist, in his Founder’s Letter of the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore in 1857. Peabody’s endowment came in appreciation of the “kindness and hospitality’ shown him by the citizens of Baltimore during his early career in dry goods and trade. It was the fortune he eventually made as a financier and banker in London that allowed him to become one of America’s most important early philanthropists.

Begun in 1860, the library collection now contains more than 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. We continue to add books to the collection.

Using the Library

The George Peabody Library, in keeping with Peabody’s original gift, is free and open to the public. Today the library is part of the Special Collections Department of the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University. It is a non-circulating collection, but readers and researchers are welcome to use the collection. The collection can be searched online using the search in the top left of this page. You can also browse 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.

Visitors are allowed to take photographs of the Library, but we please ask that you be courteous of patrons. The library is a closed-stacks facility; visitors are not permitted upstairs for their safety and the safety of the collection.

Architecture

The iconic 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).

View from a balcony in the George Peabody Library

George Peabody Library Staff

Name Contact Subject Areas
Herr, Heidi
Outreach Librarian; Librarian
410-516-4259
hherr1@jhu.edu
English, Philosophy
Espinosa, Paul
Curator of George Peabody Library
667-208-6715
pespino3@jhu.edu
Dean, Gabrielle
William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts; Librarian
667-208-6715
gnodean@jhu.edu
Post-1800 Rare Books and Manuscripts, Writing Seminars
Havens, Earle
Nancy H. Hall Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts
410-516-8662
earle.havens@jhu.edu
Wayner, Eileen
Director of Private Events
410-516-6696
ewayner@jhu.edu
Willinghan, Diane
Private Events Assistant
410-433-6485
dwillin1@jhu.edu
Moskowitz, Judy
Private Events Coordinator
410-516-1027
jmoskow2@jhu.edu