Hands-On Tours

Turn the pages of a rare book, test the weight of a delicate teacup, read from a manuscript. Created especially for visitors who seek an in-depth and focused look at our collection, Hands-On Tours allow you unparalleled access to rare and important items that are not usually on view to the public. Led by a member of our staff, you’ll spend an hour getting up-close and personal with a variety of treasures related to a particular theme, like founding fathers, love letters, Irish authors, and more. Recommended for adults and children eight and older.

Advance Registration
Hands-On Tours are offered almost every Friday and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Advance registration is strongly recommended, as there are a limited number of spots on each tour and tours without registrants 48 hours in advance will be cancelled. Upon registration, you will be asked to purchase your admission and Hands-On Tour.To register, call (215)732-1600, ext. 123 or e-mail rsvp@rosenbach.org.

Drop-in Visitors
Any open spots on a tour will become available to drop-in visitors on a first-come first-served basis at noon on the day of the tour. If you plan to drop-in for a Hands-On Tour, please call (215)732-1600 and dial “0” to confirm that the tour is being offered.

$5 per person (in addition to the cost of general admission).

Upcoming Hands-on Tours

George Cruikshank, “Return Again Our England’s Hannibal.”  Hand colored woodcut
Hands-On Tour
Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Incomprehensible incantations, mysterious symbols, and sleight-of-hand illusions abound on this tour about the history of magic in print. You’ll be bamboozled by magicians like Hermes Trismegistus and John Dee. Impress your friends with a newfound knowledge of bogus Latin spells and try a beginner’s lesson in “card conjuring.” And along with these enchantments, you’ll get to experience the real magic of a fifteenth century book and an autographed portrait by Houdini in your hands. More
Sarony Studio, Portrait of Marianne Moore. New York, 1924. 2006. 5116
Hands-On Tour
Sunday, March 29, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Marianne Moore, like Pablo Picasso, broke free of tradition and reassembled the pieces in a new and sometimes confounding way. In this tour, we will study her letters, clippings and the objects she surrounded herself with to find out more about the sources for her revolutionary and groundbreaking work. More
John Tenniel, The Jaberwock, with eyes of flame. Pencil and gauche, ca. 1870. 19
Hands-On Tour
Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Mathematician and cleric Charles Lutwidge Dodgson published children’s books under the pen name Lewis Carroll. This tour will explore both the man and the author. More
Hands-On Tour
Friday, April 10, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
From the Canterbury Tales to Ulysses, the Rosenbach’s collection is full of books that have been banned, challenged, or censored. During Banned Books Week, take your rights and the books back into your own hands, discuss the controversies surrounding them, and celebrate your freedom to read. More
Dracula, Dust Jacket. EL3 .S874d 897
Hands-On Tour
Friday, April 17, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Get up close and personal with Bram Stoker's hand-written notes for the novel as Rosenbach staff discuss what it takes to create an enduring monster. More
Cash & Godshaw, photograph of Adolph Rosengarten. Louisville, Ky, 1862. 2006.674
Hands-On Tour
Sunday, April 19, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
From the writings of Abraham Lincoln, to the wartime letters of Col. Alexander Biddle of the 121st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, to a Confederate children’s textbook, this tour provides a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of those who shaped and survived America’s worst conflict. More
Francesco Bartolozzi, after William Hamilton, Mr. Kemble as King Richard the Thi
Hands-On Tour
Friday, April 24, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
When is Shakespeare not Shakespeare? And what is a folio, anyway? After seeing some of Shakespeare’s earliest printings and books that inspired his plots, we'll explore how his work has fared at the hands of actors, editors, and forgers. More
Rockwell Kent, The Masthead, illustration for Moby Dick, Random House edition.19
Hands-On Tour
Sunday, April 26, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
“Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever”, from Moby Dick. Throughout history authors have used the Sea as a metaphor for birth, adventure, isolation, a moral testing ground, and more. On this tour we will examine manuscript pages of Joseph Conrad, read stories of castaways, the influential poem the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and other writings of life on the tempestuous sea. More
Incun 491p Lisbon pentateuch
Hands-On Tour
Friday, May 1, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Scattered among the Rosenbach’s collection of 15th-century, printed books known by bibliophiles as incunabula are among the first books printed in the Hebrew language. Each has its own visual beauty and its own story to tell about early printing in Europe, local cultural tensions, change, and continuity. Whether you are a reader of Hebrew or not, you can engage with these volumes and learn about early works of philosophy and faith, see what makes an Italian prayerbook unusual—as well as rare, in this case—and recognize the difference between an achievement in printing and a triumph. We’ll then venture slightly towards modernity to see how Hebrew books fared in the 17th and 18th centuries. We’ll look at books that originated in modern-day Italy, Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands, as well as the United States. More
Washington, George, (1732-1799).Autographed Letter Signed, 1749 May 5, Ferry Far
Hands-On Tour
Sunday, May 3, 2015 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
From George Washington’s earliest known letter (he was just 17!) to a meticulously folded page containing a scientific observation made by Thomas Jefferson while he was walking outside on a misty day, this tour offers an intimate view of the Founding Fathers’ writings to family, friends, colleagues, and even themselves. A rare opportunity to know our nation’s icons as real people: fathers, spurned lovers, jealous politicians, intellectuals, and, of course, revolutionaries. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin form the core of the tour. More