George Peabody Library

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"Peabody Institute Library" redirects here. For the public library of Danvers, Massachusetts, see Peabody Institute (Danvers, Massachusetts).

The George Peabody Library, formerly known as the Library of the Peabody Institute, is the 19th-century research library of The Johns Hopkins University. It is located on the Peabody campus at Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore, Maryland. The collections are available for use by the general public, in keeping with the philanthropist George Peabody's goal to create a library "for the free use of all persons who desire to consult it."[1]


Interior of the George Peabody Library

The Peabody Institute Library was funded by the good graces of George Peabody. Peabody, having become a wealthy man in Baltimore through commerce during the 1810s and 20s, "gave $300,000 as a beginning sum for the Peabody Institute" in February 1857.[2] Peabody dedicated the Institute to the citizens of Baltimore in appreciation of their kindness and hospitality. The Institute was designed to be a cultural center for Baltimore, with plans for an art gallery and music school, as well as a public library.[3] The Peabody Institute west wing opened in 1866 as Mr. Peabody was greeted by thousands of Baltimore City Public School children as he stood on the steps of his building overlooking the circle at the Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood and the current library structure in the east wing was designed in the same identical style by the architect Edmund Lind and opened to the public in 1878. The library remained part of the Peabody Institute until 1967, when it was transferred to the City of Baltimore and became a department in the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the City and State's free public library which had been founded and endowed in 1882-86 by George Peabody's friend and fellow Bay Stater, Enoch Pratt, (1808-1896). In 1982 it was later transferred to The Johns Hopkins University and became part of the Eisenhower Library's Special Collections department and also part of the JHU Sheridan Libraries system.


View of the George Peabody Library from the third floor stacks

The main collection reflects broad interests of the 19th century, in keeping with Peabody's desire for it to be "well furnished in every department of knowledge and of the most approved literature."[4] The library's 300,000 volume collection is particularly strong in religion, British art, architecture, topography and history; American history, biography, and literature; Romance languages and literature; history of science; and geography, exploration and travel.[5] While the majority of the collection dates to the 19th century, the library also has a strong assortment of early printed books, works on natural history and exploration, and a marquee collection of Don Quixote editions.


The library interior is one of the most beautiful in the world.[6] Completed in 1878, it was designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind in collaboration with the first Peabody provost, Nathaniel H. Morison, that described it as a "cathedral of books." The neo-Grec interior features an atrium that, over a black and white marble floor, soars 61 feet to a latticed skylight surrounded by five tiers of ornamental cast-iron balconies and gold-scalloped columns. Between July 2002 and May 2004, the library underwent a $1 million renovation and was refurbished.[7]


  1. ^ George Peabody, Founding Letter, February 12, 1857, American Journal of Education 3 (1857), 226.
  2. ^ Franklin Parker.George Peabody and Maryland. Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 37, No. 3. (Nov., 1959), pp. 150-157.
  3. ^ Dorsey, John. Mr. Peabody's Library. Baltimore, 1978. 4-5
  4. ^ George Peabody, Founding Letter, February 12, 1857, American Journal of Education 3 (1857), 226.
  5. ^ Oehlert, D. Books and Blueprints: Building America's Public Libraries (Contributions in Librarianship and Information Science) p.19, Greenwood Press (1991)
  6. ^ Dumenco, Simon (2009-11-24). "Oriole Kooky". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
  7. ^ The JHU Gazette, A Polished Peabody Library Reopens, May 3, 2004,Vol 33.

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Coordinates: 39°17′50.5″N 76°36′54″W / 39.297361°N 76.61500°W / 39.297361; -76.61500