Bookplates were used to identify the different books within each section. They could be pasted atop one another, as location information changed.

Main Library Bookplates

To identify books each library had their own custom bookplates. Each library had different cycles of bookplates. Size, color, level of complexity, etc. all changed over time.

Original Main College Library Bookplate and inscription dated 1841

The Pennsylvania College Bookplates were straightforward and simple. They just included Pennsylvania College, its location, the alcove, shelf, and catalog number. There are a few iterations of the Pennsylvania College bookplate but they relatively stay the same. The first was one that just said Pennsylvania College and its catalog numbers. There are a few different versions that come in a few different colors. They had the same original bookplates from 1836 up until the late 1850s.

From this point on they used a simple bookplate that stated the catalog number, shelve number, and alcove. This one was used until the name of the college was changed in the 1920s.

Main College Library Bookplate from 1850s

Phrenakosmian Bookplates

Original Phrenakosmian Bookplate from the 1830s

The Phrenakosmian Bookplates are very ornate and change a lot over time. They start with the name of the organization, Pennsylvania College, and then a catalog number. These were used through the 1850s when a new much more elaborate bookplate that depicted Penn Hall, and a library on it was created. It also included an alcove and shelf number was used. This new bookplate came in a variety of colors and started to be put into use in the the early 1860s.


The Phrenakosmian bookplates were elaborate until the 1890s where a simpler but still ornate bookplate is used. It featured a crest with Phrenakosmian written out in Greek letters. It also included an alcove and shelf location as well as a catalog number. Phrenakosmian books also had an embossed stamp in them, but it is difficult to tell when this was implemented since they could have been retrospectively stamped.

One of the last bookplates that they used was simple and to the point, with just their name, their name in Greek, and then the alcove and shelf number. This was used in the 1890s and is the last bookplate made by the Phrenakosmian Society and was used until they disbanded in the 1920s.

Philomathaean Bookplates

The Philomanthaean Society bookplates were similar in design to the Pennsylvania College bookplates. At first, books had inscriptions in them but they moved to simple bookplates starting in the 1830s. The original bookplates were blue, but they cycled through a few others before adopting square ones. Since these early bookplates did not include information about the location of the books the Philomatheans also had genre bookplates. They were separated the same way they were in the catalog, science and religion, philosophy, romance, history, and miscellaneous.

Starting in the 1850s a straightforward square bookplate began to be used as well. It gave the name of the organization, spelled it out in Greek letters and gave alcove, shelf, and catalog number. There are two different versions of this bookplate, one with square corners and one with embellished corners. There is no difference between these two bookplates and was just a small alteration made when they got new bookplates. The Philomathaeans tended to use multiple similar, but different bookplates at once.

Starting in the early 1920s the Philomathaean society got one last set of Bookplates that stated “Library of the Philomathaean Society Gettysburg College.” This is the only literary society bookplates to use the new name Gettysburg College.

Philomathaean Society Bookplate that says Gettysburg College

Linnaean Association Bookplates

The Linnaean Association did not have any bookplates during their short livelihood, they just had written inscriptions in their front few pages.

Inscription in the first book in the Linnaean Association Library

Gettysburg College Bookplates

Once the literary societies were disbanded in 1924, their collections were absorbed by the main college library. Often times on their new bookplate it was mentioned that they were previously part of the Phrena or Philo Literary Society library. Otherwise they just became part of the Rare Books Collection. Books within the Gettysburg College collection were also stamped with an embossed seal with the college’s new name on it.