Phrenakosmian and Philomathaean Societies Libraries

The Philomathaean and Phrenakosmian societies were created in 1831, in what was still Gettysburg Academy, to intentionally rival one another. This rivalry was meant to “Stimulate the members to mutual intellectual and moral improvement.” (Briedenbaugh, 112). The societies used their libraries to intellectually arm themselves for their debates against each other. This caused the society libraries to grow to the point where they both rivaled the regular College Library in size as well as scope of subject matter.

Image of 4th floor plans of Penn Hall
Floorplan for the Fourth Floor of Penn Hall

The Society libraries were located in Pennsylvania Hall. In 1889 after the new Recitation Building was completed each society was given a room on the fourth floor.

The societies used specific bookplates to identify which books belonged to them. In 1862, the Phenakosmian Society began to use an ornate, custom made bookplate, which utilized a steel-plate engraving. The engraving featured a contemporary view of the Pennsylvania College campus in the middle. Though less ornate the Philomathaean Society also used specific bookplates to label their books. The early Philo Society bookplates often identified which subject section, alcove, and shelf the book belonged to. This helped the society members re-shelve their books in the right places. The literary societies were a large part of social life at Pennsylvania College from 1831-1924.