The Main College Library


Pennsylvania Hall First Floor Plans

Located in the second floor of Penn Hall was the Gettysburg College library. It had books for the students to read and included everything from medical books, to those in German, and fiction novels to read for fun. Pennsylvania Hall, where the library was housed, was completed in 1837. The first library of Gettysburg College was run by Michael Jacobs out of his home.

The First Librarian

Michael Jacobs
Michael Jacobs, the College’s first librarian

In addition to his role as professor of mathematics, chemistry, and natural science, Dr. Michael Jacobs was also the college’s first librarian. In the years before the College Edifice was built, Dr. Jacobs ran the library out of his own home. He allowed students to sign out either one large book or two small books for one week. Jacobs was also responsible for helping to initially organize the Philomathaean and Phrenakosmian societies in 1831 with students from the Gettysburg Gymnasium, the predecessor to Pennsylvania College.

During the Battle, Jacobs and his son Henry observed the action from a garret window in their home using a telescope usually used by the college for astronomical observations. He also dutifully took detailed meteorological readings while the battle raged, recording for posterity exactly  what the weather conditions were during those tumultuous days in July. Jacobs would go on to write one of the first published accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg based on his observations during and after the battle.

The Main Library

In July of 1863, the Pennsylvania College Library was comprised of approximately 5,450 volumes covering a wide variety of subject matter. New titles were purchased for the library using the Library Fund, and the faculty meeting minutes from the College’s early years provide a detailed picture of which books were purchased in the months leading up to the battle.

Pennsylvania Hall circa 1840s

Having a good library was important to the founders of the college and they allocated $100 each year to the spend improving the libraries collection. Eventually in 1836 they decided to charge each student $1 to use towards funding the libraries collection. But the library ultimately depended on monetary donations from alumni or the donation of books by professors or friends of the college.

The Library Catalog

The first library catalog goes up until book 5460 and keeps a detailed record of all the books bought and added to the College Library. This shows that the last book added to the library before the battle is Edwards on the Will (BT810 .E251 1861) In the faculty meeting notes this book was purchased on April 14, 1863 and arrived in Gettysburg in time for the battle.

Image of the Faculty Minutes from April 14th mentioned Edward on the Will