As one of the older libraries in the United States, the Phillips Library proudly makes available materials that are considered rare and unusual. With roots in early American trade to the four corners of the globe the collection demonstrates depth that today can only be obtained with excessive financial support.
Printed records of global travels and exploration document five centuries of maritime exploration, as well as the global nature of commercial outreach by Essex County mariners during the regions golden age of shipping in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In addition to narratives and memoirs of professional sailors, those of private sailors and missionaries are also held. Virtually complete holdings of the working documents of shipping and trade are also available accessible by vessel name:
- Ship Registers
- Coast Pilots, including Blunt and Bowditch
The library also maintains a file recording the nautical charts held in the Maritime Department.
The printed collections are strong in New England and Essex County art and culture. Holdings reflect the social, cultural, and economic values of one of the nations earliest settled regions, encompassing the industrial cities of Lynn, Lawrence, and Haverhill; the ports of Salem, Gloucester, and Newburyport; the agricultural towns of Topsfield, Ipswich, and Essex; and religious centers such as Andover. An extensive collection of printed family histories and genealogies provide statistical and genealogical information about Essex County families. In addition to family histories, local materials include:
- County and Town Histories
- Published Vital Records to 1850
- City and Town Directories
- Census Data for Essex County
- Tax Lists
Journals and periodicals from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, some in very long runs, are the contemporary reports of births, deaths, marriages, ship arrivals and departures, openings of municipal buildings and businesses, and the expansions of institutions.
Complementing and supplementing the written word are collections of graphic materials:
- Political Cartoons
Photographs published in books and periodicals, and those that are components of manuscript collections are augmented by the holdings of the museums Photography Archives.
Ephemera (the bits of printing designed to fulfill a specific, short-term purpose, and then be discarded) are some of the most colorful collections. Subject matter represented is economic, political, and social, but the graphics are also examples of design, typography, and the printing arts. Among ephemera collections are:
- Advertising Cards
- Clipper Ship Sailing Cards
- Greeting Cards
- Post Cards
- Sample Books
- Trade Catalogs