Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Membership libraries which required the purchase of stock or payment of a subscription fee preceded free public libraries. Library stock certificates for these libraries are very collectible items. Ronald Rayman in an article entitled "Taking Stock: Financing Libraries in the 19th Century in the November 15, 1982 issue of Library Journal discussed these stock certificates. He indicated that library related stock certificates were uncommon, and that a dealer in stock certificates had indicated that only about one certificate in 10,000 might be a library issue. The collecting of stock certificates is part of a hobby called "scripophily". The Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia was founded in 1821under the name "Philadelphia Library Association". It started out as a subscription library but started issuing stock in 1826. The Library was quite prominent for a period but faded in the twentieth century. It eventually became part of the Free Library of Philadelphia and operated as a branch library for the business community. The branch closed in the late 1970s. Many of its former books can be found in the used book and rare book market. This stock certificate is dated May 21, 1864 and has a revenue stamp affixed. Revenue stamps were introduced during the Civil War to help pay for the war. More library stock certificates can be seen HERE.