Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach ( July 22, 1876 — July 1, 1952) was an avid American collector, scholar, and seller of rare books and manuscripts.
Abraham was the youngest of the eight children of Morris Rosenbach (May 14, 1820 — May 8, 1885) and Isabella H. Polock (November 26, 1834 — July 25, 1906), who were married on November 11, 1857. As a child, Abraham spent much time in the shop of his maternal uncle, Moses Polock (May 14, 1817 — August 16, 1903), a well-known and somewhat eccentric antiquarian bookseller. Polock's famous shop was located at 406 Commerce Street in Philadelphia. Abraham got his start collecting while a freshman in college at the University of Pennsylvania. His company, simply called the Rosenbach Company, went on to help assemble the extensive collections of the Huntington Library and the Folger Shakespeare Library. He also worked for private clients such as J. P. Morgan, Lessing Rosenwald, and Harry Elkins Widener. He published several articles and even books in order to reinforce the interest in rare books and manuscripts.
Rosenbach is credited with popularizing the collecting of American literature at a time when only European literature was considered collectable. He also advanced the idea of book collecting as a means of investment.
Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach died, aged 75, in Philadelphia. His legacy is the Rosenbach Museum & Library. A lifelong Philadelphian, Rosenbach lived on Delancey Place, the small, residential street where the museum is located, from 1926 to 1952. He was a collector and scholar who parlayed his passion for books and manuscripts into a successful business, becoming the most famous dealer in rare books and manuscripts in the first half of the 20th century, who helped to build some of this country's most important private collections, always urging their transformation into public libraries.
Rosenbach also kept many treasures for his own collection, such as James Joyce's manuscript of Ulysses and the earliest known letter by George Washington. Together with his brother and business partner Philip Hyman Rosenbach (September 29, 1863 — March 5, 1953 ), he established the Rosenbach Museum & Library by testamentary gift in 1954 to share these and other treasures with the public. The museum, which includes his original libraries and residential areas, provides an intimate setting for visitors to explore the brothers' collections of rare books, manuscripts, furniture, silver, paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture.
The Rosenbach Museum & Library seeks to inspire curiosity, inquiry, and creativity by engaging broad audiences in exhibitions, programs, and research based on its remarkable and expanding collections. With an outstanding collection of rare books, manuscripts, furniture, and art, the Rosenbach is a museum and world-renowned research library, set within two historic 1865 townhouses, that reflects an age when great collectors lived among their treasures.
On December 3, 2013 the Rosenbach Museum & Library ofﬁcially became afﬁliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia, becoming "The Rosenbach at the Free Library".
On April 2, 2008, the Rosenbach Museum & Library received an official State Historical Marker by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in recognition of the lasting contributions of museum co-founder, Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach. The commission commemorated Dr. Rosenbach’s legacy as one of America’s greatest rare book dealers and his lasting contributions to Philadelphia and beyond with a marker in front of the museum, located at 2008-2010 Delancey Place in the city's historic Rittenhouse Square neighborhood.
State Historical Marker Text: "Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach (1876 – 1952)
Among America’s most influential rare book dealers, he helped build many of the nation’s great libraries. He and his brother Philip established the Rosenbach Museum & Library to share their personal collection with the public. They lived on this block from 1926 to 1952."