Founded in 1848, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. BPL’s dedication to the advancement of learning began in a former schoolhouse located on Mason Street on March 20, 1854. At that time, the library’s collections approximated 16,000 volumes, and it was evident from the day the doors opened that the quarters were inadequate. In December of that same year, the library’s commissioners were authorized to locate a new building upon a lot on Boylston Street. The Copley Square location has been home to the library since 1895, when architect Charles Follen McKim completed his “palace for the people.” By 1971 the library was ready to expand its Copley Square location by opening an addition. The Boylston Street building completed a significant renovation that transformed the library for the next generation of users.
BPL collections total more than 23 million items, with a vast research collection, 6.1 million circulating books, rare books and manuscripts, and a wealth of maps, musical scores, and prints. Among its special collections, BPL holds several first-edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and, in its rare book collection, the personal library of John Adams. Due to the extent of the collections, many of the library’s most precious items are displayed rotating, offering the public an opportunity to view these historic treasures. In addition, BPL is dedicated to digitizing its special collections to make them available online to anyone worldwide. More than 3.7 million people visit the BPL each year, many in pursuit of research material, others looking for an afternoon’s reading, and still others for the magnificent and unique art and architecture. BPL enriches lives, hosting thousands of free programs and exhibitions and serving millions annually. At the BPL, books are just the beginning.
AS THE CITY OF BOSTON GREW, Boylston Street became a main artery, bringing visitors and residents from the Common and Public Gardens, all the way through Back Bay, to Fenway. The Boston Public Library’s Central Library is situated in the middle of this route. Bordered by fashion-forward Newbury Street to the north, and Copley and Prudential Centers to the south, the BPL is centrally located in one of the most walkable and tourist-friendly parts of Boston.
TODAY, the McKim Building is an iconic part of Boston’s landscape. The McKim Building edifice faces popular Copley Square, home of the John Hancock tower and one of the most visited green spaces in the city. Within, the McKim Building truly is Boston’s palace. From the Catalan vaulting in the main lobby and Guastavino Room, to the Italianate outdoor courtyard, to the murals of Chavannes Gallery and Abbey Room, to the grandest of spaces, Bates Hall, the McKim Building impresses all who enter.
TODAY, the newly renovated Boylston Street Building is the hub of the BPL system’s Central Library. It serves as a dynamic space for the community to interact with history in a modern atmosphere. The waving wooden ceiling of Boylston Hall and the dramatic skylight and stairs of DeFerrari Hall bring a modern and vibrant energy to this new addition.
With beautiful sprawling halls, conference rooms, technology labs, and even a café/radio station in partnership with The Catered Affair and WGBH, the Boylston Street Building has various event space options to suit every crowd. The team at The Catered Affair can transform each room from the people’s library daily to a stunning event venue by night.
Experience the Boston Public Library | Additional Opportunities for your Guests
We love the opportunity to show visitors the true gems at the Boston Public Library and would happily schedule a private tour for your group.
The Map Center collection includes over 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases dating back to the 15th century. A curated tour through the current exhibition or viewing of items stored in the vault will be the highlight of your event. The Map Center Collection includes: • Geographia, originally produced by Claudius Ptolemy, printed in 1482. • First Printed Map of Boston, a plan of the Town of Boston (1725-1728) by John Bonner. • Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), by Abraham Ortelius. A spectacularly colored and illustrated atlas showing maps of the world based on contemporary exploration. Viewings in the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center begin at $500.
The Boston Public Library holds thousands of rare books, manuscripts, and historical artifacts. Treat your guests to the exclusive opportunity of a private tour through the department while viewing some of the most treasured pieces. Our collection includes:
Shakespeare’s First Folio (London, 1623), the first collected works of William Shakespeare published seven years after his death and is one of the most important works of the English Literary canon.
Boston Massacre materials, including John Adams’ original trial notes for the defense of the British soldiers, Paul Revere’s sketch of the scene of the Massacre used in court, and his engraving of the scene.
Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts is a distinguished collection of secular and non-secular manuscripts dating from the 10th-14th centuries.
This exclusive opportunity begins at $2,500.
Private tours led by our volunteer guides can be customized to your group and range from 20-60 minutes in length. Highlights include:
Mural cycles by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Edwin Austin Abbey, and John Singer Sargent
Sculpture by Daniel Chester French, Bela Pratt, Frederick MacMonnies, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Building details by Architect Charles Follen McKim and vault designer Rafael Guastavino
Each guide is $200 and can accommodate 20 guests (four guide maximum per event).
Learn more about Boston and the Boston Public Library!
Tour the BPL – Take a virtual tour of the library and explore each room by day and ready for an event!
We’d love to hear from you! Call our venue team at Boston Public Library directly at 617-859-2282. Otherwise, please fill out your information; we will contact you within 24 hours.