Selected Special Collections
Thomas Jefferson's Library
The book collections of the Library of Congress were reestablished, after their destruction in 1814, by the purchase of the private library of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). At the time of the purchase, Jefferson's collection contained 6,487 volumes in the fields of politics, history, science, law literature, fine arts, and philosophy and was recognized as one of the finest private libraries in the United States. While several members of Congress object that the collection "was too philosophical, had too many books in foreign languages, was too costly, and was too large for the wants of Congress," as Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford wrote many years later, the purchase was authorized on January 26, 1815, for the sum of $23,950. The Jefferson Library forms the nucleaus aorund which the present collections of the Library of Congress have been assembled. For nearly a century the subject arrangement that Jefferson developed from Sir Francis Bacon's division of knowledge was used to organize the Library of Congress book collection. Jefferson's statement, "There is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer," is still the guiding principle for Library acquititions.
While many of the Jefferson books were lost in the Library fire of 1851, the remaining volumes have been assembled as a unit in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Many books bear Jefferson's ownership markings as well as the original Library of Congress bookplates and classification. The contents of the entire 1815 purchase were reconstructed by E. Millicent Sowerby and described in a five volume set entitled which is now made available digitally. (See links below.)
Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson; Compiled with Annotations by E. Millicent Sowerby. Washington, D. C., The Library of Congress, 1952-59. (5 volumes).
Volume 1: History- Page-turner, PDF, (413.87 MB), Bibliographic Information
Volume 2: Philosophy- Page-turner, PDF, (319.83 MB), Bibliographic Information
Volume 3: Philosophy continued- Page-turner, PDF, (338.33 MB), Bibliographic Information
Volume 4: Fine Arts- Page-turner, PDF, (403.52 MB), Bibliographic Information
Volume 5: Fine Arts concluded, Addenda, Indexes- Page-turner, PDF, (341.82 MB), Bibliographic Information
Other digitized items From the Thomas Jefferson Library Collection
A Summary View of the Rights of British America: Set Forth in Some... Williamsburg Va.: Printed by Clementina Rind, .
Page Turner - PDF (11.94 MB) - Bibliographic Information
The Thomas Jefferson's Library Exhibit