Thomas Jefferson’s Library

Thomas Jefferson’s Library

Ongoing exhibition, opened April 11, 2008.

Throughout his life, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) collected books across a vast spectrum of topics and languages. Jefferson followed a modified version of an organizational system created by British philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626) to arrange the books in his library, then the largest private book collection in North America.

Divided into categories of Memory, Reason, and Imagination—which Jefferson translated to “History,” “Philosophy,” and “Fine Arts”—and further divided into forty-four “chapters,” the collection placed within Jefferson’s fingertips the span of his multifaceted interests. The books from Jefferson’s library are part of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

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Examine selected books in the “Memory” (History) section and view the pages of History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, which chronicles events of that period. Read more about Memory »

View all items from Memory »


Examine selected books in the “Reason” (Philosophy) section and view the pages of Niccolò Macchiavelli’s The Prince, which describes ways in which a ruler might obtain and maintain political power. Read more about Reason »

View all items from Reason »


Examine selected books in the “Imagination” (Fine Arts) section and view the pages of The Builder’s Dictionary, an eighteenth-century handbook that details aspects of building design, construction, and finishes.  Read more about Imagination »

View all items from Imagination »

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Explore interactive presentations to learn more about Thomas Jefferson's Library and selected books.

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