Sale of Books to the Library of Congress (1815)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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[[Thomas Jefferson]] was instrumental in rebuilding the Library of Congress when he sold the bulk of his book collection to them in 1815. [[Thomas Jefferson]] was instrumental in rebuilding the Library of Congress when he sold the bulk of his book collection to them in 1815.
-During the War of 1812, the British entered Washington D.C. and began to burn buildings by August 24, 1814. British forces burned the Capitol and the Library of Congress with its approximately 3,000 volumes. Upon hearing this, Jefferson wrote in a letter dated September 21, "I learn from the newspapers that the vandalism of our enemy has triumphed at Washington over science as well as the arts, by the destruction of the public library with the noble edifice in which it was deposited."<ref>Jefferson to Samuel H. Smith. September 21, 1814. [[Short Title List |''L&B'',]] 14:190. [http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl234.htm full text of letter]</ref> +During the War of 1812, British forces entered Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol building and 3,000-volume library inside it. Jefferson expressed his particular distress at this loss to his friend Samuel Smith: "I learn from the newspapers that the vandalism of our enemy has triumphed at Washington over science as well as the arts, by the destruction of the public library with the noble edifice in which it was deposited."<ref>Jefferson to Samuel H. Smith. September 21, 1814. [[Short Title List |''L&B'',]] 14:190. [http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl234.htm full text of letter]</ref> Jefferson wrote in that letter and to President [[James Madison]] on September 24, that he would offer his own collection to replace what was lost.<ref>See Jefferson to Madison, September 24, 1814. Ibid, 14:196.</ref>
-Jefferson wrote in that letter and to President [[James Madison|Madison]] on September 24, that he would offer his own collection to replace what was lost.<ref>See Jefferson to Madison, September 24, 1814. Ibid, 14:196.</ref> +Congress moved quickly to facilitate the acquisition of the new library. The bills for the purchase of Jefferson's books passed in the Senate on December 3, 1814 and in the House on January 30, 1815. The sale price was $23,950 for 6,487 books.
-Congress moved into action to make the sale. The bills for the purchase of Jefferson's books passed in the Senate on December 3, 1814 and in the House on January 30, 1815. The sale price was $23,950 for 6,487 books.+Jefferson received news of the finalized sale in February 1815. The books were shipped in mid-April in the [[Book Boxes|bookcases]] which they already occupied. Ten wagons transported them to Washington, where they arrived in midsummer.
- +
-Jefferson learned about the sale in February 1815. The books were shipped in mid-April in the bookcases which they already occupied. They were covered with packing paper, more paper was wedged between every two volumes to reduce movement, and then boards were nailed over the front of the bookcases. Ten wagons transported them to Washington, where they arrived in midsummer.+
==Documentation of the Books Sold== ==Documentation of the Books Sold==
-Although Jefferson sent a packing list along with the books sent to the Library of Congress, it was lost almost immediately. In 1823, Jefferson delegated his grandson-in-law, [[Nicholas Philip Trist]], to go to the Library of Congress and reconstruct the packing list. Unfortunately this document, too, was lost over the years, as were many of the books themselves through fire and other mishaps.<br>+Although Jefferson sent a packing list along with the books to the Library of Congress, it was lost almost immediately. In 1823, Jefferson delegated his grandson-in-law, [[Nicholas Philip Trist]], to go to the Library of Congress and reconstruct the packing list. Unfortunately this document, too, was lost over the years, as were many of the books themselves through fire and other mishaps.
-E. Millicent Sowerby was commissioned to recreate the list of books Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress to commemorate his 200th birthday. Although she had to reconstruct the list based primarily on Jefferson's [http://www.monticello.org/library/tjlibraries/librarylist.html#greatlibrary Great Library list] and the [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=16607 1839 Library of Congress Catalog], her work resulted in a monumental 5-volume extensively annotated catalog, known as the [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=2633 Sowerby Catalogue], which has been invaluable to Jefferson scholars.+E. Millicent Sowerby was commissioned to recreate the list of books Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress to commemorate his 200th birthday in 1943. Although she had to reconstruct the list based primarily on Jefferson's [http://www.monticello.org/library/tjlibraries/librarylist.html#greatlibrary Great Library list] and the [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=16607 1839 Library of Congress Catalog], her work resulted in a monumental 5-volume extensivelyannotated catalog, known as the [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=2633 Sowerby Catalogue], which has been invaluable to Jefferson scholars.
-In the late 1980's, the list that Trist had compiled in 1823 (known as the Trist List) was rediscovered and published by James Gilreath and Douglas Wilson.<ref>Gilreath, James, and Douglas L. Wilson, eds. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=3641 ''Thomas Jefferson's Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order.''] Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989.</ref> Although this list is not annotated, it is considered more authoritative than Sowerby's catalog. +In the late 1980s, the list that Trist had compiled in 1823 (known as the Trist List) was rediscovered and published by James Gilreath and Douglas Wilson.<ref>Gilreath, James, and Douglas L. Wilson, eds. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=3641 ''Thomas Jefferson's Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order.''] Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989.</ref> Although this list is not annotated, it is considered a more accurate listing of the books originally sold to the Library of Congress than Sowerby's catalog.
==Footnotes== ==Footnotes==

Revision as of 10:06, 23 April 2009

View into the Book Room from Jefferson's Cabinet (Study)
View into the Book Room from Jefferson's Cabinet (Study)

Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in rebuilding the Library of Congress when he sold the bulk of his book collection to them in 1815.

During the War of 1812, British forces entered Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol building and 3,000-volume library inside it. Jefferson expressed his particular distress at this loss to his friend Samuel Smith: "I learn from the newspapers that the vandalism of our enemy has triumphed at Washington over science as well as the arts, by the destruction of the public library with the noble edifice in which it was deposited."[1] Jefferson wrote in that letter and to President James Madison on September 24, that he would offer his own collection to replace what was lost.[2]

Congress moved quickly to facilitate the acquisition of the new library. The bills for the purchase of Jefferson's books passed in the Senate on December 3, 1814 and in the House on January 30, 1815. The sale price was $23,950 for 6,487 books.

Jefferson received news of the finalized sale in February 1815. The books were shipped in mid-April in the bookcases which they already occupied. Ten wagons transported them to Washington, where they arrived in midsummer.

Documentation of the Books Sold

Although Jefferson sent a packing list along with the books to the Library of Congress, it was lost almost immediately. In 1823, Jefferson delegated his grandson-in-law, Nicholas Philip Trist, to go to the Library of Congress and reconstruct the packing list. Unfortunately this document, too, was lost over the years, as were many of the books themselves through fire and other mishaps.

E. Millicent Sowerby was commissioned to recreate the list of books Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress to commemorate his 200th birthday in 1943. Although she had to reconstruct the list based primarily on Jefferson's Great Library list and the 1839 Library of Congress Catalog, her work resulted in a monumental 5-volume extensivelyannotated catalog, known as the Sowerby Catalogue, which has been invaluable to Jefferson scholars.

In the late 1980s, the list that Trist had compiled in 1823 (known as the Trist List) was rediscovered and published by James Gilreath and Douglas Wilson.[3] Although this list is not annotated, it is considered a more accurate listing of the books originally sold to the Library of Congress than Sowerby's catalog.

Footnotes

  1. Jefferson to Samuel H. Smith. September 21, 1814. L&B, 14:190. full text of letter
  2. See Jefferson to Madison, September 24, 1814. Ibid, 14:196.
  3. Gilreath, James, and Douglas L. Wilson, eds. Thomas Jefferson's Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989.

Further Sources