Historical Highlights

Thomas Jefferson’s Library

October 10, 1814
Thomas Jefferson’s Library Image courtesy of Library of Congress Upon the completion of the Thomas Jefferson building in 1897, the Library of Congress moved out of its home in the Capitol building.
On this date a joint resolution to purchase Thomas Jefferson’s library for the new Library of Congress was introduced in the House of Representatives. The British burning of the Capitol six weeks earlier destroyed the entire congressional book collection and many office documents. Former President and Continental Congress Delegate Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his collection for use by the House and Senate. After more than three months of deliberating, Congress purchased 6,487 volumes for $23,950. A few Members of the House opposed buying the collection because it contained controversial authors. According to the Annals of Congress, “The objections to the purchase were generally its extent, the cost of the purchase, the nature of the selection, embracing too many works in foreign languages, some of too philosophical a character, and some otherwise objectionable. Of the first description, exception was taken to Voltaire’s works, &, co., and of the other to Callender’s Prospect Before Us.” Despite minor objections, the House purchased the books and the collection arrived in Washington, D.C., in early 1815, providing the reconstituted core of the library’s holdings.

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