Library of Congress

Washington
DC

Jefferson’s Library recreated

QUICK FACTS
  • The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress and signed by President John Adams on 24-Apr-1800.
  • Established with $5,000, the original library was housed in the new Capitol.
  • In August 1814 (during the War of 1812) invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building and the contents of the small library was burned or pillaged.
  • Within a month, Jefferson offered to replace the libary with his person collection of books. In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer; he was paid $23,950 for his 6,487 books.
  • On 24-Dec-1851 the largest fire in the Library's history destroyed 35,000 books (from a collection of 55,000), including two-thirds of Jefferson's original collection.
  • Today the collection has more than 155 million items in 460 languages.
  • The Thomas Jefferson Building (opening 1897) is the oldest of the three Library of Congress buildings. The others are the John Adams Building (1939) and the James Madison Memorial Building (1976).
LINKS
LOCATION

View Larger Map

Established in 1800 to serve members of Congress, the collection of some 3,000 books was burned or pillaged by the British in August 1814, during the War of 1812. Within a month, Thomas Jefferson offered to donate his own books as a replacement. The following year, Jefferson sold his entire library of nearly 6,500 volumes, for $23,940, to Congress as the foundation for a new Congressional Library.

In 1851 a fire destroyed much of the Library of Congress collection, including two-thirds of the books from Jefferson's donation 35 years before.

The remaining Jefferson books have been conserved, many have been restored or are under restoration.

Guided and self-guided tours available, including a recreation of Jefferson’s library in the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Associated People

Quotes and snippets from Jefferson have been used to suggest that he altered his views on slavery, or that these were inconsistent with each other. He can be quoted to sound like an ardent abolitionist, or to sound like the most oppressive of masters. But everything he wrote on the subject is consistent with the complex treatment he gave to slavery in his Notes [on Virginia]. He always opposed enslavement in general and further slave imports to Virginia in particular. He always supported the freeing of slaves en masse, but always and only in connection with a scheme of deportation ...

Garry Wills
Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1978)