This month in 1800, President John Adams approved legislation purchasing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.” The newly established Library of Congress first housed in the Capitol, listed only 964 volumes and nine maps by 1802. Today, the Library contains over 17 million volumes—one of the largest collections on the planet—and fills three enormous buildings in Washington, D.C. Here are a few other fun facts about the Library of Congress:
- When the British invaded Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812, they famously burned the Capitol, destroying much of the building. The Library’s complete collection was lost in the fire—nearly 3,000 volumes. Former president Thomas Jefferson responded by selling his personal library to help replenish the Library’s collection.
- The Library of Congress contains much more than just books! The Library’s catalogues also contain:
- 6 million works of sheet music
- 13.7 million photographs
- 3.5 million sound recordings
- 5.5 million maps
- 500,000 microfilm reels
- The Library of Congress also has one of the most valuable rare book collections in the world, including a Gutenberg Bible, a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the oldest examples of writing on Earth—a cuneiform tablet dating from 2040 B.C.
Have you ever been to the Library of Congress? What was it like?