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The Minerva. A mosaic by Elihu Vedder, Congressional Library, Washington, D. C.




HE Library of Congress in Washington is not the mere reference library for the legislative branch of the Government that its name would imply. It is, in effect, the library of the whole American people, directly serving the interests of the entire country. It was, it is true, founded for the use of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives; but, although the original rule still holds good that only they and certain specified Government officials may take books away from the building, the institution has developed, especially during the last quarter of a century, into a library as comprehensively national as the British Museum in London, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, or the Imperial Library in Vienna. It is more freely open to the public than any of these, everyone of suitable age being permitted to use its collections without the necessity of a ticket or formal permission, while in scope it is their equal, however much it may for the time being be inferior to them in certain branches of learning. Its aim in the accumulation of books is inclusive and not exclusive.

This development amounts almost to a change of front, in spite of the fact that the original purpose of the Library as an aid to the legislation and debates

Those allowed to take books from the building are: the President; Vice-President; Senators, Representatives, and Delegates in Congress; Cabinet Officials; representatives in Washington of foreign governments; the Solicitor General and Assistant Attorneys-General; the Secretary of the Senate; the Clerk of the House of Representatives; the Solicitor of the Treasury; former Presidents of the United States; the Chaplains of the two Houses of Congress; the Secretary and Regents of the Smithsonian Institution; the Members and Secretary of the Interstate Commerce Commission; and the Chief of Engineers of the Army. No one, however, not even these officials, may take away any manuscript or map, or any book of special value and rarity. Books are delivered to the order of any of the persons having the special privileges of the Library, but only for their own use. They have no authority to give an order in favor of another person. Previous to the erection of the new building, one of the rules of the Library had permitted the Librarian, at his discretion, to issue books to the public generally, for home use, on the deposit of a sum of money sufficient to cover the value of the volume applied for, but this provision was found to be an embarrassment and has since been


of Congress has been fully preserved. The change has been brought about in many ways, but principally by the exchange system of the great governmental scientific bureau, the Smithsonian Institution, and by the operation of the national copyright law.

The Smithsonian Institution issues each year a large number of scientific publications of the highest interest and importance. It distributes these throughout the world, receiving in exchange a body of scientific literature which comprehends practically everything of value issued by every scientific society of standing both in this country and abroad. With the exception of a small working library retained by the Smithsonian Institution for the immediate use of its officers, the splendid collection of material which has been gathered during the forty years in which this exchange system has been in operation is deposited in the Library of Congress, forming a scientific library unrivalled in this country.

By the operation of the copyright law, any publisher, author, or artist desiring to obtain an exclusive privilege of issuing any publication whatever, must send two copies of the publication on which a copyright is asked to the Librarian of Congress to be deposited in the Library. By this means, during the twenty-five years that the law has been in force, the Library has been enabled to accumulate approximately the entire current product of the American press, as well as an enormous number of photographs, engravings, and other works coming under the head of fine arts. The possession of this material would alone give the Library a special national character possible to no other library in the country.


The Library of Congress was founded in the year 1800, about the time that the government was first established in Washington. Five thousand dollars was the first appropriation, made April 24, 1800, while Congress was still sitting in Philadelphia. Some of the Democratic Congressmen, as strict constructionists, opposed the idea of a governmental library, but their party leader, Thomas Jefferson, then President, warmly favored it. He called it, later in life, with a sort of prophetic instinct, the "Library of the United States," and his support of it from the very beginning was so hearty and consistent that he may perhaps be regarded in the broad sense as the real founder of the institution.

The Library was shelved from the first in a portion of the Capitol building, The first catalogue was issued in April, 1802. It appears that there were then, in accordance with the old-fashioned method of dividing books according to size, not subject, 212 folios, 164 quartos, 581 octavos, 7 duodecimos, and 9


The Burning by the British Troops.-The War of 1812 wrecked the slender accumulations of the first dozen years of the Library's existence. The collection was entirely destroyed by fire by the British troops which entered Washington, August 24, 1814.

The Acquisition of Jefferson's Library. - Jefferson was then living in retirement at Monticello. He was in some financial difficulty at the time, and he offered the Government the largest portion of his library, comprising some

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6,700 volumes, for the price which he had originally paid for them-$23,700. The offer was accepted by Congress, although it met with much opposition. Among those who objected to the bill were Daniel Webster, then a Representative from New Hampshire; while Cyrus King, a Federalist member of the House from Massachusetts, "vainly endeavored to have provision made for the rejection of all books of an atheistical, irreligious, and immoral tendency'' -a curious example of the many attacks of a similar nature made upon Jefferson by his political opponents.

With Jefferson's books as a nucleus, the Library of Congress began to make substantial gains. In 1832, a law library was established as a distinct department of the collection. At present it numbers some 85,000 volumes, but for the greater convenience of the Supreme Court, which sits in the old Senate Chamber of the Capitol, it has not been removed from its former quarters in that building. It is always reckoned, however, as a portion of the collection of the Library of Congress.

In 1850, the Library contained about 55,000 volumes. December 24, 1851, a fire broke out in the rooms in which it was shelved consuming three-fifths of the whole collection, or about 35,000 volumes. A liberal appropriation for the purchase of books in place of those destroyed was made by Congress, and from that time to the present day the growth of the Library has been unchecked.


Development and Organization.-In December, 1864, Mr. Ainsworth Rand Spofford was appointed Librarian by President Lincoln. The general management of the Library has always been in the hands of a joint committee of Congress; but the membership of the committee is constantly changing, so that the Librarian is practically the real head and director of the institution. During the time that Mr. Spofford occupied his position, not only was the growth of the collection little short of marvellous, but so many changes of system were introduced as almost completely to transform the old Library of half a century ago. The year following Mr. Spofford's appointment, the previous copyright law was modified so as to require the deposit in the Library of Congress of a copy of every publication on which copyright was desired, the second copy required being deposited elsewhere. The administration of the law was still divided, however, in that each State had its own office for copyright-some States more than one - with the result that the volumes due the Government were sometimes received and sometimes not. There was no way to call the negligent publisher or author to account, for no single office contained the complete information necessary. Such system as existed was often invalidated by the carelessness of the officials-the Clerks of the United States District Courts-in charge in the various States. In 1870, therefore, Congress still further amended the copyright law by consolidating the entire department in the hands of the Librarian of Congress, as Register of Copyrights, and providing that of articles copyrighted, two copies are required to be deposited in the Library of Congress to perfect copyright. Since then, the law has worked with perfect smoothness, and with the result of

1 The list of the previous Librarians of Congress, with the dates when they were appointed, is as follows: John Beckley, 1802; Patrick Magruder, 1807; George Watterston, 1815; John S. Meehan, 1829; John G. Stephenson, 1861.

enormous additions to the Library,-numbering, in the year 1905, no less than 213,498 books, maps, musical compositions, photographs, engravings, periodicals, and other articles. Only a portion of the deposit since 1870 has been incorporated in the Library proper; a million and a half items still remain unincorporated.


Comparison with other Great Libraries.—For the interest of comparison, the following statistics are given:-British Museum, London:Books, 1,800,000; Maps, 200,000; MSS., 95,000. Annual expenditures: Books, $122,000; Binding, $10,967; Binding, $10,967; Printing of Catalogue, $8,545. Bibliothèque National, Paris - Books, 2,600,000; MSS., 101,972; Maps, 250,000. Expenditures: Salaries, 436,000 francs; Books, 100,000 francs. Königliche Bibliothek, (1661) Berlin:-Books, about 1,000,000; MSS., 30,000, of which 13,000 are Orientalia. Expenditures: Salaries, 307,960 M; Maintenance, 41,760 M; Books 150,000 M. Imperial Library, St. Petersburg: Books, 1,192,000; MSS., 26,800; Maps, 19,761. Expenditures: Salaries and Maintenance, 93,855 rub.; Books, 45,000 rub.

The Old Quarters in the Capitol.-For many years the Library had been kept in the west front of the Capitol. Here there was provision for perhaps 350,000 volumes. With the great increase, the old quarters had long been utterly inadequate. The crypts in the basement of the Capitol afforded room for storage, but the hundreds of thousands of books, pieces of music, and engravings thus stored were for the most part entirely inaccessable to the student a serious loss to the usefulness of the Library, in spite of the fact that, so far as the books were concerned, only duplicates and such volumes as were seldom called for were thus laid away. The copyright business could be kept up to date only by the greatest effort. The rooms regularly devoted to the Library were so small, and so over-crowded with books, that there was almost no opportunity for quiet study, while the ordinary official routine was carried on with the greatest difficulty and inconvenience.

In 1897, Mr. Spofford was succeeded as Librarian by John Russell Young, the well known journalist and diplomat. At the time of Mr. Young's appointment the Library building had been completed, but the collection had not been transferred. His brief administration was devoted to the installation of the Library in its new quarters and in the organization of the staff, increased by Congress from 42 employees to 108, exclusive of engineers, janitors and other employees having to do with the care of the Building and Grounds.

The copyright map, manuscript, music and printed collections (the latter designated by Mr. Young "The Graphic Arts") were set off in distinct divisions, and an entirely new department, the Reading Room for the Blind, was established and retained his warm interest.

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Mr. Young died January 27, 1899. His successor was Mr. Herbert Putnam, Librarian of the Boston Public Library, who took office April 5, 1899, Mr. Spofford having served as Acting Librarian in the interim. Under Mr. Putnam's administration the Library service has been further re-organized and a beginning made upon the arrears of work necessary in order to place the existing collection upon an effective basis and to provide for its effective develop


The organization of the Library now comprises the following Divisions: General Administration; Mail and Supply; Order (Purchasing); Catalogue

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