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Letter from Joseph Milligan to Thomas Jefferson regarding inventory and appraisal of Jefferson’s collection, July 31, 1815

Joseph Milligan, a Georgetown book dealer, had helped Thomas Jefferson acquire his library. When Congress agreed to purchase Jefferson’s library, Milligan went to Jefferson’s Monticello home to inventory and appraise the collection. He also supervised its packing and transportation to Washington and in this letter, assures Jefferson of its safe arrival.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Letter from Joseph Milligan to Thomas Jefferson regarding inventory and appraisal of Jefferson’s collection, July 31, 1815

Rebuilding the Library of Congress

When British troops burned the U.S. Capitol in August 1814, they destroyed the Library of Congress, which was housed in the building. To replace the lost books, maps, and other items, former President Thomas Jefferson offered to sell Congress his personal library of 6,487 volumes. Encompassing a broad range of subjects, it was the nation’s largest private book collection. Congress purchased Jefferson’s library in 1815 for $23,950. In 1851 another fire destroyed much of the collection, a recreation of which is currently on exhibit at the Library of Congress.