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Notice signed by Librarian of Congress George Watterston, ca. 1815

To rebuild the collection, Librarian of Congress George Watterston issued a call for the return of any books borrowed before the British invasion of Washington, D.C., or removed during the attack. “A sense of justice,” he stated, would induce anyone in the city or neighboring counties who had such books to return them promptly.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Notice signed by Librarian of Congress George Watterston, ca. 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.