Thomas Jefferson’s Library, exhibition at the Library of Congress, photograph by Shealah Craighead, 2013
A reconstruction of Jefferson’s library, nearly two-thirds of which was destroyed in an 1851 fire, is currently on exhibition in the Library of Congress.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Rebuilding the Library of Congress
When British troops burned the U.S. Capitol in August 1814, they completely destroyed the Library of Congress, which was housed in the building. To help 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 largest private book collection in North America. After debating the offer, Congress purchased Jefferson’s library for $23,950 in 1815. Jefferson’s collection is currently on exhibit at the Library of Congress.