I love libraries. I’m guessing you do, too. And recently, I had a chance to visit the world’s largest library with two other Inspired by Life and Fiction authors.
We were in Washington DC on a writers retreat. On Saturday we braved the rain and the crowds to do some sightseeing. We broke into two groups and Jody Hedlund, Karen Witemeyer, and I rode the metro downtown to visit the Library of Congress. On the way, we walked past the Capitol building and Supreme Court and saw many other impressive buildings and monuments set amid sprawling green spaces and blooming trees and plants. Our nation’s capital city really is beautiful.
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with more than 164 million items (books, recordings, maps, music, etc.) on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. (To be fair, I read one source that claims The British Library rivals these numbers, while other sources list it as #2.) Watch a fascinating video about the Library of Congress here.
The building is absolutely beautiful inside, from its marble floors to a soaring stained glass ceiling, to fascinating quotes on the walls. And I loved seeing books Thomas Jefferson personally acquired. In 1814, British troops burned the Capitol building (where the library was then housed), destroying over 3,000 volumes. So Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal library of 6,487 books to congress at whatever price they deemed fair. In January 1815, Congress approved the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s books for $23,950.
Sadly, a second fire in 1851 destroyed nearly two thirds of the volumes Congress purchased from Jefferson. The library displays Thomas Jefferson’s remaining books, as well as the replacements they’ve been able to acquire to date. We enjoyed perusing the many diverse titles.
While we were there, we were also able to see a 15th-century Gutenberg Bible–one of three perfect copies on vellum in the world.
The library does not have a copy of every book published in the United States, but just for fun, I searched the Library of Congress online catalog and discovered titles from yours truly and other author-friends as well. Fun, huh?
Even though the rain and crowds dampened our other sightseeing plans for the day, visiting the Library of Congress was a highlight for three book-loving authors. Here we are, sporting our matching t-shirts with the Thomas Jefferson quote, “I cannot live without books.”
Have you visited the Library of Congress? Or have another favorite site in DC?