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Throughout his life, books were vital to Thomas Jefferson's education and well-being. When his family home Shadwell burned in 1770 Jefferson most lamented the loss of his books. In the midst of the American Revolution and while United States minister to France in the 1780s, Jefferson acquired thousands of books for his library at Monticello. Jefferson's library went through several stages, but it was always critically important to him. Books provided the little traveled Jefferson with a broader knowledge of the contemporary and ancient worlds than most contemporaries of broader personal experience. By 1814 when the British burned the nation's Capitol and the Library of Congress, Jefferson had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States.
The library's stock of rare books began to form back in the 19th century and today it contains more than 70 000 volumes. An appreciable portion of those are incunabula: about 7 000 works which represent very rich material for anyone wishing to learn about the history of printing in the 15th-century Western Europe. Impressive for their high standard of technical execution, artistry and scholarliness are the works by the great humanist printer of the Renaissance, Aldus Manutius, and his heirs. There is a remarkable collection of Elseviers produced by the celebrated 17th-century Dutch family firm which published mainly utilitarian books.
Closing: Saturday, March 30, 2013, for Easter weekend Search the Library Catalog The Library's book and photograph collections relate mainly to paintings, drawings, sculpture, and prints from the fourth to the mid-twentieth centuries by European and American artists. Known internationally for its rich holdings of auction and exhibition catalogs, the Library is a leading site for collecting and provenance research.