CATALOGUE OF THE LIBRARY OF THE UNITED STATES. TO WHICH IS ANNEXED A COPIOUS INDEX, ALPHABETICALLY ARRANGED.
Washington: Printed by Jonathan Elliot, 1815. ,170,xxxii pp. Quarto. Antique-style calf, leather label, gilt. Very minor age-toning and dampstains, one leaf repaired and remargined. A very good copy. This is the famed catalogue of Thomas Jefferson's library as sent to Washington to replace the library consumed by the conflagration of the Capitol in 1814. Jefferson sold the United States his personal library in 1815 for $23,950, an amount estimated to be half the auction value of the books. Jefferson was the intellectual pillar of the new republic, and it was fitting that the library that represented the greatest American political mind should become, in the end, America's library. "The CATALOGUE OF THE LIBRARY OF THE UNITED STATES was prepared by George Watterson, the newly appointed Librarian of Congress, and printed for Congress by Jonathan Elliot in November, 1815. In it each entry was numbered, not serially, but with the number corresponding with Jefferson's shelf-mark. This number was also inserted in the bookplate, purchased from William Elliot in October 1815, and pasted into each volume. The manuscript catalogue written by Jefferson and submitted to Congress for the purposes of the sale (through Samuel Harrison Smith) in 1814, seems to have been the 'fair copy of the Catalogue of my library' which he had made in 1812. This was later taken away by George Watterson and has now disappeared...[Another] catalogue was originally written by Jefferson in 1783, and is so dated by him on the fly-leaf; it was added to and supplemented continuously until the time of the negotiations for the sale in 1814" - Sowerby. The present catalogue differs dramatically in arrangement from Jefferson's original system of classification. Jefferson had organized his library according to a system derived from Book 2 of Francis Bacon's ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING. Beginning with Bacon's three categories of knowledge (memory, reason, and imagination), Jefferson devised forty-four classes or "chapters." Within chapters, the books were arranged sometimes analytically, sometimes chronologically, or both, and were subjected to further classification by size. While this method served Jefferson well and offered illuminating intellectual bridges between diverse fields, Watterson recognized the difficulty the average patron might have in accessing the books for which he might be searching. To remedy this problem, in the present catalogue Watterson arranged the catalogue alphabetically within each chapter by first word of the title without being prejudiced towards definite and indefinite articles. Both Watterson and Jefferson realized the imperfections of this new system, but once in place it proved too large a task to rectify it. Though many institutions possess copies of the catalogue, it is extremely rare in the market. Until the Eliot-Shattuck copy appeared at Sotheby's in 1999, no copy had appeared at auction in Britain or the United States since 1943. The Eliot-Shattuck copy resold at the Breslaur sale in April 2005 for $57,600. The first printed record of Jefferson's library, the foundation of the Library of Congress, and the best available source for understanding the mind which shaped the democratic tradition in the United States. SOWERBY I, p. ix; V, pp.216-18. SOTHEBY'S SALE 7332 (June 22, 1999), lot 70. SABIN 15564. SHAW & SHOEMAKER 36250.
(Item ID: WRCAM36053) $45,000.00