[JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826, third U.S. President 1801-09) and George WATTERSON (third librarian of Congress 1815-29).] Catalogue of the Library of the United States. Washington, DC: printed by Jonathan Elliot [for the Library of Congress], 1815.
4o (266 x 246 mm). Collation: \kp\K4 (title, list of contents, table of classification; 1-254 262 (catalogue, tables of the large formats, the contents of the Encyclopédie Méthodique, author index, rules, regulations and laws concerning the Library of Congress, final leaf blank). Wove paper, with dove watermark and signed Amies & Co. (Partly browned, a few small tears.) ORIGINAL BINDING of blue-gray boards, cream paper spine, EDGES UNCUT, (binding worn and stained, front cover almost detached. Half-morocco folding case. Provenance: William Harvard Eliot (1796-1831), signature, his sale in J.L. Cunningham's rooms, Boston 11 April 1832, lot 188 -- George Cheyne Shattuck (1783-c.1854), ownership stencil, his unpublished catalogue survives in the Boston Medical Library -- Sotheby's NY, 22 June 1999, lot 70.
THE EXTREMELY RARE CATALOGUE OF THE LIBRARY SOLD BY THOMAS JEFFERSON TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. All books in the Library of Congress listed in its 1804 catalogue were destroyed when the British burned down the Capitol during the War of 1812. Jefferson then sold his private library to Congress for $23,950, claiming that the price represented less than half the auction value. It was the most important library formed by an American up to that time and its integral survival greatly contributes to our understanding of the intellectual background of the new republic's Founding Fathers.
In 1812 Jefferson began to compile the catalogue of his library, working from an earlier version and notebook which he had kept since 1783 (now preserved in the Massachussetts Historical Society). His bibliographical system was based on Francis Bacon's classification of knowledge in Advancement of Learning, of which he owned a folio edition (see chapter 44). It was Jefferson's own catalogue that George Watterson, the first full-time librarian of Congress, used with minor modifications for this printed edition, even retaining the original Monticello shelf-numbers, but arranging the authors in roughly alphabetical order within each "chapter". Both before and after publication Jefferson remained interested in the library and its idiosyncratic classification, as is shown in the Jefferson-Watterson correspondence and by a manuscript copy of the catalogue organized in a different order at Jefferson's request by his young friend Nicholas Trist (found at LC in the 1980's). More than a dozen copies of the published catalogue survive in American institutional libraries (none listed in NUC). The Breslauer copy is the only one to have appeared at auction in more than sixty years. J. Gilreath, Thomas Jefferson's Library (1989) 3-4; Sabin 15564; Shaw & Shoemaker 36250.