April 3 ~  Where History Comes To Life Library of Congress Civil War Desk

"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas- a place where history comes to life." ~ Norman Cousins

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The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is the world's largest library, with over 120 million items in over 400 languages.

"A great library," said writer Thomas Carlyle, "contains the diary of the human race."

The original Library was established in 1800 and housed in the Capitol until 1814 when the British invaded and burned down the building. To help rebuild the Library, Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson's personal collection of over 6,000 books.

The brilliant Jefferson (1743-1826) was a man of vast interests who once said, "I cannot live without books." As President, he personally recommended books and appointed the first two Librarians of Congress.

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock," he said.

Today the Library’s collection, regarded as one of the finest in the world, features over 25 million books including a perfect copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

In 1865, a law was passed that required the Library of Congress to receive a copy of every book, map, sound recording, or photographs registered for copyright. The collection grows at a rate of about 4,500 daily. 

"Information is the currency of democracy," observed Jefferson. Thanks to him... and the Library of Congress,  "a comprehensive record of American history and creativity" is available for all... and preserved for future generations.

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