New Online: A Digital Treasure Trove of Rare Books

This is a guest post by digital library specialist Elizabeth Gettins.

An image from “Map and Views Illustrating Sir Francis Drake’s West Indian Voyage,” 1585–6.

There is a mystique surrounding libraries with old, rare books, and the Library of Congress is no exception. Just think of all the dark and vast vaults of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division that are closed to the public and imagine what undiscovered treasures they hold. Now, thanks to the digital age, the stacks are open and searchable—everyone can access these untold treasures through our newly released web portal.

Pages from the Gutenberg Bible, ca. 1454–5.

The Rare Book and Special Collections Division traces its beginnings to Thomas Jefferson, who sold his book collection to Congress in 1815. Today, the division’s holdings amount to nearly 800,000 books, encompassing nearly all eras and subjects maintained in well over 100 separate collections. Read About this Collection and the Articles and Essays for a fuller description of these rich collections.

The new portal will continue to grow and improve as we add more content and supporting documentation. Currently, there are nearly 1,000 digital resources to discover. Featured content, highlighted in the banner at the top of the portal’s home page, includes “Maps and Views Illustrating Sir Francis Drake West Indian Voyage,” Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the “Federalist,” the Declaration of Independence, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and no less than the Gutenberg Bible. Continue to scroll along the top banner to sample a few of our other top treasures.

Cover for “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” by L. Frank Baum, 1900.

There are so many more to discover! Just click Collection Items and search on a term of your choice. You can filter your search by clicking on the various categories on the left.

We are excited to share our treasures with you and welcome all! Our collections hold fascinating, important and just plain awe-inspiring items waiting to be found, and we invite you to mine them to make new connections and new discoveries.

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