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loud reverberations, lies a very different region, a quiet and secluded cloister sacred to scholars and scholarly sightseers, and to the wise and great of all ages——the Congressional Library. It, too, has a beautiful chamber—three great halls in one; or, more strictly speaking, two great halls and a tran
triple height of galleries and alcoves; ceilings of a soft green coloring, pricked with
gold, and wide, generous windows opening upon a landscape that is itself a study and an inspiration. In these alcoves the general student and man of letters may find rare treasures, and the mere dilettanti revel in rare old tomes --editions de luxe, books of priceless engrav
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.
ings, works of natural history,--the original edition, for instance, of Audubon's “ Birds," in which the humming-bird and pheasant seem alive with all the glory of their plumage upon them. Here, too, until recently hung those marvellous mosaic portraits of Lincoln and Garfield, produced with infinite labor and skill from an infinite number of atoms, and presented by Signor Salviati, of Venice, to this nation as a token of respect and appreciation of its martyred Presidents.
This library is said to be the only one in existence that is entirely fire-proof. The shelves, the supports, the fittings throughout are of iron ; the rafters and decorated ceilings of the same material, and the roof of copper; so that from fire, whether accidental or applied by an incendiary, these rare world's treas
are measurably secure. Five hundred and ninety thousand books, and over one hundred and ninety-three thousand pamphlets, in almost every department of human knowledge, repose upon its shelves.
The library was founded in 1800 by an Act of Congress, which appropriated five thousand dollars for the purchase of such books “ as may be necessary for the use of Congress at the City of Washington.” Up to 1814, when the library and the Capitol were burned by the British, but three thousand volumes had accumulated. After the fire, in 1815, the library of ex-President Jefferson, comprising seven thousand carefully selected volumes, was purchased as the nucleus of a great national library.
At this time the library was lodged in the Post
Office building pending the reconstruction of the Capitol, and remained there until the north wing was completed, in 1817, when it was removed to the rooms in the attic story now occupied by the Senate library. In 1824, the central portion of the Capitol approaching completion, it was again removed to the long hall occupying the whole western front of the Capitol, where it has ever since remained. In December, 1851, when 55,000 volumes had been collected, a fire, caused by a defective flue, unfortunately broke out in the library and destroyed 35,000 volumes.
Congress at once appropriated $72,500 for the restoration of the hall, which was rebuilt wholly of fire-proof material; and at the same time appropriated $85,000 to replace the books destroyed. By 1866 the library had so increased that additional room became imperative, and two wings, each capable of containing 75,000 volumes, were added by absorbing certain supernumerary rooms in the Capitol. Yet, in the year succeeding, Congress, by accession and purchase, taxed the two additional wings to their utmost capacity. First, in 1866, by the transfer of the large scientific library of the Smithsonian Institution. Second, in 1867, by the purchase, for $100,000, of the historical library collected by Mr. Peter Force, of Washington. Lastly, in 1870, by the transfer of the copyright business of the nation from the Patent Office to the Library of Congress. By the law of copyright, at least two copies of each publication copyrighted must be deposited with the Librarian of Congress, a provision that has added enormously to the treasures of the
library, the increase from this source alone amounting, in 1877, to 13,688 books and 21,494 other publications. For nearly a year Mr. Ainsworth R. Spofford, the librarian, has been laboring under the burden of an accumulation of books far beyond his ability to properly accommodate. A visitor to the library can but be impressed with the difficulties, due to the want of space, under which the business is carried on. The files of books and pamphlets upon the floor, for which there is no space upon the shelves, threaten, before long, entirely to bury the energetic librarian and his assistants. Congress has been importuned again and again during this period to do something for the relief of the library, but a series of important measures and events so engrossed its attention that it was prevented from taking the necessary steps properly to protect the people's literary treasures.
The project of a new library building has been before Congress in one form or another since 1873, at which time that body offered $5,000 for the best plan for a new library hall. Twenty-eight plans were submitted in response, that of Mr. J. L. Smithmeyer, of Washington, after two years' delay, being accepted. The Senate has uniformly been in favor of the undertaking, and in 1886 the House, after strenuous exertions by the friends of the measure, was induced to appropriate $500,000 to begin the construction of the building. The same bill limited the cost of the site to $550,000. The building, an engraving of which we present, is estimated to cost $4,500,000 in accordance with the revised Act of