Books, Maps, and Politics: A Cultural History of the Library of Congress, 1783-1861

By Carl Ostrowski | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION
The Library before and
after the Civil War

A fter the Civil War, the Library of Congress entereda periodof unprecedented growth under the leadership of Ainsworth Rand Spofford, who joined the institution in 1861 as Assistant Librarian, became Librarian of Congress in 1864, andcontinuedin that position until 1897. By virtue of his encyclopedic knowledge of books and dynamic personality, Spoffordu surpedmany of the functions that hadpreviously been duties of the chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, such as guiding purchases and formulating the rules of the Library. Unlike his predecessor, John Silva Meehan, Spofford was an experienced book dealer, writer, and bibliophile who harbored ambitious plans to turn the Library of Congress into a national library, comprehensive in its acquisitions of American books, useful to scholars across disciplines, and available to the general public. Spoffordwas inspiredlargely by the example of European institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale andparticularly the British Museum Library, where Antonio Panizzi hadpressed for more effective copyright deposit, through which he had expanded that library's collections to half a million volumes by the 1850s. 1

Spofford presided over dramatic changes in acquisitions and the physical plant of the Library. He orchestratedthe removal of the Smithsonian

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