Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 National Book Festival

The 14th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, August 30, 2014, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

As in prior years, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are honorary chairs for the event. More than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators, will be making presentations throughout the day in the theme-based pavilions for Children, Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life and Poetry & Prose.

Schedules are available online for the Author Pavilions and the Library of Congress Pavilion. Further information on the Festival can be found here, and a map of the festival grounds can be viewed here.

The Festival website features an archive of photos, video webcasts, and audio podcasts. The 2014 poster, shown here, was designed by Bob Staake.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The British "Light Up" the Library of Congress

Two hundred years ago today, on August 24, 1814, British troops burned the U.S. Capitol, which then housed the books of the Library of Congress. Rear Admiral George Cockburn is said to have asked his men, "Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned? All for it shall say 'Aye'". The resulting fire destroyed the Library's entire collection of some 3,000 volumes, but Thomas Jefferson soon thereafter offered his own substantial library for sale to Congress, writing:
"I have been fifty years in making it, and have spared no pains, opportunity or expense, to make it what it now is. While residing in Paris I devoted every afternoon . . . in examining all the principal bookstores, turning over every book with my own hands, and putting by everything which related to America . . . ." 
Jefferson's 6,487 volumes, which constituted the largest personal library in the country at the time, were appraised at $23,950, and on October 10, 1814, the Senate unanimously approved its purchase. Some in the House of Representatives expressed strong opposition, however, noting that the library contained many titles in foreign languages, as well as philosophical works by such authors as Voltaire, Locke, and Rousseau. Daniel Webster suggested buying the whole collection, but then returning to Jefferson "all books of an atheistical, irreligious, and immoral tendency." The measure eventually passed by a 10-vote margin, and the library was purchased intact, thus seeding the rebirth of the Library of Congress.

A catalog of Jefferson's library arranged alphabetically by title was issued by the Library of Congress in 1815. At Jefferson's request, Nicholas Trist in 1823 restored the intellectual classification scheme that Jefferson had used to arrange his collection at Monticello. Thomas Jefferson's Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order, edited by James Gilreath and Douglas L. Wilson, can be viewed online. Although unaffiliated with the Library of Congress, LibraryThing also offers an online "Legacy Library" devoted to Jefferson's various collections

The history of Jefferson's library is further complicated by another fire in the U.S. Capitol in 1851, which destroyed two-thirds of his former books. In 1998, Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress, commenced an effort to restore the lost books through the purchase or donation of identical editions. Today the Library of Congress ranks as the world's largest, and owes much to the breadth and depth of Jefferson's intellectual pursuits.

Note: The image above is from "The Library of Congress," an article by Ben Perley Poore in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. XLVI, no. CCLXXI, December 1872, pp. 41-50, at p. 44.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Scenes from the Seed Savers Exchange's Annual Conference at Heritage Farm

The above photographs were taken at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa during the 34th Annual Conference and Campout at Seed Savers Exchange held July 18-20, 2014.

From the top: View of barn and tents; painting by Valerie Miller of Steel Cow Studio; Diane's Garden adjacent to the barn with Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at rear; a workshop session in the Diversity Garden; Professor Susan McCouch of Cornell University delivering her keynote address, "Gene Flow and Genetic Isolation: A Case Study in Rice"; taste-testing of SSE produce; several photos of pollinators in action; Ancient White Park cattle at pasture.