Library of Congress rare book collection
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress and the de facto national library of the United States of America. It has a large rare books collection.
According to the library website, it was established in 1800 and is oldest federal cultural institution in the USA. It is the largest library in the world, by shelf space and number of books.
The website states that the library holds 144 million items, including 33 million books, more than 63 million manuscripts, the world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.
It also holds the largest rare book collection in North America.
Rare book collection
The Library's collection comprises of more than 700,000 volumes. It is administered by the Rare Books and Special Collections Division (RBSCB).
This includes the largest collection of 15th-century books in the Western Hemisphere. The collection also includes the first extant book printed in North America, The Bay Psalm Book (1640).
The Library holds approximately 100 extremely rare children's books, including The Children's New Play-Thing (1763) and The Children's Bible (1763).
A highlight of the rare book collection is the smallest book in the Library, Old King Cole. The book measures only 1.25 by 1.25 inches and “the pages can be turned only with the aid of a needle”, according to the Library website.
The collection also includes one of the oldest examples of printing in the world (a Buddhist sutra printed in 770) and an ancient cuneiform tablet dating from 2040 B.C.
Possibly the rarest item is the Gutenberg Bible, described by the Library as “one of the treasures of the Library of Congress”. Purchased by the Library in 1930, it is one of three perfect copies on vellum in the world.
The collection also includes a rare rough draft of the American Declaration of Independence.