June 1, 2012
National Treasure: Mystery of the Lost Library of Congress
History tells us that Thomas Jefferson's private library was acquired in 1815 to replace the Library of Congress's collection destroyed by fire on August 24, 1814 during the War of 1812. But was the entire first collection of the Library of Congress consumed in the fires?
Custodia Legis reports that "in the immediate aftermath of the fire, there were conflicting reports about the extent of the damage that was inflicted on the original collection." Some historical records indicate that many of the most valuable and scarce books in the Library’s original collection were removed before the British occupied Washington, D.C. and that only duplicate copies of them were destroyed. But, if that is the case, no one knows what became of the books.
About the lost collection, the Library of Congress post concludes "[o]f course it is generally assumed to have been destroyed. But the story bears repeating every century or so." For details, see The Mysterious Disappearance of the First Library of Congress.
Sounds like a perfect story for the National Treasure franchise to me. Imagine the conspiracy plot line. Jefferson is cash poor and sells his books to Congress because he needs money, The Congressional purchase was controversal. Why? What's the backstory? See National Treasure 3 (or is it 4): The Lost Library of Congress Found. [JH]