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Tuesday 20 June 2017Engaging popular history makes America’s greatest library accessible to readers everywhere

America’s Greatest Library America’s Greatest Library An Illustrated History of the Library of Congress
John Y. Cole

The Library of Congress occupies an important crossroads in American life, a place where the nation’s political and literary cultures intersect. Created by Congress in 1800, it has evolved into a multi-faceted cultural institution serving a national and international audience through a wide array of programs, activities, and outreach. It is the major research arm of the US Congress, America’s national library, the nation’s copyright agency, and an important innovator and partner in electronic and digital network development.

In America’s Greatest Library, Library of Congress Historian John Y. Cole highlights the history, personalities, collections, and events that have created and sustained this singular institution. Packed with fascinating stories, compelling images, and little-known nuggets of information, this illustrated history traces the growth of the collections of the world’s largest library through a combination of concise chronological milestones, brief essays, vivid photographs, and illustrations.

The book highlights such important acquisitions and episodes as:

• The Brady-Handy photographic collection, containing more than 3,000 negatives made by Civil War photographer Mathew B. Brady and his nephew Levin C. Handy

• The November 1963 late-night search in the stacks— by flashlight—by Lincoln specialists working at the behest of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for guidance on appropriate arrangements for an assassinated president

• The earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture, Thomas Edison’s 1894 Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze

• The 175,000 photographs from the Farm Security Administration archive, including Dorothea Lange’s iconic Migrant Mother

• The 1944 world premiere of Appalachian Spring, choreographed by Martha Graham with music by Aaron Copland

• The 303 glass-plate negatives documenting the earliest flights of Orville and Wilbur Wright

• Rare sacred texts, including the Washington Haggadah, an illuminated Hebrew manuscript, and two fifteenth-century Bibles, the Giant Bible of Mainz and one of only three perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible

• A variety of musical instruments and scores, including five stringed instruments made by Antonio Stradivari, the 1,600-item Dayton C. Miller flute collection, and the original score of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.


For more than 50 years, beginning in 1966 when he joined its staff as an administrative intern, librarian and historian John Y. Cole has sought to increase public understanding of the key role of the Library of Congress in American government, scholarship, and culture. As the director of the Library’s Center for the Book from its founding in 1977 until 2016, he helped establish the Books & Beyond author series (1996), the Library of Congress National Book Festival (2001), the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program (2008), the Library of Congress Young Readers Center (2009), and the Library of Congress Literacy Awards (2013). The author or editor of eight books and dozens of articles about the institution and its history and activities, he was named to a new position as the Library’s first official historian in 2016


America’s Greatest Library

An Illustrated History of the Library of Congress


John Y. Cole, with a Foreword by Carla D. Hayden


RRP: US$39.95 / UK£30.00


ISBN 978-1-911282-13-6

256 pages

250 x 210 mm, (8 ¼ x 10 in), portrait

250 color illustrations

Publication date: December 2018

Publisher: D Giles Limited, London, in association with the Library of Congress


Distributed in the USA and Canada by CBSD, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution

T: 800 283-3572 or via email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) 


Distributed in the UK and Rest of World (excluding US and Canada) by Global Book Sales, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), T: 00 44 (0) 7963 210830


For Further Information and Review Copies:
In the USA contact: Karen Lunstead, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Tel: 302 231-8192 


In the UK contact: Liz Japes, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Tel: +44 (0)1273 480 711