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Peter Force Library

Early American imprints and incunabula

The holdings of Americana in the Library of Congress owes much of their strength to the collecting zeal of Peter Force (1790-1868). In the course of preparing his "Documentary History of the American Revolution," a compilation better known today as American Archives, this Washington publisher and politician assembled what was probably the largest private collection of printed and manuscript sources on American history in the United States. The Peter Force Library was purchased by act of Congress in 1867. In one stroke, the Library of Congress established its first major collections of eighteenth-century American newspapers, incunabula, early American imprints, manuscripts, and rare maps and atlases. Although no complete inventory survives, many of the approximately 22,500 Force volumes are recorded without source designation in the Catalogue of Books added to the Library of Congress from December 1, 1866 to December 1, 1867.

Incunabula, pre-1801 American imprints, and other rare publications from the Force Library have been absorbed into the into the collections of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The division holdings include important compilations of pamphlets that were assembled by such collectors as William Duane, Ebenezer Hazard, Jacob Bailey Moore, Israel Thorndike, and Oliver Wolcott. It it s estimated that over eight thousand of the approximately forty thousand pamphlets purchased from Force were printed before 1800.

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  December 6, 2012
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