American treasures in the Library of Congress : memory, reason, imagination

by Garry Wills (Introduction)

Hardcover, 1997




New York : H.N. Abrams, in association with the Library of Congress, 1997.


The nucleus of the present-day Library of Congress was formed in 1815, when the nation purchased Thomas Jefferson's personal library of about six thousand volumes, which had been organized around the concepts of "Memory" (history), "Reason" (philosophy, law, and science), and "Imagination" (the arts). Today, the Library's vast holdings - nearly 110 million items in formats ranging rom manuscripts to motion pictures and sound recordings - offer an unparalleled vista of American life in all of the realms embraced by Jefferson's original scheme.For most Americans, it has been until now a vista largely hidden from view. This book gathers seventy-six of the Library's representative American treasures, selected by the Library's experts for its first-ever permanent public exhibition; a superb collection that expresses the essence of our heritage in all of its vibrant diversity. They are, as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills says in his eloquent introduction, at first sight almost dizzyingly varied, encompassing comic books and the Declaration of Independence; a design for a macaroni machine and a design for the United States Capitol; a cookbook and the Gettysburg Address.Wills speaks of the growth of a visual and aural culture, deeply reliant on image and song to communicate ideas and feelings. He points to an American obsession with justice, rights, and the rule of law. And, like many before him, he remarks on an American propensity to revel in the physical vastness of the land. These, and many other national characteristics, may be inferred from this selection of American treasures.… (more)



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