Law Library of Congress - History of The Law Library - The Law Collections in The Early Years of The Library of Congress

The Law Collections in The Early Years of The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress was established as an in-house reference library for Congress in 1800, the year the government moved from Philadelphia to the new city of Washington D.C.. Law books made up nearly 20 percent of the initial collection. These were for the most part publications in English and International law.

The first Library of Congress was destroyed when the British burned the Capitol Building in 1814. It was replaced by the purchase the library of Thomas Jefferson in 1815. This brought 475 law titles, 318 of which were published in England. It included Virginia laws and court decisions, but material from other states (which Jefferson had classified as "foreign law") remained limited. Although the Library received copies of all federal laws and Supreme Court decisions, obtaining state laws and decisions of state courts remained a problem for decades.

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