Friday, March 11, 2016
Librarian of Congress A.R. Spofford, 1875 Letter
Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford who served from 1864 to 1897 was the first librarian to select and purchase books. Formerly this had been done by the members of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Library. In the letter above dated May 15, 1875 Spofford negotiates the purchase of a book for the library's collection. Spofford writes to M.M. Jones of Utica, NY: " A French gentleman of this city informs me that you have 2 copies of the "New York Balloting Book" folio 1825 which you offer at $5 each. My informant not wishing to purchase asked if this Library world make the purchase for its shelves. If you will send a copy of the work with bill of the same at $5 the amount will be promptly submitted." It is extraordinary that Spofford with so many demands on his time would engage in a transaction involving a single book. Spofford is writing on stationery of the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. The responsibility for copyright had been transferred to the Library in 1870. This letter which is part of my collection will be included in a philatelic exhibit that I'm working on about the Library of Congress.