Manuscripts and maps relating to American history, early American
imprints, and incunabula
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The holdings of Americana in the Library of Congress owe 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 (Washington: Govt.
Print. Off., 1868. 526 p. Z881.U5 1868).
Manuscripts from the Force Library as well as personal papers
donated in 1875 by Peter Force's son, William Q. Force, and related
material acquired in the twentieth century are kept in the Manuscript
Division. While spanning the period from 1492 to 1961, the
papers date chiefly from the years 1750 to 1868. Personal papers
cover Force's work as a Washington printer and publisher, the genesis
of his archival project, and his military service, political career,
and participation in scientific and historical societies. Documentation
compiled for American Archives includes transcripts
of official records, private papers, and colonial publications;
a twenty-five-volume Hispanic collection, consisting primarily
of transcriptions of works concerning the New World by various
Spanish writers, notably Bartolomé de Las Casas; material
originating from the collections of Ebenezer Hazard and George
Chalmers; and numerous original manuscripts, particularly from
the colonial period. The collection includes extensive resources
for the study of eighteenth century American history in the papers
of Ephraim Blaine, John Davis, Pierre Du Simitiere, John Fitch,
Nathanael Greene, Thomas Hamilton, John Paul Jones, Charles Simms,
Edward Vernon, and others. The collection totals 150,000 items
and is described in an unpublished finding aid. Some of the material
has been reported to the National Union Catalog of Manuscript
Collections and has been microfilmed. A small part of the
papers has been indexed. An inventory uncovered in 1970 has enabled
the Geography and Map
Division to pinpoint the Peter Force maps dispersed throughout
the division's general collections. The approximately 768 manuscript
and printed maps range in date from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth
centuries and include maps relating to the French and Indian War
and the American Revolution, and of the District of Columbia, various
American cities, and the West Indies. All of the maps of America
dating from 1759 to 1790 are listed in the Library's computerized
map catalog and will be described in a bibliography now being prepared
by the Library's American Revolution Bicentennial Office.
Incunabula, pre-1801 American imprints, and other rare publications
from the Force Library have been absorbed 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 is estimated that over
eight thousand of the approximately forty thousand pamphlets purchased
from Force were printed before 1800.
Goff, Frederick R., "Peter Force," The Papers of the Bibliographical
Society of America Z10008.B51P), v. 44, 1st quarter 1950:
U.S. Library of Congress, Rare Book Division. The Rare
Book Division, a Guide to its Collections and Services (Rev.
ed. Washington: 1965. 51 p. illus. (part col.) Z733.U63R23 1965),
p. 5-6, 30.
Stephenson, Richard W., "Maps from the Peter Force Collection," U.S.
Library of Congress. Quarterly Journal. (Z881.U49A3)
v. 30, July 1973: 183-204.
U.S. Library of Congress, Special Report of the Librarian
of Congress to the Joint Committee of the Library Concerning
the Historical Library of Peter Force, Esq. (Washington:
1867. 8 p. Z733.U57S 1867).