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What Has 128 Million Items in 460 Languages?

The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world and the national library of the United States, receives about 22,000 items every working day and adds about 10,000 of these items to its collections daily. These items, housed on more than 530 miles of shelves, are not only works in English but in 460 other languages as well.

John James Audubon, “Roseate Spoonbill” from “The Birds of America,” London: 1827-1838 Lawrence Herbert, “A Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent, with a Perspective of the State House,” 1752

Because the mission of the Library is to “sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity,” the institution’s holdings encompass virtually all the languages of the world, many of which are no longer living languages, such as Latin and Aramaic.

Want more information about your national library? Then visit the “Fascinating Facts” page to learn, for example, that the largest book in the Library is by John James Audubon, the famous illustrator of birds, who insisted that his “Birds of America” be printed life size. That means this volume is 39.37 inches high. And the smallest book in our collections, “Old King Cole," is only 1/25 inch by 1/25 inch -- or about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. The pages can only be turned with the use of a needle!

You can view some of Audubon’s extraordinary illustrations in the American Treasures online exhibition. The images are in the “Reason” section. American Treasures is a rotating exhibition at the Library of Congress that features the rarest and most interesting items from the unparalleled collections of the Library. It is organized according to the way Thomas Jefferson organized his personal library into the categories “Memory,” “Reason” and “Imagination.”

In “American Treasures” you can also see the Library’s “Top Treasures,” those manuscripts and other items that are the most historically valuable artifacts in the Library. If you come to the Library and visit this exhibition, at least one of these rare items will be on display. But all of them are always on view in the online “Top Treasures” section.

“Fascinating Facts” is from “The Library Today” part of our Web site. Here, you can get the latest news about the national library, such as recent press releases; the “Information Bulletin,” a monthly newsletter that offers in-depth reports on the programs, policies and events of the Library; and Poetry 180, a Web site from former Poet Laureate Billy Collins that features a poem for each day of the school year. (But you don’t have to be in school to enjoy this selection of poem’s from some of the world’s finest poets.)


A. John James Audubon, “Roseate Spoonbill” from “The Birds of America,” London: 1827-1838. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. (1785-1851). Reproduction information: ### Contact Rare Book and Special Collections Division to determine availability. Send e-mail to: [email protected]

B. Lawrence Herbert, “A Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent, with a Perspective of the State House,” 1752. Geography and Map Division. Reproduction information: Call No.: G3824.P5 1752 .S3 Vault


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