Library of the Convent of Mafra, Lisbon
Books have been around for centuries but they were not available to the common person for much of that time. They were very expensive and had to be copied by hand. It was not until the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg (c.1395- 1468), in 1440, that books became cheaper and more widely available.
Books increase our knowledge, and help shape our lives. Have you ever visited a house without books? I have and I must say that it conveys a certain feeling of emptiness.
Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826), the main author of the Declaration of Independence of the United States and the 3rd President, loved books. Without his books he could never have been the man he was. He was lucky enough to live in a generation where books were becoming more common. When his father died in 1757 he left a library of 42 volumes, something very impressive for that time. A library of 400 books – the number John Harvard (1607–1638) donated to the university that was later named after its benefactor- was colossal for that time.
Library of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland
In August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, where the Library of the Congress was housed, and burned its contents, Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library (consisting of 6487 volumes) as a replacement. He had spent 50 years accumulating books, and his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States, which included books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics. Nowadays the Library of the Congress is the biggest library in the world with more than 115 million books and other print materials.