BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

This usually doesn't happen ...

I think this is the last of the books that I got at that $5/bag sale at AfterWords books a year or so back (although I haven't reviewed them all, I'm pretty sure I've read them all at this point). This was the "prize" of that, a big beautiful book, in very good condition, and I was very pleased with myself scoring it for as little as it worked out I paid for it.

You can imagine my embarrassment, when I logged Charles A Goodrum's Treasures of the Library of Congress into my LibraryThing catalog, that I found that I already had a copy in my library! Now, I have a lot of big "coffee table" books that I bought "back in the day" when I was a Public Relations exec pulling down six figures, and this must have been one of the books I added back then, but I had NO recall of it as I read through this ... suggesting to me that I probably had it sitting around more for "looks" than anything else at the time.

As it turns out, I was missing something, because this was quite the interesting read ... both from the standpoint of the history, mission, and changing priorities of the Library of Congress, and the details of the specific collections. The book must have been a daunting challenge to develop, as the LOC holdings are so vast ... some of the choices seem odd (for instance, tracing the development of the musical Oklahoma!) but are put in there to show how the various elements that are in the Library can work together for research, etc.

Generally speaking, however, the book is set up on "themes", many of them not books, it covers maps, and art, and photography, it looks at science, and "Orientalia", and historical documents, and musical instruments, and archival materials relating to Presidents, etc. At every turn there are superlatives, the most this, the most that, the most complete other thing, and the remarkable ways that many of these items found their way into the LOC.

Needless to say, as a former publisher, I was aware of one of the main ways the collection was built, as "back in the day" (I believe the requirement has been lifted, but I'm not sure) one had to submit two copies of everything one was getting copyright filed on to have the application processed. So, everything that was going to have an official US copyright registration ended up at least passing through their hands (a lot of ephemera, like, I suspect, my "chapbook" poetry collections got discarded).

This came out in 1980, and given the subject, does have a slightly dated feel, as computers were only just developing past room-sized leviathans at that point, and the cataloging of the collection was still very much a cards-in-a-drawer system when this was being written!

Treasures of the Library of Congress does appear to be out of print, but I was shocked to find that it is available for very little (especially given the substantial weight and size of the book), with the Amazon new/used vendors having "very good" copies under a buck and "new" copies for as little as $3.25 (plus shipping, of course)! Given what it would cost to mail this, even at book rate, I'd think those guys (who have to agree to a flat-rate shipping fee) are selling it at a loss.

Anyway, this is a remarkable look at a remarkable institution, filled with amazing photos of amazing stuff, and held together by some very well-crafted prose. Especially given the prices that this can be had for, I'd highly recommend it as a great addition to anybody's library.

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Tags: book review
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