On Friday, we celebrate the birthday of one of America’s oldest cultural institutions: Barbra Streisand, looking great at 73! It also happens to be the birthday of the Library of Congress. Founded in 1800, the library is known today as the place that stores a single copy of every book ever published.
“That’s actually not true,” says library spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg. “But we do have a lot of books — almost 24 million, plus the world’s largest law library. We have a comic book collection, a map collection, video games, violins, globes, just about everything.”
Another common misconception is that the library is only for members of Congress, she says.
“We want Washingtonians to know that anyone over 16 can get a Library of Congress card and use the reading room,” she says. “We also have exhibits, concerts and a weekly story time for little readers.”
Here are a few notable items in the collection:
America’s birth certificate: A 1507 map by German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller, who was the first to fully depict the Western Hemisphere.
Abraham Lincoln’s scrapbook: A collection of newspaper clippings and letters from his 1858 political campaign. (You can read it online.)
Tweets: A digital record of every tweet since Twitter began in 2006.
A Gutenberg Bible: Published in 1455, this is one of the first books printed using movable type in Western Europe.
The first book printed in the U.S.: “The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre,” printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Mass. It will be on display alongside other examples of early American books starting June 4.
One very small book: “Old King Cole,” a book smaller than a grain of rice containing the children’s nursery rhyme. Printed by Gleniffer press in 1985, the 12-page book can only be read with a microscope.