The Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20540
Now I know the Library of Congress is not a bookstore, but it does have books, and it does have a store. And those who have been reading my blog for a while already know that the retired librarian in me can't help but write about a library once in a while, especially if it is a fantastic library. (See Hong Kong, IV) And believe me, the Library of Congress is a fantastic library, so special in fact, that I will be devoting two blog posts to it. It is the world's largest library, after all, and I think that's pretty special indeed.
On our first full day in Washington, D.C., during a recent trip, (See Capital) my husband and I decided to forego our original Smithsonian plans to dodge the heat and the Girl Scouts in the Library of Congress. Even if you don't particularly care for libraries (although for the life of me, I can't see why anyone wouldn't love a library) the Jefferson Building's architecture alone is spectacular and well worth a visit.
Everywhere you look, you see marble--marble staircases with marble banisters, marble floors, marble columns, marble statues, decorative carved marble accents on the ceilings. And where there is no marble, there are beautiful paintings and several tiny tile mosaics on the floors and ceilings, many displaying names of famous writers such as Poe, Hugo, and Whitman. In the center of the main hall, the floor features a large inlaid stone design depicting all of the signs of the zodiac.
Visitors to the Library of Congress can climb a marble staircase for a view from the main reading room overlook. You may have seen this large, stately reading room in the film American Treasure: Book of Secrets. You will not, unfortunately, see a picture of it on my blog as photography is not allowed, nor are pictures allowed of the Gutenberg Bible or the Thomas Jefferson Library. Take my word for it; they are all amazing. There is nothing quite like looking at the actual pages on which Gutenberg first printed, an accomplishment that would change the concept of reading for all time making it ultimately available to the masses. I found it similarly thrilling to look at volumes that were once owned and read by Thomas Jefferson. Included in the Jefferson display are 2,000 such volumes, part of the founding father's personal library at Monticello. The Thomas Jefferson quote, "I cannot live without books" is ubiquitous throughout the Library of Congress.
After visiting the Jefferson display, my husband and I headed to the Library Shop. Since the shop does have books, I suppose you could actually call it a bookstore. We spent several minutes browsing the extensive displays of books, bookmarks, t-shirts, posters, pens, pencils, gifts, and the like. We made a variety of souvenir purchases before we left having fully enjoyed the fascinating Library of Congress.
Little did I know at the time that I would have another opportunity to visit the LOC later in the week.