This year marks two important anniversaries for the Library of Congress, a 200th and a 15th. The first marks the year 1815 when Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library of over 6,000 volumes to the Library of Congress in order to reconstitute the library’s collection which had been burned the prior year by the British in the War of 1912.  The second is the 15th anniversary of the National Book Festival, which was first hosted in 2001 by the former First Lady Laura Bush. In the past, the event has drawn approximately 200,000 attendees.  With these anniversaries to celebrate, this year’s festival promises to be the biggest yet. 

The 15th annual National Book Festival will take this year on September 5, 2015 from 10am to 10pm in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  There will be 175 authors, poets, and illustrators who will be participating in exhibitions, readings, and book signings.  Admission is free. Of course, attendees will have the opportunity to buy books at the festival; this is America after all! 

I encourage attendees of the book festival to also make the pilgrimage over to the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Among its many exhibits, there are two in particular that book lovers will want to see. On display is the original collection that Jefferson sold.  Not all the books have survived over the years, but many have.  The curators have clearly marked which books were actually his and those which are replacement volumes from the same period.  

Adjacent to Jefferson’s reassembled library is a special exhibit displaying the first printed books in America.  It nicely coincides with the book festival, which features American authors and publishers (many international authors will be there too). The featured book of the exhibit is the Bay Psalm Book. It is the very first book published by North American colonists, published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1640.  It is a metrical psalter, meaning psalms in the book of Psalms have been translated from Hebrew into English meter so that they can be sung as hymns.   

Befitting the double anniversary, theme of the National Book festival this year is “I cannot live without books.” It is a quotation taken from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to John Adams concerning the sale of his library to the Library of Congress.  As always, Custom Tours of DC is available to plan private tour around your participation at the National Book Festival.  

For more information on the National Book Festival, check out its Facebook page by clicking on this link.