The First Legal Catalog at the University of Virginia Law School
The 1828 Catalogue Project of the University of Virginia Law Library reconstructs the collection of legal texts purchased for the first UVa library under the direction of Thomas Jefferson. In addition to the Law Library’s 1828 Collection of physical texts, this Virtual Bookshelf of the university’s first 375 legal titles is fully searchable with high resolution imagery and rich metadata for each book.
In 1826, University of Virginia librarian William Wertenbaker began the first official inventory of the brand new U.Va. library. Completed two years later, the 1828 Catalogue of the University of Virginia Library included nearly 8,000 volumes, most of which had been selected for purchase in 1824 by Thomas Jefferson. Fire and time destroyed and scattered these foundational texts of the U.Va. Library. Some of the original 375 law books suffered the fate of most of the library when the Rotunda and Annex burned in 1895.
The U.Va. Law Library’s 1828 Catalogue Project began forty years ago as an effort to collect exact duplicate copies of the 375 legal texts listed in the University’s 1828 Catalogue. Fortunately, Jefferson’s letters and Wertenbaker’s Catalogue note the exact editions of nearly every work in the first U.Va. Library, facilitating efforts to recreate the law portion of this historical library as closely as possible. To date the 1828 Collection includes 317 of the library’s original 375 law titles, all of which are available to researchers at the Law Library’s Special Collections. Over the years the 1828 Catalogue Project has grown to include curated exhibits at the U.Va. Law Library and now a virtual reconstruction of this historical library.