1828 Catalogue

Reconstructing the First Law Library at the University of Virginia

The 1828 Catalogue Project of the University of Virginia Law Library reconstructs the original collection of legal texts purchased for the first UVA library under the direction of Thomas Jefferson. Law books comprised 375 out of the roughly 8,000 titles in UVA’s original library as it was catalogued in 1828 by the first university librarian. Fire and time scattered most of UVA’s original law library, and in the 1980s the UVA Law Library began a long term project to collect exact duplicate editions of these 375 foundational legal texts. Alongside the project’s physical collection of rare books, the Law Library is building a digital archive of this historical library with grant funding from the Jefferson Trust.

Great standard works of established reputation, too voluminous and too expensive for private libraries, should have a place in every public library, for the free resort of individuals.
-Thomas Jefferson, introductory text to his 1825 Catalogue of Books for the University of Virginia

To date, the 1828 Catalogue 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. Beginning in 2018, researchers will be able to explore this historical library through a new Virtual Bookshelf tool that displays high-resolution images of the 1828 law books as they would have appeared on the Rotunda Library shelves and uses bibliographic information from the 1828 Catalogue to enable deep research into this historical book collection. By expanding access to these historical texts, this project aims to fulfill one of Jefferson’s foundational goals for UVA, that its library serve as a robust and open portal for scholarly knowledge.

Contact Project Staff: archives@law.virginia.edu