PAM Bulletin Vol 39, No 3
- Message from the Chair
- PAM Newcomers’ Lunch
- PAM Financial Report
- USNO Library Donates Rare Book to Library of Congress
- Fewer Sessions Allowed at SLA 2013
- Astronomy News
- Math News
- Physics News
- PAMwide Roundtable
- PAMnet Monitor
- Membership News
- Member’s Corner
- Narendar Wadhwa, International Membership Award Winner
- Vendor Update
- Resources for College Libraries Seeks Astronomy Editor
- Message from the Editor
by Geoff Chester, via Sally Bosken
The U.S. Naval Observatory’s (USNO) James M. Gilliss Library donated a copy of a rare book to the Thomas Jefferson collection at the Library of Congress Jan. 20.
Rear Adm. Jonathan White, commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC), presented a Latin version of Sur la Figure de la Terre, written by the 18th century French mathematician and philosopher Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, to Dr. James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress to help the library recreate its collection of books that were once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
While serving as the U.S. ambassador in Paris in 1789, Jefferson ordered a copy of Maupertuis’ Latin version, Figura Telluris de Maupertuis, which was published in Leipzig, Germany in 1742. It was one of a number of books he selected from a catalogue issued by a book seller in Strasbourg, Armand Koenig.
The book was ordered June 29, 1789. It was sent to Jefferson and was included in a bill from Koenig dated July 17. It was entered without price by Jefferson in his undated manuscript library catalogue.
In 1815, Jefferson sold his books to the Library of Congress to restart its collection after the burning of the original library in the War of 1812. His library – now on display in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress – was considered one of the finest in the United States at the time.
Over the years the Library of Congress’ copy of Figura Telluris de Maupertuis was lost. The USNO library has two copies of the work, the original French edition printed in 1738, and the Latin version from 1742. Lt. James M. Gilliss purchased the French version and a copy of Maupertuis’ Astronomie Nautique in 1843 in Paris. USNO has no record of when the Latin version was purchased.
The USNO library was established in 1842 with an $800 allotment from the $25,000 appropriation which funded the observatory’s first permanent home in Washington’s Foggy Bottom district. Today it holds more than 80,000 titles and is considered to be one of the world’s premier astronomical libraries.
USNO’s mission includes determining the positions and motions of the Earth, sun, moon, planets, stars and other celestial objects, providing astronomical data; determining precise time; measuring the Earth’s rotation; and maintaining the master clock for the United States.