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Michael North, Head, Reference and Reader Services, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Elizabeth Gettins, Digital Conversion Specialist, Library Services
Amanda Zimmerman, Reference Librarian, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Created: August 12, 2021
Last Updated: March 3, 2023
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) took great personal interest in his "big-game library" and bequeathed this portion of his book collection to his youngest son Kermit, who in turn left it to his son and namesake. In 1963 and 1964 Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. presented his grandfather's hunting collection to the Library of Congress.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), often referred to as "Teddy" or his initials "T. R.," was an American statesman, conservationist, naturalist, historian, and writer, who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.
Having had many childhood illnesses and asthma, Roosevelt was determined to lead an active life. After visiting the Dakota Territory in 1883 on a hunting expedition, he became enthralled by the active cowboy life and the cattle business in the region. The following year, he purchased land and built the Elkhorn Ranch, where he retreated as frequently as possible for the next decades to indulge his passions for riding, hunting, and ranching.
From June 1909 to June of 1910, Theodore Roosevelt went on an expedition to Africa. A popular topic in the press, readers were fascinated both by former President Roosevelt as well as his destination. After his return, Roosevelt wrote, "African Game Trails," which included the monthly articles he wrote during the trip for "Scribner's Magazine.” Big-game hunting was a sport pursued to collect specimens for museums, recreation, and as a hobby.
Although composed primarily of late nineteenth and early twentieth century publications on hunting, natural history, exploration, ornithology, and sport, the collection includes a number of significant early editions such as Jean de Clamorgan's La Chasse du loup (Paris: 1566); Robert de Salnove's La Venerie royal (Paris: 1655); L'Histoire naturelle (Paris: 1767), a work by John Ray that was translated into French by François Salerne; and The Histoire of Foure-Footed Beastes (London: 1607) and The Historie of Serpents (London: 1608) by Edward Topsell. Most of the 254 volumes bear Roosevelt's bookplate.
The unique materials of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, now totaling over 1 million items, include books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, prints, posters, photographs, and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. At the center is Thomas Jefferson's book collection, which was sold to Congress in 1815. The Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room is modeled after Philadelphia's Independence Hall. This room is home to the divisional catalogs, reference collection, and reference staff. Collections are stored in temperature and humidity controlled vaults.