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. Roosevelt was a sickly child with debilitating asthma, but he partly overcame his health problems by embracing a strenuous lifestyle. He integrated his exuberant personality, a vast range of interests and achievements into a "cowboy" persona defined by robust masculinity. He was home-schooled and began a lifelong naturalist avocation before attending Harvard University.
Roosevelt first visited the Dakota Territory in 1883 to hunt bison. Exhilarated by the cowboy life, and with the cattle business booming in the territory, Roosevelt invested $14,000 in hopes of becoming a prosperous cattle rancher. For the next several years, he shuttled between his home in New York and his ranch in Dakota.
Following the 1884 presidential election, Roosevelt built a ranch named Elkhorn, which was 35 mi (56 km) north of the boomtown of Medora, North Dakota. Roosevelt learned to ride western style, rope, and hunt on the banks of the Little Missouri.
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 published a book titled "African Game Trails," which gathered together the monthly articles he wrote for "Scribner's Magazine" describing the trip. Big-game hunting was a sport pursued to collect specimens for museums, recreation, and as a hobby. Sharply rising in popularity during the Victorian Era, it peaked during the 20th century, and includes many famous big game hunters. Among them are Philip Percival, who guided Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, themselves famous big game hunters.
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.