The Virginia Gazette

Today in the 1770s: December 19

WILLIAMSBURG, December 19, 1777.
THIS DAY IS PUBLISHED, A catalogue of the valuable Library, the Property of the Estate of the late Hon. William Byrd, Esq; consisting of near 4000 Volumes, in all Languages and Faculties, contained in twenty three double Presses of black Walnut, and also a valuable Assortment of philosophical Instruments, and capital Engravings, the Whole in excellent Order. Great Part of the Books in elegant Bindings, and of the best Editions, and a considerable Number of them very Scarce. Catalogues may be seen at Mess. Dixon & Hunter's in Williamsburg, and at most of the Book Sellers upon the Continent, and also at Westover, where the Library may be viewed, and the Executrix will treat with those who are inclined to purchase the whole.

Virginia Gazette (Dixon & Hunter) December 19, 1777
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About this entry:

William Byrd III inherited a large estate and one of the finest libraries in the American colonies. After he committed suicide January 1, 1777, his wife was compelled to sell everything in order to pay his debts. Mary Willing Byrd sold the complete library collection to Isaac Zane for 2000 pounds. After the Revolution, Zane transported the books to Philadelphia where it was sold slowly, piece by piece. James Madison bought some of Byrd's books in 1787 during the Constitutional Convention. Later, in 1791, Jefferson bought a 13 volume set of Plutarch.

Sources: Wolf

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