La Lettera Dellisole

Christopher Columbus. La Lettera Dellisole Che Ha Trouato Nuouamente el Re Dispagna. Florence: October 26, 1495.

Rarest I

The Discovery of the New World

A poetical paraphrase by G. Dati of the first letter of Columbus (to Gabriel Sanchez) concerning his discovery of a new world, this volume is one of three known copies of the third edition of the metrical version of the Columbus letter. The two preceding editions, also printed in Florence, appeared in 1493, the first on October 25 entitled Queste e la Hystoria, the second dated October 26 with the same title and woodcut illustration as in the present copy.


The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, of the Old & New Testament: Faithfully Translated into English Meetre. For the Use, Edification and Comfort of the Saints in Publick and Private, especially in New-England. The ninth edition. Boston: Printed by B. Green, and J. Allen, for Michael Perry, under the West-End of the Town house, 1698.

No Squeaking Above, No Grumbling Below

The "Bay Psalm Book," so called because of its origins in the Bay Colony, was first published in 1640 at Cambridge, Massachusetts, under the title The Whole Booke of Psalms Faithfully Translated into English Metre. It was the first book-length work to be printed in British North America. During the next century, it went through many editions and became the most important American versification of the psalms.

The Bay Psalm Book is also very important in the history of American music. The first edition did not contain any musical notation but did contain an "Admonition to the Reader" that referred readers to tunes in certain “english psalm books” to which the newly versified psalms could be sung. The ninth edition, exhibited here, has an eleven-page supplement of thirteen psalm tunes added at the back of the volume, making it the first book published on the North American continent with musical notation. There are only two known copies of the ninth edition: this one from the McGregor Collection in Special Collections, and the other in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.

The volume is opened to the first page of the supplement which provides "directions for ordering the voice"—in other words, whether to start the tune on a high or low pitch—"so as you may begin the Tune of your first Note as the rest may be sung in the compass of your and the peoples voices, without Squeaking above, or Grumbling below."



[Diderot, Denis.] Encyclopédie; ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers. Paris: Chez Briasson...David... Le Breton...Durand..., 1745-1780.

The Great Encyclopedia

The Diderot Encyclopédie was one of the most brilliant literary enterprises of the eighteenth century. Aided by articles from Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Buffon, and others, the vast work was conceived in 1745 and brought to a conclusion in 1772 with the completion of eleven volumes of engraved plates to accompany the seventeen volumes of text. A four-volume supplement was added in 1776-77 with another volume of plates. Two volumes of tables were added in 1780. A set of this monumental undertaking of the Enlightenment comprises thirty-five volumes in all. The Library’s copy, from the Douglas Gordon Collection, has thirty-six volumes. 

Proof pages of articles from the Encyclopédie

Encyclopédie, proof pages

The additional volume in the Gordon set contains over 300 original proof pages of articles from the Encyclopédie with corrections in the hand of Diderot.

Encyclopédie frontispiece

Encyclopédie, frontispiece

A facsimile of the frontispiece, showing Truth dispersing the shadows of ignorance.


Declaration of Independence

In Congress, July 4, 1776. A declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled...

The Declaration of Independence

According to Merrill Peterson, the Declaration of Independence was in "Jefferson’s own judgment... his premier title to fame." Jefferson himself said years later of the Declaration that "Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular or previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion."

This first printing of the Declaration by John Dunlap on July 4 or early July 5, 1776, is one of only twenty-five known surviving copies. It was acquired in 1957 through the auspices of Clifton Waller Barrett. The University of Virginia Library has the distinction of owning two copies of the first printing when Albert H. Small’s Declaration of Independence Collection arrives. Mr. Small’s pristine copy of the Declaration is reputed to have been owned by George Washington.


Minutes of the meetings of Central College

Volume I of the minutes of the meetings of Central College (1817-1819, the predecessor of the University of Virginia) and the University of Virginia (1819+).

The University That Three Presidents Founded

This first volume was apparently a personal record kept by Thomas Jefferson, and practically all the pages (105) written prior to his death are in his hand. The first meeting on May 5, 1817, was attended by three presidents of the United States: Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison.