In 1789, Georgetown College was founded by Archbishop John Carroll and became the nation's first Catholic university. Its third president, Louis Guillaume Valentin DuBourg, a Sulpician priest, is given credit for founding the institution's library, with more than a hundred of his own books. This was the modest beginning of the library, and its rare book collection, but in time it would grow. In 1815, Archbishop Carroll died, leaving money for "the purchase of valuable works of real learning." The library's growth continued through the presidencies of two Jesuits, Giovanni Grassi and Enoch Fenwick, and in 1825, when Anne Royall visited the campus, she noted the library contained about 9,000 volumes. The acquisition of the library of Thomas C. Levins in 1844 added 1,991 volumes, including 11 incunabula, among the first to enter the collection. In 1891 Riggs Library was built in the Healy Building; this would be the main university library until 1970 when Lauinger Library opened with a collection of 450,000 volumes and a large space for special collections.
Today the Special Collections Research Center encompasses the university's rare book collection of nearly 100,000 rare books; the manuscript collection, 750 separate collections consisting of some 7,000 linear feet of material; the University Archives at over 3,000 linear feet; and the University's art collection, consisting of 12,000 fine prints and some 600 paintings and sculptures. The Center actively collects material about the Society of Jesus; American diplomacy and intelligence; European and American history; English and American literature; and European and American fine prints and paintings.
Special Collections Research Center
37th and O Streets NW
Washington, DC 20057-1174