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peculiarly excelled.

Germany is the printer, turning from his press a hand-press, accurately
copied from early models to examine the proof-sheet he has just pulled.
His right foot is placed upon a pile of sheets already corrected, and a roller for
inking lies convenient to his hand.


Spain is the sixteenth century Spanish adventurer. He wears a steel morion
on his head, and is clad in a leathern jerkin. Holding the tiller of a ship in
his right hand, he seems to be watching for land to appear in the sea.
Beside him is a globe of the earth, and at his feet a model of a caravel, the sort
of ship in which Columbus sailed on his voyages, is introduced.

England wears the ruff and full sleeves of the time of Elizabeth the era
when English Literature, both poetry and prose, was at its highest. She is
crowned with laurel the reward of literature and bears in her lap an open
book of Shakespeare's Plays the right-hand page with a facsimile of the title-
page of the first edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, dated 1600.

France, standing for Emancipation and the great revolutionary upheaval of
the eighteenth century, is dressed in a characteristic garb of the First Republic
a jacket with lapels, a tricolor scarf, and a liberty-cap with a tricolor cock-
ade. She sits on a cannon and carries a drum, a bugle, and a sword emblems


of her military crusade in behalf of liberty. In her left hand she displays a
scroll bearing the words " Les Droits de PHomme," the famous Declaration of
the Rights of "Man adopted by the French Assembly in 1789.

The twelfth and last figure, bringing us once more round to the east, is that
of America represented as an engineer, in the garb of the machine-shop,
sitting lost in thought over a problem of mechanics he has encountered. He
leans his chin upon the palm of one hand, while the other holds the scie"tific
book wnich he has been consulting. In front of him is an electric dynamo
recalling tne part which the United States has taken in the advancement of
electrical science.

On the base of the dynamo, Mr. Blashfield has signed his work in an in-
scription which recalls also the name of the artist who assisted him in laying it
upon the plaster : " These decorations were designed and executed by Edwin
Rowland Blashfield, assisted by Arthur Reginald Willett, A. D. MDCCC-


The visitor will perhaps have been a little perplexed by the familiar appear-
ance of some of the faces in Mr. Blashfield's decoration. It is an interesting
fact that in several cases Mr. Blashfield has introduced a resemblance, more or
less distinct, to the features of some real person in order to give greater vari-
ety, and, above all, greater vitality to his figures. The persons chosen were
selected because the character of their features seemed to him peculiarly suited
to the type which he wished to represent. In the case of Abraham Lincoln
the figure of America and of General Casey the Germany the choice
was fitting for other reasons. Among the female figures, The Middle Ages is
Mrs. De Navarro (Mary Anderson), and England, Miss Ellen Terry. The
faces of Italy and Spain are from sketches made from Miss Amy Rose, a young
sculptor in New York, and Mr. William Bailey Faxon, the painter, respectively.

France suggests the features of the artist's wife.
Throughout, however, it must be remembered
that, to use Mr. Blashfield's own words, "no
portraiture has been attempted, but only charac-

The Rotunda Color Scheme. One can
hardly leave this description of the decoration of
the Rotunda without a word respecting the gen-
eral color scheme. Beginning with the brown,
red, and yellow marbles at the base, one ends
with the pure whites and bright greens and violets
of Mr. Blashfield's final decoration. The differ-
ence between these two extremes has been
bridged over by the use of harmonizing colors
on the walls and in the dome. The Pompeiian
red of the alcove walls and the pendentives is
suggested by the Numidian marble of the piers.
A touch of brown on the wall below the semicircu-
lar windows echoes the brown Tennessee base, and
the yellow predominant in the alcove arches
above derives from the Sienna screens. These
last, again, in their lightest portions, strike the
key for the "old- ivory" the delicate gray
yellow which, either deeper or lighter, is always
the ruling tone of the entablature, the dome,
and the sculptural figures in plaster. The
coffers of the dome, one will notice by looking closely, are defined by a
narrow band of yellow or red yellow throughout one whole compartment,
and red in the next. The former carries up (more markedly than in the
ivory- toned stucco) the color of the screens ; the latter the color of the
piers. The blue ground, moreover, and the yellow stripe create together,
whether one will or not, an impression of green upon the eye, because green
is compounded of blue and yellow ; and the blue and the red, in turn, create
an impression of violet, for a similar reason. Thus, the visitor, glancing up to
the decorations of the collar, is already prepared for Mr. Blashfield's two dom-
inating tones. The white is expected as the natural result of a color scheme
which has been steadily growing lighter from the beginning, and, after being
used in Mr. Blashfield's painting, it is at last appropriately employed almost



solely in the lantern which crowns the whole Rotunda. Finally, considering
the room as a whole, it will be noted that the profuse use of gold throughout
the dome and lantern is not only legitimately suggested by the Sienna marble,
but of itself helps to keep the various colors in marble or stucco in what
may be called a more complete " state of solution " than would otherwise have
been possible. By attracting attention to itself, it softens the contrasts be-
tween the other colors.

The floor of the Rotunda is a kind of mosaic, known as terrazzo, ornamented
with great concentric bands of Tennessee marble. Terrazzo, sometimes called
"chip mosaic " or "granite," is made by sprinkling a layer of small pieces ol
marble upon a bed of Portland cement,
rolling it all down so that the pieces are
thoroughly embedded, and, after it is dry,
rubbing it down smooth with sandstone.
When carefully prepared, it makes an
especially durable floor.

Provision for Readers. The
reading desks are arranged in three cir-
cles, surrounding the Distributing Desk as
a centre. Each row contains eight desks,
leaving room between for aisles radiating
from the central desk. They are con-
structed of dark, heavy mahogany, and are
supported on iron standards with gratings
admitting warm or fresh air, for heating
and ventilation. The inmost row is a
combination of reading- tables, settees,
and standing writing-desks, with shelves
for reference books, encyclopaedias,
dictionaries, directories, atlases, etc.,
of which there is a very full selection.
The outer rows are double-faced, and
arranged exclusively for persons reading
and studying. Allowing each a space of
four feet, the desks are capable of seating
altogether two hundred and forty-six
readers. Including the alcoves, which, on
account of the number of separate spaces
they contain, are well adapted to the use of
special students, particularly those desiring to turn over a large number of
books at one time, the total number of readers that can be accommodated in
the Rotunda is two hundred and eighty-nine.

The Distributing Desk is surrounded by a circular counter for attendants,
and for delivering and receiving books, and cases containing a card catalogue
of the Library, arranged alphabetically in shallow drawers according to the sub-
ject, author, and title. It has been the policy of the Library from the begin-
ning, moreover, to issue its catalogue in printed volumes, new editions being
prepared as the old ones became obsolete on account of fresh accessions. Of
late years, however, the Library has grown so enormously that the annual ap-
propriations of Congress have not been sufficient to warrant this undertaking.




The latest volumes were published in 1881, and carried the catalogue only
through the letter " C."

Within the enclosures formed by these various desks and cabinets is a small
elevator for bringing books by the truck-load from the basement story. The
Distributing Desk itself is built of mahogany, ornamented with panelling and
carving. On the east side it consists of a high station for the use of the Super-
intendent the officer in charge in the Rotunda who is thus able to keep
in touch with everything doing in the room. On the other side is a cabinet
containing the terminus of the system of book-carrying apparatus connecting
the Reading Room and Stacks, and in the centre is a stairway leading to the
basement. Along the front of the desk, also, is a row of twenty-four pneu-
matic tubes for the transmission of messages,
either in cylindrical pouches, as in the case of
the written applications which those desiring to
draw books are required to make out, or verbally,
by means of a mouth-piece with which each tube
is equipped. Nine tubes go to the North Stack
and nine to the South Stack, or one for every
floor. Four go to the East Stack, or one to every
other floor. An attendant for any portion of the
stack system can thus be reached at a moment's
notice. Of the other, two tubes, one goes to the
Librarian's Room and the other connects with
the Capitol.

Each tube is numbered, and is operated by
pressing a button, the action of which indicates,
also, when the pouch is delivered at the other end.
Each tube terminates in a separate bronze case
or box, which is heavily cushioned, and closed
by self-shutting glass doors in order to prevent
noise. The tube enters at the bottom, and the
pouch is thrown against a curved "hood," so
called, which guides it to one side so that it may
not fall back into the mouth of the tube.

The Book-Carrying Apparatus. The
main features of the book-carrying apparatus
were suggested by Mr. Green, although worked
out with the assistance of ingenious mechanics.
The apparatus is in two parts, each separately
operated, the first of which connects with the North Stack and the second
with the South Stack. The East Stack is so much less extensive than the other
two that it was thought more economical to rely solely upon the services of the
attendants for the delivery and return of the books it contained. Each section
of the apparatus (north or south) consists of a pair of endless chains kept con-
tinuously in motion, at the rate of about one hundred feet a minute, by means
of power furnished by an electric dynamo. These two chains run from the
terminal cabinet to the basement ; thence on a level to the stacks ; and from
there directly up a small well to the top floor, where they turn and descend.

The cable carries eighteen trays, distributed at regular intervals. Each tray
is capable of carrying a volume the size of the ordinary quarto, (say eleven




inches by ten, and four inches thick), or its equivalent in smaller volumes.
Larger books must be carried by hand down the elevator with which each stack
is provided. The tray is of brass, made in the form of a hooked comb, the
ends of the teeth being left free. The terminal cabinet and all the stack
stories are provided with toothed slides, the teeth of which engage with those
of the trays, and rake off or deliver the books, as the case may be. If one
bends and slightly opens the fingers of both hands, and then draws the fingers
of one through those of the other, the general principle of the arrangement will
immediately be seen. The tray, however, can receive books only when going
up, and can deliver them only when coming down. When a book is received
by a slide it falls into a padded basket, ready to be taken to its place on the
shelves or delivered to the reader. When the
attendant desires to deliver a book to the Rotunda,
he places it on the slide, and sets the latter so that
it will be ready to meet the first tray which arrives.
In returning books, the officer at the Distributing
Desk must set a little lever on a dial at the number
of the stack for which the book is intended. When
the tray approaches the proper floor, the slide is
automatically pushed out to receive the load.

Connection with the Capitol. It is calcu-
lated that, by means of the pneumatic tubes and the
book-carrying apparatus, it will require no more than
six or seven minutes to bring a book from the stacks,
from the time it is first called for. Valuable, how-
ever, as is the use of machinery in connecting widely
distant portions of the Library, it is even more im-
portant as a factor in bringing together the Library
itself and the Capitol, where hardly an hour passes,
during a session of Congress, but some member
desires to draw books for immediate use in debate or
committee work. The distance between the two
buildings is about a quarter of a mile (twelve hundred
and seventy- five feet). This is covered by a tunnel
having at one end a terminus in the basement almost
immediately beneath the Distributing Desk, and at the
other end in a room in the Capitol about midway
between the Senate and House of Representatives.
The tunnel is built of brick, is perfectly dry, and about six feet high and four feet
wide, or just large enough for a man to enter and make any needed repairs. An
endless cable, kept moving by a similar force to that which supplies the appara-
tus connecting with the stacks, carries two trays back and forth between the ter-
minals, receiving and delivering books by the same arrangement of teeth as has
just been described. The trays are much larger, however, than the others, and
are capable of containing the largest volumes, such as bound volumes of news-
papers. The speed at which the cable runs is about six hundred feet a minute,
delivering a book at the Capitol within three minutes after it has left the
Library. In addition to the book-carrier, the tunnel contains the pneumatic
tube already spoken of, and the wires of private telephones connecting the
two Houses of Congress with the Distributing Desk. So quickly can a



message be sent and a book returned, that it is said that a Congressman can
get the volumes he desires in less time than it would have taken him when the
Library occupied its old quarters in the Capitol itself.


From the point of view of library equipment and management, however,
the three great book-stacks radiating from the Rotunda are the most interesting
and remarkable feature of the building. They were entirely planned by Mr.
Bernard R. Green, the engineer in charge of the construction of the Library.
The word " planned," indeed, is hardly adequate ; " invented " would be nearer
the exact fact. The idea of a book-stack, as distinguished from a mere arrange-
ment of bookcases, is so new that such examples as
were in existence when Mr. Green entered upon the
work were imperfect in many very important points.
The root purpose of a book-stack, of course, is to
make it capable of holding the greatest number of
volumes in the smallest possible space always, how-
ever, bearing in mind that every book must be per-
fectly accessible and so placed that it can be easily
and quickly handled. The space being limited and the
number of volumes large, the old way of arranging
cases along the walls, even when the wall space is
materially increased by dividing a room into alcoves,
has to be abandoned in favor of a more compact system.
The modern substitute is to erect the cases in stories,
or tiers, with corridors and passages only large enough
to give convenient access to the books. Throughout,
the aim of the builder is to dispose of every inch of
space as economically as possible. Of the three stacks
in the Library of Congress, those to the north and south
are, as the visitor has seen, the largest, each having a
length of one hundred and twelve feet against thirty
for the East Stack. All three are of the same width,
however forty-five feet and the same height
sixty-three feet. The method of construction is the
same throughout, and each is absolutely fireproof, the
only materials used being steel, iron, brick, glass, and
marble. Few things which ca^ be destroyed by fire at all are more difficult to
burn than books, and a fire in the stacks, even if carefully nursed by an incen-
diary, could hardly do more than a trifling injury.

Arrangement and Construction. The stacks are divided into nine
tiers, each tier being seven feet high, and into an equal number of stories the
same distance apart. This distance was adopted in order that the books on
the highest shelf of a tier might not be beyond the convenient reach of a man
of average height, or so far away that he could not easily read their titles. By
the present arrangement every book can be handled or its title read without

The stacks begin at the basement story, which is fourteen feet below the level
of the floor of the Rotunda. They are sixty- three feet in height the sum, that is,




of the nine seven-foot stories and are topped by an iron covering, so that any
water which might by accident come through the roof would be shed without
harming the books. The construction of the shelving is entirely of steel and
iron. The unit of construction, as it may be technically called, is a steel
column erected on a firm foundation and extending the height of the stack.
There are over three hundred of them in each of the two large stacks. At the
bottom of every tier above the basement is a horizontal framework of steel bars,
running between the columns, the length and width of the stack, and securely
anchored to the walls. These cross-pieces perform a double service : they brace
the upright columns and prevent them from bending under the weight they
bear, and they are supports on which to lay the decks. The cases, that is, do
not rest on the flooring, but the flooring on the
general system of the cases. It may be added that
with the strong and simple framing that is used
the stacks might very well have been carried a dozen
stories higher without materially increasing the size of
the columns.

The ranges by which is meant the cases for books
are of iron, divided into six compartments by
partitions bolted to the columns. They are double-
faced, each side being a foot deep, and have no backs.
On the front edge of each partition are blunt teeth,
and near the back edge is a vertical row of horns, both
serving to hold the shelves in place. The ranges are
at right angles with the wall, so that there is no
opportunity for the occurrence of what are called
" dead angles " waste spaces in which it is impos-
sible to put books.

The ranges are nineteen and a quarter feet long,
and in both of the larger stacks are forty-two in
number, twenty-one on each side of the stack, leaving
a corridor between every story the length of the gal-
lery. Between them are aisles three feet four inches
wide. Near the middle of the stack a couple of
ranges are omitted to give room for staircases up and
down, an elevator well, large enough to carry an
attendant and a track-load of books ; and the shaft
or well for the book-carriage service.

The decks themselves are of white marble, two and a half feet wide in the
aisles and five and a half in the corridors, set in an iron frame. This leaves a
five-inch slit on either side, between it and the range. The space is too nar-
row and too close to the range for anyone to step through, and in order that
any small article may not roll off, the deck is protected by a raised edge. It
would, of course, be possible, though difficult, to drop a book down the slit,
in which case, however, it would be very sure to lodge long before it struck
the basement floor.. If found necessary, any such accident could be prevented
by protecting the opening with a wire netting. The advantages of an open
space are many, however : attendants may speak to one another from deck
deck without the trouble of going to the stairways ; light is diffused through
it; and it keeps the books on the lower shelves from damage, either by being




carelessly struck by the foot or one of the wheeled trucks used to carry books
from the shelves to the elevator well.

Ventilation and Heating. Especially, by allowing a free circulation
of air, these desk-slits help to heat and ventilate the stacks. Ventilation is
especially important. Books require pure air almost as much as human beings
do ; if they do not get it they grow " musty," and gradually decay. As will have
been seen, the whole structure of the stack is open ; nothing is closed, even the
partitions in the ranges being made in the form of gratings. The system of
ventilation and heating is one and the same, and both require the freeest
circulation of air. Air is taken into the cellar through the windows looking
out into the court-yards, first, however, passing through filters of cotton cloth
to exclude all dust ; after being warmed it ascends through gratings to the roof,
where it passes out through ventilating flues. In this way the temperature is
everywhere kept very nearly even. Electric fans are ready for use in case of
any sluggishness in the circulation, and in summer are also used for sending
cooled air into the stack.

The Shelving. The shelves themselves are open, being composed of
parallel strips of steel with a narrow space between. The total number of
shelves in the three stacks is sixty-nine thousand two hundred. Each is one
foot wide and thirty-eight inches long, with a total length of forty and a
half miles. They are capable of sustaining a weight of forty pounds a square
foot more than will ever be required of them with practically no deflec-
tion. Nevertheless, though so much stiffer, they are as light as the ordinary
board shelf of the same size. They can be easily and quickly adjusted at any
height, without the need of pegs or loose screws. Once in place they cannot
slip or tip, and being made in a uniform size (with some small exceptions for
certain irregular spaces around stairways, etc.), every shelf is available for use
anywhere. There are no rough edges or projections on which a book can
wear, and the parallel strips of steel are rounded and highly polished by means
of the Bower-Barff process of coating with magnetic oxide of iron, so that the
surface is as smooth as glass which not only helps to preserve the books, but
can offer no lodgement for dust or insects. The open spaces, also, afford an
opportunity for using a workable book-brace, specially devised by Mr. Green.

Furthermore, the shelves can be removed from any compartment as desired,
and space thus made for a table, a cabinet, or a desk, as needed ; or an extra
corridor can be at once opened for any distance. Then again, in case of the
extra large books, sufficient, space may be made by placing the shelves of both
sides of the range on a level.

Lighting. No point was more carefully studied in the construction of
the stacks than the lighting. Preliminary plans requiring an immense amount
of labor were made, showing the amount of direct sunlight which any portion
of the three arms would receive at any hour of the day, any month in the
year. Skylights along the line of the corridors help light the upper tiers.
The walls are noneycombed with windows from top to bottom. In the north
and south stacks there are no less than three hundred and sixty. They occur
at Ihe ends of the passageways between the ranges, being placed at the inter-
sections of the decks, so that each may diffuse direct light into two tiers at
once. In this way there can be no perceptible difference in the amount of
light cast into the upper and lower portions of the tiers. At the end of each
passageway the window is fitted with a seat for the use of the readers admitted


to the stacks, or attendants. Ground glass is employed for the windows on the
east side of the south stack, where the sunlight is so abundant and continuous
that it would be inconvenient if admitted, besides being likely to cause the


bindings of the books to fade ; everywhere else the clear open plates invite the
entrance of all the illumination which can be obtained. Each window con-
sists of a single piece of polished plate glass three feet wide, and permanently


sealed, so that no dust or moisture can ever penetrate it. In order to wash

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Online LibraryHerbert SmallHandbook of the Library of Congress → online text (page 9 of 13)