Governor Isaac Stevens' Territorial Library Collection

History of the Territorial Collection

The Washington Territorial Library was established by the Organic Act, which created Washington Territory in 1853.   Section 17 of the Organic Act provided $5,000 for a Washington Territorial Library.

The Territory’s first governor, Isaac Stevens, used that money to purchase and ship some 2,000 volumes and reference materials around the Horn of South America.  He also asked for documents and published archives from the executives of each state and territory of the United States and from a number of learned societies. These items made up the original Territorial Collection.

Most of the first books arrived in the new Territory before its governor did in 1853.  One month before he arrived in the Territory, 1,850 books had already been placed on the shelves.

Governor Stevens' Territorial Library Collection now in online catalog.

The books were Governor Stevens' attempt to civilize the frontier. The Territorial Collection laid the foundation for what would later become the Washington State Library.

Titles from the Territorial Collection are listed in the Library's online catalog.


Collection Highlights

Digitized Titles

Guidelines for Use of the Collection



Collection Highlights

Wilkes, Charles, 1798-1877.  Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition : during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842.  Also known as the "official edition."

By act of Congress, Aug. 26, 1842, this edition of the U.S. Exploring Expedition's narrative was limited to 100 copies. Mr. Wilkes, however, secured copyright on his Narrative on the expedition, and under that privilege published an edition of 250 copies, of which the government received 100 copies. (T OV 910 UNITED. Map detail shown above.) 

Digitized Titles in the Territorial Collection

Several items in the Territorial Collection have been digitized.  To see the works, click on the links below: