About RLO

Search the University of Virginia's First Library & Enter its World


Rotunda Library Online (RLO, ‘arlo’) is a bibliographical database designed to include short-title entries for every book (3,150 titles in approximately 8,100 volumes) shelved in the University of Virginia's first library from 1824 to 1834, its first decade. With the goal of being the standard bibliography and short-title catalog (RLO-STC) of the University's Rotunda library, RLO allows users to enter the Rotunda's world through its earliest descriptions, catalogs, and lists, the first of which is transcribed and treated here for the first time.

The RLO database is written in PHP and MySQL and currently supports keyword searching and single-facet browsing. The database is supplemented by an evolving suite of digital appendices that reconstruct the early Rotunda Library in an immersive and interactive web environment (see 'Appendices'). For example, our Featured Books page offers investigative and expository essays on individual RLO titles. These essays, concise, yet nuanced and always illustrated, form an evolving showcase of our provenance, archival, and bibliographical research. As of May 2018, metadata refinement and site development are ongoing. Stay tuned.

RLO is compiled, designed, and edited by Neal D. Curtis, Samuel V. Lemley, & Madeline Zehnder, PhD students in English at the University of Virginia. Early development of RLO was generously funded by the William R. Kenan Endowment Fund of the Academical Village and the Buckner W. Clay Endowment for the Humanities at the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures at the University of Virginia (IHGC).

To say that one is 'reconstructing' a library or a collection (digitally or otherwise) is to use a metaphor signaling participation in a genre of scholarly research; it is not unique phrasing, nor does it describe a unique methodology or approach. Countless researchers of historical collections and libraries have used this same metaphor to describe their endeavors, and one scholar’s reconstruction does not preclude subsequent attempts at reconstruction in different forms or with different emphases. It is this very condition of variability that guarantees humanistic study a dynamic and open future. We offer the following sampling of admirable 'reconstruction' projects to illustrate our point: The as-yet anonymous effort to catalog and reassemble books listed in the 1828 catalog by University of Virginia librarians in the 1940s and 50s; E.S. Campbell's reconstruction of the Rotunda's collection of books on art and architecture (1927-1950); E. Millicent Sowerby's Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson (1952-59); the ongoing Library of Congress effort to reconstruct Thomas Jefferson's Library (1999-); the Thomas Jefferson's Libraries project at the International Center for Jefferson Studies-Monticello (2004-); the Viseyes (UVa) reconstruction and data analysis of the University of Virginia's first library (2010); and the 1828 Catalogue First Law Library Project, which reconstructs and studies the first collection of law books at the University of Virginia (2014-). RLO acknowledges these antecedent efforts while employing a different tack and different evidence.



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Rotunda Library Online (RLO) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, 2017-.