The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The First White House Library

The First White House Library

Edited by Catherine M. Parisian
  • Copyright: 2010
  • Dimensions: 7 x 10
  • Page Count: 416 pages
  • Illustrations: 15 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03713-4
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03714-1
  • Series Name: Penn State Series in the History of the Book
  • Co-publisher: Co-published with The Bibliographical Society of America
“Do not be misled by the modest title of this book or by the fact that one of our least-known presidents was behind the first White House library. This book brings together wonderful essays, starting with that by historian Sean Wilentz, and going on to others on the role of Mrs. Fillmore, the library room, the process of forming the library, and, of course, the library’s contents. The catalogue proper of this library that represented the ‘collective mind of the age’ contains mini-essays explaining how each book fit in. This is library history at its best; in other words, it’s cultural history. This splendid contribution to American history deserves to be widely available.”
“When Abigail Fillmore moved into the White House with her husband and daughter, they made an innovation. A family of book lovers, they created a national collection for an in-home library that they left to the nation. Catherine Parisian’s exhaustive and meticulous archival work reconstructs the collection and how it was housed. While Fillmore’s rise to the presidency has been described as exemplifying the American dream, Parisian reveals the foundation of the dream to be education and family life. The Fillmores—especially Abigail—applied these values to the president’s house in the full knowledge that it is the peoples’ house. The scholarly lens of the history of the book is used to illuminate the Fillmores’ home life in Washington and, by extension, a model of middle-class domesticity for the nation.”
“This book's greatest strength is the information it provides about the individual titles Fillmore collected for the first White House Library. For those interested in the history of either the White House or Millard Fillmore, the catalogue's numerous insights into the selection process and detailed discussion of which editions were most likely included in the collection will also be useful.”

Published in association with the Bibliographical Society of America and the National First Ladies’ Library

Although many early U.S. presidents were avid readers and book collectors—George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few—they usually brought their own books to the White House and removed them at the end of their terms. It was not until 1850 that Millard and Abigail Fillmore established the first official White House collection. This catalogue of the library that they assembled not only reveals much about their own preoccupations and interests and those of the age they lived in, but also provides insight into American library history, reading history, and book trade and distribution networks.

Aside from the editor, the contributors are William Allman, Elizabeth Thacker-Estrada, and Sean Wilentz. For more information about the National First Ladies Libraries visit

Catherine M. Parisian is Assistant Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.


List of Illustrations


Mary Regula


List of Abbreviations

Millard Fillmore and His Library

Sean Wilentz

The White House Collection: The Mind of the Common Man

Catherine M. Parisian

Abigail Powers Fillmore: First Lady of the Library

Elizabeth Lorelei Thacker-Estrada

Creating a Room for the Collection

William G. Allman

Millard Fillmore and His Booksellers

Catherine M. Parisian

Bibliographical Methods

Catherine M. Parisian

Catalogue of the First White House Library

Catherine M. Parisian

Appendix A: A List of the Books Purchased for the First White House Library in 1850

Appendix B: A Subject Index of Books in the First White House Library Catalogue

Appendix C: Edward Everett’s Recommendations for the First White House Library

Selected Works Cited

General Index

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