On these Walls

Inscriptions and Quotations in the Library of Congress

John Y. Cole and Carol M. Highsmith

    ISBN: 978 1 85759 545 1

    Size: 254 x 228 mm / 9 x 10 in.

    Binding: softcover

    Pages: 128

    In association with:

    Date published: February, 2009

    UK £10.95 /US $19.95


  • Offers a unique perspective on one of the most celebrated and visited library collections in the world
  • All new photography of the inscriptions and the fabulous art that adorn the Library’s walls and ceilings
  • Of interest to all visitors to the Library of Congress and to scholars of art and architecture


The three imposing buildings of the Library of Congress – the Thomas Jefferson Building, the John Adams Building and the James Madison Memorial Building – are feats of architecture that hold the nation’s knowledge on their shelves and in their drawers. They are also shrines to the written word, as seen in the wealth of inscriptions on their elaborately decorated walls and ceilings. Ranging from quotations by great figures in American history, such as Jefferson and Madison, to the words of poets and philosophers from Shakespeare to Emerson, all glorify knowledge and pay debt to the book, which imparts its treasures to man. For those who have already walked the halls of the Library of Congress, as well as those who are touring them for the first time in these pages, On These Walls is an extraordinary portrait of an institution whose very ceilings, staircases and doors fulfill its mission to collect and share the wisdom of all civilizations.

Author information

John Y. Cole is founding director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. He has published widely about books and libraries in society, as well as about the history of the Library of Congress. Carol M. Highsmith, a distinguished and widely published American photographer, has generously donated much of her work to the Library of Congress.