New Library

Research & Collections

Presidential Papers and Esteemed Guests

When carpenter James Dinsmore was in the process of adding this room onto Montpelier in 1809, he wrote to ask Madison “whether you would not think it adviseable to put two windows in the end of the library ... without them the wall will have a very Dead appearance, and there will be no direct view towards the temple Should you ever build one — My reason for omitting [windows] in the Drawing was that the space might be occupyed for Book Shelves.”  Dinsmore also billed for work done on the distinctive window in an upstairs room he called the “Old Library,” suggesting that Madison’s ever-expanding book collection required more than one room at Montpelier. 

During his retirement years, Madison organized and edited his personal papers and correspondence, including his notes from the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. For many years, contemporaries urged Madison to publish his notes, which were recognized to be the most comprehensive record of the Philadelphia debates. With assistance from Dolley and his personal secretaries, Madison prepared the papers for publication.  He was keenly aware of their public importance, and he hoped publication would provide Dolley with adequate income after his death.

Surviving Madison papers carry retirement-era edits and corrections in the hand of Dolley’s brother John Coles Payne and other secretaries. The papers, which were acquired by Congress and published after Madison’s death, establish Madison as the principal historian of the Constitutional Convention. His Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 are the bedrock for contemporary constitutional scholarship and legal interpretation.

"On reviewing my political papers, & correspondences, I find much that may deserve to be put into a proper state for preservation, and some things, that may not in equal amplitude be found elsewhere."

James Madison, 1823

Madison's Collection of Books

Madison's library included over 4,000 volumes of books and pamphlets. These included titles he personally purchased, as well as titles sent to him as unsolicited gifts due to his position as former President of the United States.