State libraries began to form in the United States around 1800, but the collections on which some were based had been established long before. The New Jersey State Library provides an example of this pattern. Though the generally recognized date for its founding is March 18, 1796, by that time the library’s collection had already been serving the needs of the state government for much of the eighteenth century. Drawing on entries in the New Jersey General Assembly’s minutes, this article provides an account of the growth and use of this collection beginning in 1704. It goes on to describe the evolution of this legislative reference collection to a state library and concludes with a brief look at the library after 1796.