Books From Thomas Jefferson's Personal Library Rediscovered
A long-sought group of books from Thomas Jefferson's personal library have been found. Washington University in St. Louis announced earlier this week that 74 books in its rare books collection were once part of Thomas Jefferson's personal library. The books were among about 3,000 that were donated to the school in 1880 after the death of Jefferson's granddaughter, Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge, and her husband, Joseph Coolidge. The discovery makes Washington University's archive the third-largest collection of Jefferson's books, after the Library of Congress and the University of Virginia.
Jefferson was an avid reader and a fervent notetaker. The copy of Plutarch's Lives in Greek shown above contains a scrap of paper with Greek notes scholars say were written by Thomas Jefferson. Some of the books contain his notes in the margins.
Jefferson had several book collections including the books he sold to the Library of Congress in 1815 and a collection, known as his retirement library that he continued to build upon until his death in 1826. It's believed that the books discovered at Washington University belonged to this collection. This collection reflects Jefferson's more personal interests in history, architecture, philosophy and religion. Endrina Tay, a project manager for the Thomas Jefferson's Libraries Project in Monticello has been working since 2004 to find books from Jefferson's libraries in an effort to eventually make his books available online. Jefferson often initialed his books and also corrected typographical errors. The books and the notes give scholars more clues into the way Jefferson thought and studied.
Below is a video from the Today show featuring Ann Lucas from the International Center for Jefferson Studies and Shirley Baker, Washington University Dean of Libraries, talking about the discovery.
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