Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jefferson's Books

I posted really quickly yesterday when I saw the announcement, but I thought I'd follow up today with more information. This article from Monticello has much more information. What are some of the books that Washington University has?
Among the Jefferson treasures at WUSTL are architecture books used by Jefferson to design the University of Virginia. Two of these volumes, Freart de Chambray’s Parallele de l'architecture antique avec la moderne and Andrea Palladio’s Architecture de Palladio, contenant les cinq ordres d'architecture, are referenced by Jefferson in his designs for the pavilions on the Lawn, and contain a few notes and calculations in Jefferson’s hand. Another three-volume set, Francesco Milizia’s Principj di architettura civile, is the work Jefferson received from Joseph Coolidge when he first met his future grandson-in-law at Monticello in May 1824. The first volume of this work contains Joseph’s inscription to Jefferson. We also held in our hands a Greek edition of Aristotle’s Politica, which Nicholas P. Trist (who was married to Virginia Randolph, Jefferson’s granddaughter) notes was among the last books Jefferson read just before his death on July 4, 1826.

How were these books discovered after sitting in the Washington University library so long unnoticed?
The books were discovered by International Center for Jefferson Studies scholar Ann Lucas Birle, who found an article from 1880 that noted that the Coolidge family donated their library to Washington University. She shared this information with her colleague Endrina Tay, who has been tracking down all of the books Jefferson owned, read and recommended during his lifetime.

At Washington University, rare books curator Erin Davis and assistant archivist Miranda Rectenwald tracked down the books donated by the Coolidge family, which since had been dispersed among the library’s holdings, with the help of a ledger dating to the turn of the 20th century that catalogued the collection.

Tay, who is building a publicly accessible inventory of Jefferson’s libraries, was able to authenticate the books by identifying the presence of Jefferson’s distinctive handwritten ownership mark in these books: Before the “I” in a book’s signature, Jefferson would add a capital “T”. After the “T” in a book’s signature, he would add a capital “I.”

Jefferson used an “I” instead of a “J” because, in early printed books, the letters “I” and “J” were considered different forms of the same letter.

This makes Washington University the third largest holder of Jefferson books! For fun, here's my post from several years ago on my trip to Monticello.

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