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The Thomas Jefferson’s Libraries project makes available to scholars, teachers, students and members of the public information on the books Thomas Jefferson owned, desired to own, read, recommended or presented to others throughout his lifetime.
This database currently includes over 5,000 book entries and is expected to grow to between 8,000 to 9,000 entries as this project continues. These book entries are drawn from key primary sources such as Jefferson’s manuscript book lists, print compilations, auction catalogs, Jefferson's memorandum books and his correspondence.
At this stage, the project focuses primarily on the following key sources:
- Jefferson’s 1783 Catalog and 1789 Catalog, both of which are at the Massachusetts Historical Society;
- Jefferson's Inventory of Books Received From the Estate of George Wythe, circa September 1806 (Wythe Library List), discovered and identified in November 2008 in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society;
- Trist Catalogue which Jefferson commissioned Nicholas Philip Trist to compile in 1823 in order to recreate a list of the books Jefferson sold to Congress in 1815. The manuscript was rediscovered at the Library of Congress and published for the first time in 1989;
- Sowerby Catalogue, the five-volume print compilation of the books Jefferson sold to Congress, edited and compiled by E. Millicent Sowerby and published between 1952 and 1959;
- Jefferson’s Retirement Library Catalogue at the Library of Congress;
- Poor Catalogue, which lists the books from the Monticello Library sold at auction in 1829 after Jefferson’s death;
- Leavitt Catalogue, which contains the books from the Poplar Forest Library put up for sale by Jefferson’s grandson, Francis Eppes, in 1873.
There are no known surviving Jefferson manuscript catalogues listing the books he had in his first library at Shadwell before it was destroyed by fire in February 1770. Instead, a Shadwell Library Reconstructed list of books has been compiled using the following sources:
- Inventory records from the estate of Peter Jefferson for books Jefferson inherited after his father’s death in 1757;
- Jefferson’s List of Books for a Private Library, which he compiled for Robert Skipwith in mid 1771;
- Jefferson’s book purchases in Williamsburg recorded in surviving Virginia Gazette Daybooks between 1764 to 1766;
- Book titles referenced in Jefferson’s Literary Commonplace Book, Legal Commonplace Book, and his Equity Commonplace Book, in which he copied and sometimes commented on extracts from his reading (this section is a work in progress).
We are also transcribing other book lists drawn up by Jefferson and found in his papers. There are numerous such lists in his extensive correspondence & personal papers, but only the following are available under Browse at this point in the project:
- List of Books for a Private Library in Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Robert Skipwith, August 3, 1771 (Skipwith List);
- List of Books Acquired from Samuel Henley in Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Henley, March 3, 1785 (Henley List);
- List of Books Sold to Archibald Stuart in Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, May 23, 1795 (Stuart List);
- List of Books for the Study of Law in Letter, Thomas Jefferson to John Garland Jefferson, June 11, 1790 (J.G. Jefferson List);
- Course of Reading for William G. Munford, December 5, 1798 (Munford List);
- List of Recommended Books on History, Natural Philosophy and Agriculture in Letter, Thomas Jefferson to John Wyche, October 4, 1809 (Wyche List);
- Supplemental List of Recommended Books in Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Samuel R. Demaree, October 4, 1809 (Demaree List);
- List of Recommended Books For a System of Female Education in Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Burwell, March 14, 1818 (Burwell List).
Lastly, we have attempted to reconstruct subcollections within Jefferson's library based on internal evidence found within booklist manuscripts and Jefferson's correspondence, and these are:
- March 1783 Library Reconstructed (work in progress)
- Poplar Forest Library Reconstructed (work in progress)
For more details on sources, see Book Lists.
For additional lists to be added to the database, see Future Additions.
Presently, only the Wythe Library List transcription has embedded links to book entries in Jefferson's library on LibraryThing. Work is continuing to embed similar links in all of the transcription lists available on this site.