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Timeline of Jefferson's Life and His Libraries
||Shadwell Library (1757 to 1 February 1770)|
||Monticello Library Eventually Sold to Congress in 1815 (1770 to 1815)|
||Poplar Forest Library (1811 to 1826)|
||Retirement Library at Monticello (1815 - 1826)|
|Date||Library||Mss / Print Catalogue||Public Life||Private Life|
|1743||Inventory of the Estate of Peter Jefferson (1757)||Thomas Jefferson born on April 13 at Shadwell plantation in Goochland (later Albemarle) County, Virginia.|
|1748-1751||Is tutored from age 5 at the "English school" at Tuckahoe plantation in Goochland County with his Randolph cousins and siblings, and learns the basics of English grammar, spelling, and composition.|
|1752-1757||From age 9, attends Reverend William Douglas' Latin school in the local parish, St. James Northam Parish, in Goochland County, and learns the rudiments of Latin, Greek, and French.|
|1757||Returns to Shadwell when his father, Peter Jefferson, dies on August 17, when Jefferson is 14 years old.|
|1758-1760||No surviving Jefferson mss||Attends classical scholar Reverend James Maury's school in Fredericksville Parish, located at the borders of Albemarle and Louisa counties. Most likely begins his literary commonplace book during this time, in which he copies extracts from Greek, Latin, and English literature.|
|1760-1762||Attends College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia from age 17, and comes under the tutelage of Scottish-trained Doctor William Small, professor of natural philosophy and mathematics.|
|1762||Begins reading law under George Wythe in Williamsburg.|
|1764||Comes into his inheritance at age 21.|
Passes his bar examination and returns to Shadwell.
Favorite sister Jane dies on October 1.
|1765-1766||Probably begins his legal commonplace book and equity commonplace book during this time, in which he records notes of judicial decisions and other legal authorities in the course of his reading and study.|
|1767||Admitted to practice law before the General Court of colonial Virginia, and begins practicing as a lawyer in Albemarle and Augusta counties.|
|1768||Elected as Albemarle delegate to the House of Burgesses.||
Levels Monticello mountaintop.
Acquires books from the estate of Philip Ludwell.
|1769-1774||Serves as Albemarle delegate in the House of Burgesses.|
|1769||Begins construction of a small dwelling (later the south pavilion) at Monticello.|
Fire at Shadwell destroys most of his papers and his library on February 1.
Moves to south pavilion at Monticello on November 26.
|1770||1783 Catalog||Begins to rebuild his library. Acquires books from Nathaniel Walthoe's "valuable collection of English, Latin, French, and Italian books."|
|1771||Draws up a list of recommended books for Robert Skipwith in August 1771.|
|1772||Marries widow Martha Wayles Skelton on January 1. Daughter Martha born on September 27.|
|1772||Acquires books from the estate of his wife, Martha's deceased first husband, Bathurst Skelton.|
|1773||Records inventory of William Byrd II's Westover library in his Memorandum Book, from which he later acquires a number of titles.|
|1773||Records in his Memorandum Book a count of 669 books from the estate of his father-in-law, John Wayles, which he later receives in 1774.|
|1773||Records in his Memorandum Book a count of 1,256 volumes in his Monticello library as at August 4, 1773.|
|1774||Writes A Summary View of the Rights of British America.||
Retires from legal practice.
Second daughter Jane Randolph born on April 3.
Acquires books from the estate of Dabney Carr.
|1775||Elected to the Continental Congress.||Daughter Jane Randolph dies in September.|
|1776||Drafts Declaration of Independence.||Mother Jane Randolph Jefferson dies on March 31.|
|1776||Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Appointed to the Committee to revise the laws of Virginia.||Acquires books from the libraries of Richard Bland, James Horrocks and Peyton Randolph.|
|1776-1779||Serves in the Virginia House of Delegates.|
|1777||Drafts the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which is submitted to the General Assembly in 1779, and adopted in 1786.||Unnamed son is born on May 28, and dies on June 14.|
|1778||Drafts the Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge.||Daughter Mary (or Maria) is born on August 1.|
Acquires a near complete set of the Virginia Gazette from the estate of Reverend William Willie.
First expresses interest in acquiring books from the library of Reverend Samuel Henley, a purchase that is eventually completed in 1785.
|1779-1781||Serves as Governor of Virginia.|
|1779||Succeeds, through the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary, in abolishing the School of Divinity there, and setting up its first schools of Philosophy, Mathematics and Science, Medicine, Law, and Modern Languages.|
|1780||Begins his Notes on the State of Virginia. Elected member of the American Philosophical Society.||Daughter Lucy Elizabeth (I) born on November 3.|
|1781||British troops arrive at Monticello on June 4. Retreats with family to Amherst County and eventually to Poplar Forest until July 24.||Daughter Lucy Elizabeth dies on April 15.|
Daughter Lucy Elizabeth (II) born on May 8. Wife Martha dies on September 6.
First Monticello house substantially completed.
|1783-1784||Serves in the Continental Congress as delegate from Virginia.||
Records a count of 2,640 volumes in his Monticello library as at March 6, 1783 in his 1783 Catalog of books.
Sells 46 books, mainly French ones on natural law, to James Monroe on May 10, 1784, before leaving Annapolis, Maryland to take up his new diplomatic appointment in France.
1789 Catalog /
|Serves in France as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treates of amity and commerce with foreign powers, and later replaces Benjamin Franklin as minister to France.||Draws up his 1789 Catalog listing the over 2,000 books he acquires during his time in Europe between 1784 - 1789. It is unclear when he begins his 1789 Catalog, probably during the second half of the period. The book entries in the 1789 are also found in the 1783 Catalog - it is unclear whether these entries were entered in his 1783 Catalog in Europe, or after his return to the United States.|
Arrives in Paris with daughter Martha on July 5.
Daughter Lucy Elizabeth dies in October.
|1785||Publishes 200 copies of his Notes on the State of Virginia in Paris for private distribution.|
|1786||In London to negotiate foreign commercial treaties from March 11 to April 26. Tours English landscape gardens with John Adams from April 4 to 9.|
|1787||Tours southern France and northern Italy from February 28 to June 10.||Daughter Mary arrives in Paris on July 15.|
|1788||Travels to Amsterdam to negotiate American funding plans, and makes tour of the Rhine River Valley.|
|1789||Leaves France with his family to return to the United States on home leave, and receives his appointment as Secretary of State by George Washington.|
|1790||Daughter Martha marries Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. at Monticello on February 23.|
|1790||Books acquired in Europe arrive in Philadelphia from Paris.|
|1790-1793||1783 Catalog||Serves as Secretary of State of the United States in New York City, and then in Philadelphia.|
|1791||First grandchild, Anne Cary Randolph, is born on January 23. Acquires books from John Carey's library.|
|1794||Books in Philadelphia return to Monticello.|
|1796||Begins remodeling and enlarging Monticello.|
|1797-1801||Serves as Vice President of the United States.|
|1797-1815||Serves as president of the American Philosophical Society.|
|1797||Daughter Mary marries John Wayles Eppes at Monticello on October 13.|
|1800||Prepares his Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States, which is published in 1801.|
|1800-1808||Collects newspaper clippings of poems and prose, including political, sentimental, and humorous songs, satires, parodies, and ballads.|
|1801-1809||Serves as third President of the United States in Washington, D.C.|
|1802||Prepares a catalogue of books to be acquired for the Library of Congress.|
|1803||Concludes Louisiana Purchase. Launches the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Northwest.|
|1804||Compiles from the Gospels his The Philosophy of Jesus. Daughter Mary dies at Monticello on April 17.|
|1805||States in a letter dated January 5, 1805 his intention to bequeath his library to the University of Virginia, and estimates that his library collection had by then cost him no less than $15,000.|
Wythe Library List /
Inherits the library of George Wythe.
Begins construction on his octagonal retreat at Poplar Forest in Bedford County, Virgnia.
|1809||1783 Catalog||Retires from the presidency.||
Returns to Monticello on March 15.
Visits Poplar Forest, which is still under construction, for the first time after leaving the presidency in November 1809.
Completes remodeling of Monticello and construction of dependencies during the year.
Begins to transfer books from Monticello to Poplar Forest for his library at his Bedford retreat.
Sister Martha Jefferson Carr dies at Monticello.
|1812||1812 Catalogue (lost mss) / No surviving Poplar Forest library mss||Creates a fair copy of his 1783 Catalog, referred to here as the 1812 Catalogue, which most likely excluded the books already at or intended for his Poplar Forest library.|
|1814||Named a trustee of Albemarle Academy.|
|1815||Sells over 6,500 volumes of his personal library to Congress after the British destroy the United States Capitol and the Library of Congress in 1814. This library was re-created by E. Millicent Sowerby in her 5-volume Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson published between 1952-1959.||Brother Randolph Jefferson dies.|
Retirement Library Catalogue/
No surviving Poplar Forest mss
|Begins his third and final library at Monticello.|
Writes introduction and revises translation of Destutt de Tracy's A Treatise on Political Economy.
Named a visitor of Central College (which later becomes the the University of Virginia).
|1817||Has his granddaughters, Cornelia Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Wayles Randolph, label his books in his Poplar Forest library.|
|1818||Attends the Rockfish Gap conference from August 1 to 4 to choose the site for the proposed University of Virginia.|
|1819||University of Virginia chartered on January 25. Named to the Board of Visitors on February 13, and elected rector on March 29.||Begins his second compilation from the Gospels, his The Life and Morals of Jesus.|
|1820||Creates, between February and April 1820, a fair copy of the catalogue of books in his Retirement Library.|
|1821||Writes his Autobiography at age 77.|
|1823||Trist Catalogue||Has his secretary, Nicholas Philip Trist, re-create a catalogue of books that he sold to Congress in 1815.|
|1825||1825 UVA Library Catalogue||University of Virginia opens on March 7. Has Nicholas Philip Trist draw up a list of 6,860 books he determined should be acquired for the University of Virginia Library.|
|1826||Retirement Library Catalogue/
No surviving Poplar Forest mss
|Draws up will on March 16, and in a codicil on March 17, bequeaths his library to the University of Virginia.|
|1826||Dies at Monticello on July 4 at age 83.|
|1826||His grandson and executor, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, obtains permission on October 7, 1826 from the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia (UVA) to have Jefferson's Retirement Library books temporarily stored at UVA for safekeeping, on the understanding that these may need to be withdrawn and sold to settle Jefferson's debts.|
|1827||Monticello's furniture and slaves are sold at auction in January 1827.|
|1828||Thomas Jefferson Randolph reclaims Jefferson's Retirement Library books from UVA in December 1828.|
|1829||Poor Catalogue||His 1,600-volume Retirement Library is sold at auction by Nathaniel P. Poor in Washington, D.C. from February 27 to March 11, 1829.|
|1831||The Monticello house and property are sold in 1831. The remaining books from the 1829 sale are sold at auction in Philadelphia by Moses Thomas on December 3, 1831.|
|1851||A fire on December 24 at the Library of Congress destroys two-thirds of the books Jefferson sold to the nation in 1815.|
|1873||Leavitt Catalogue||Some 675 volumes from the Poplar Forest library that was bequeathed to his grandson, Francis Eppes, are sold at auction by George A. Leavitt in New York City, New York from November 5 to 6, 1873.|
Updated: July 8, 2015