Library (Book Room)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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'''Color:''' There is evidence that this space was originally wallpapered; today painted oyster white '''Color:''' There is evidence that this space was originally wallpapered; today painted oyster white
-'''Purpose of Room:''' Held Jefferson's libraries, the largest of which consisted of more than 6,000 books and was [[Library of Congress Sale|sold to Congress in 1815]]+'''Purpose of Room:''' Held [[Thomas Jefferson|Thomas Jefferson's]] libraries, the largest of which consisted of more than 6,000 books and was [[Library of Congress Sale|sold to Congress in 1815]]
-'''Architectural features:''' Part of a "suite" of private rooms used by Jefferson, comprised of the Library, [[Southeast Piazza (Greenhouse)|the Greenhouse]], the [[Cabinet]], and Jefferson's [[Bedchamber|Bedroom]]; the plan based on an octagon, a favored architectural shape for Jefferson+'''Architectural features:''' Part of a "suite" of private rooms used by Jefferson, comprising the Library, [[Southeast Piazza (Greenhouse)|the Greenhouse]], the [[Cabinet]], and Jefferson's [[Bedchamber|Bedroom]]; the plan based on an octagon, a favored architectural shape for Jefferson
'''Furnishings of Note:''' [[:Category:Books |Books]] (most of the books in Monticello today represent the same titles but not the original books Jefferson owned); book boxes stacked as bookshelves (today, reproductions are shown); an octagonal filing table, with drawers labeled for alphabetical filing; the easy chair which Jefferson, according to tradition, used while vice president; Jefferson's desk used for reading, writing, or drawing. '''Furnishings of Note:''' [[:Category:Books |Books]] (most of the books in Monticello today represent the same titles but not the original books Jefferson owned); book boxes stacked as bookshelves (today, reproductions are shown); an octagonal filing table, with drawers labeled for alphabetical filing; the easy chair which Jefferson, according to tradition, used while vice president; Jefferson's desk used for reading, writing, or drawing.
 +==Objects on Display in this Room==
 +*[[Battle at Bunker's Hill (Engraving)]]
 +*[[Aime Jacques Alexandre Bonpland (Silhouette)]]
 +*[[Book Boxes]]
 +*[[Anthony Fothergill (Silhouette)]]
 +*[[Edmond Charles Edouard Genet (Physiognotrce)]]
 +*[[Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown (Painting)]]
 +*[[Tall Easy Chair]]
 +*[[Thomas Jefferson "Medallion Profile" (Painting)]]
-== The Man Who Couldn't Live Without Books ==+==Primary Source References<ref> Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.</ref>==
 +'''1796.''' (Isaac Weld). "A large apartment is laid out for a library and museum, meant to extend the entire breadth of the house, the windows which are to open into an extensive green house and aviary."<ref>[[Short Title List|Peterson, ''Visitors'']], 19.</ref>
-It is by now a familiar story of how the+'''1800 November 25.''' (Jefferson to [[Thomas Mann Randolph]]). "It [catalog of books] is lying I believe either on the table in my book room, or under the window by the red couch in the Cabinet."<ref>[[Short Title List|''PTJ'']], 32:259.</ref>
-former president, Thomas Jefferson, living in+
-retirement, offered his own magnificent library,+
-which he had spent a lifetime and a fortune+
-creating, as a [[Library of Congress Sale | replacement for the congressional+
-library]] that had been destroyed by the+
-British troops in August of 1814; how the+
-Congress debated its purchase on shamefully+
-partisan grounds; how they finally voted by a+
-very narrow margin to acquire it at a bargain+
-price; and how Jefferson's great library then+
-became the foulidation of the future Library+
-of Congress. In retrospect, it seems fairly clear+
-that had the Congress not bought the extraordinary collection of Thomas Jefferson, its+
-collection would have developed in accordance+
-with a much narrower conception and the Library+
-of Congress would never have become+
-what it is now, a great national repository for+
-all manner of materials, on every imaginable+
-subject, for the use and benefit of all. <ref>Based on Douglas L. Wilson, [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=6515 Monticello Keepsakes], April 12, 2002.</ref> One+
-would not have to know vely much about Jefferson+
-to infer that by the time he had carefully+
-arranged, labeled, and boarded the books+
-up in their presses and shipped them off in 10+
-wagons to Washington in the Spring of 1815, he had already started to build a new library,+
-a collection which would burgeon, in his 11+
-remaining years, to more than 2,250 volumes. I+
-It was at this time that he confessed to John+
-Adams, "I cannot live without books."+
-This addiction to books was an early phenomenon. His father was without formal education, but, as Jefferson put it, "read much and+'''1802 September 21.''' (Mrs. William Thornton). "Mr. Thornton arrived this morning-went into the Library which is very extensive, and said to be one of the best private Libraries on the continent..."<ref>[http://lccn.loc.gov/mm80042895 Papers of William Thornton.] Library of Congress.</ref>
-improved himself." Perhaps as a consequence,+
-the boy grew up with books, and his inqnisitive+
-nature and studious temperament were+
-formed and fed by reading from an early age.+
-By the time he was five, he is said to have read+
-all the books in his father's modest library. He+
-then began formal schooling, and by age 14+
-he was well grounded in Latin, Greek, and+
-French. He relished his studies and gained a+
-reputation as a zealous student, who, as a+
-schoolboy, when a holiday was declared, would+
-not take part in the frivolity until he had prepared+
-his lessons for the next day. At the+
-College of William and Mary, he said he studied+
-15 hours a day, and though he had close+
-friends and liked to socialize with them, his+
-classmate John Page tells us that he "could+
-tear himself from the company of his dearest+
-friends and fly to his studies." +
-Jefferson's was truly an extraordinary capacity+'''1804-1805.''' (Sir Augustus John Foster). "On the ground floor were four sitting rooms, two bed rooms and the library, which contained several thousand volumes classed according to subject and language...In Mr. Jefferson's library there was a picture representing battle, painted by one of the Big-bellied tribe of Indians...If the library had been thrown open to guests, the President's country house would have been as agreeable a place to stay at as any I know, but it was there he sat and wrote and he did not like of course to be disturbed by visitors who in this part of the world are rather disposed to be indiscreet."<ref>[[Short Title List|Peterson, ''Visitors'']], 38-39.</ref>
-for learning. When he left William and+
-Mary in 1762 after only two years and without+
-takig a degree, it was in order to further his education. His principal instructor, Dr.+
-William Small, may have felt that Jefferson+
-had gotten all that the college curriculum had+
-to offer him, for he arranged for his star pupil+
-to become apprenticed to the eminent lawyer+
-and classical scholar, George Wythe. In the+
-five years before he began to practice before+
-the bar, the young Jefferson read exhaustively+
-in all facets of the law; he taught himself Italian+
-and Anglo-Saxon; he increased his fluency+
-in Greek; and he read intensively in history,+
-philosophy, and literature.+
-All of this time, of course, he was building+'''1806 January 31.''' (Jefferson to James Ogilvie). "I had understood that Mr. Randolph had directed that you should have the free use of the Library at Monticello or I should have directed it myself. I have great pleasure in finding an opportunity of making it useful to you."<ref>[http://lccn.loc.gov/mm76027748 Papers of Thomas Jefferson]. Library of Congress.</ref>
-a library, about which we have, unfortunately,+
-only sketchy information. We have a record of+
-the books he bought from the office of the Virginia+
-Gazette for the years 1764 and 1765,+
-and we have the commonplace books in which+
-he entered extracts from his reading in law+
-and literature. A few other clues exist about+
-the character of this early version of his library,+
-but we do not have the books themselves,+
-for in 1770, even as he was starting to build+
-quarters for himself on the little mountain+
-across the river, his mother's house burned,+
-and he lost almost everything he owned, including+
-most of his library. The only tangible+
-clue to its size is the £200 he estimated it was+
-worth, a problematical indicator because of the+
-wide disparity between the cost of locally purchased+
-as opposed to imported books. But a reasonable estimate, taking these factors into+
-consideration, is 300-400 volumes.+
-By the standards of the time, even among+
-wealthy Virginia planters, this was an unusually+
-large collection of books. But this was+
-no usual collector. He now conceived an ambitious+
-and comprehensive plan for the library+
-that would complement the contemplated grandeur+
-of Monticello, and he acted vigorously to+
-implement this plan. In just three year's time,+
-he had assembled a collection of 1,250 books+
-at Monticello alone, and he had more books in the quarters he maintained at Williamsburg. Making sort of Jeffersonian calculation, we may observe that this would constitute an average+
-acquisition rate over the three-year period+
-of about one book per day. His ability to acquire+
-books in a colony that published relatively+
-few of its own, and at a time when most+
-books had to be imported from abroad, was+
-truly remarkable. By the end of the Revolution+
-some 10 years later, during which time trade+
-was much impeded or entirely cut off, he had+
-accumulated a library that numbered 2,640+
-volumes.+
-How did he manage this incredible feat?+'''1806 November 30.''' (Jefferson to [[Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge]]). "Mr. Burwell asks in the name of your Mama, a Nautical almanac. She will find those of many years in the library at Monticello, in the press on the right hand of the Eastern outward door of the cabinet.<ref>[[Short Title List|''Family Letters'']], 291.</ref>
-For one thing, he was constantly placing orders+
-with booksellers, both at home and abroad,+
-directly and through friends and other intermediaries.+
-He bought large numbers of books+
-at the dispersal sales of private libraries, such as that of William Byrd of Westover, the+
-learned Richard Bland, and the leader of the+
-Virginia legislature, Peyton Randolph. When+
-the hostilities between the colonies and the+
-crown prompted certain citizens, such as teachers+
-at the College of William and Mary, to+
-return to England, Jefferson's library benefited+
-from the purchase of books that could not be+
-carried back. And during the sessions of the+
-Continental Congress, he was apparently combing+
-the bookstalls of Philadelphia, the intellectual+
-and publishing center of the colonies.+
-By 1783, as he prepared to travel to France,+'''1808 February 26.''' (Jefferson to [[Thomas Mann Randolph]]). "...you will find it in one of the 3. or 4. volumes of MS. laws in the bottom part of the press on the right of the N.E. window of my bookroom."<ref>[http://www.masshist.org/findingaids/doc.cfm?fa=fa0031 Massachusetts Historical Society]</ref>
-the catalogue of his library that listed the 2,640+
-books he owned also carried the titles of scores+
-of others he hoped to acquire in Europe. During+
-the five years that he remained in France+
-representing the United States, he acquired+
-well over 2,000 additional volumes for his library.+
-Thus, in the twenty-year period between+
-1770 and 1790, Jefferson acquired something+
-in the neighborhood of 5,000 books, for an+
-average of about 250 books a year.+
-The dimensions of Jefferson's bibliomania+'''1809.''' (Margaret Bayard Smith). "When we descended to the hall, he asked us to pass into the Library, or as I called it his sanctum sanctorum, where any other feet than his own seldom intrude. This suite of apartments opens from the Hall to the south. It consists of 3 rooms for the Library...The library consists of books in all languages, and contains about twenty thousand vols, but so disposed that they do not give the idea of a great library."<ref>[[Short Title List|''First Forty Years,'']], 71.</ref>
-are thus staggering, and it would not be unreasonable+
-to suppose that his ability to acquire+
-books must have thoroughly outstripped his+
-ability to read and assimilate them. And while+
-it is more than likely that he owned many books+
-that he never read all the way through, the+
-evidence is overwhelming that his familiarity with the contents of his books was very great+
-indeed, that he acquired each book for a particular+
-reason, and that, in fact, far from being+
-an indiscriminate glutton for books of any+
-kind, he was actually very selective about the+
-books that he put on his shelves.+
-Jefferson's library, vast as it was by any+'''1809.''' (George Gilmer). "Mr. Jefferson's library-room was locked, but the window-blinds were thrown back, so that I could see several books turned open upon the table, the ink stand, paper, and pens, as they had been used when Mr. Jefferson quitted home."<ref>George Gilmer, [http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/17330607&ht=edition ''Sketches of some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, of the Cherokees, and the Author.''] (New York: 1855), 242.</ref>
-available standard, was, then, carefully and+
-deliberately built. He prided himself most on+
-the care with which the books were chosen,+
-and he emphasized this selectivity in characterizing+
-his library to others. It was, be always+
-insisted, a library for use, and it had been designed+
-to aid him in the particular business of+
-his life, which made it heavy on law, history,+
-and politics. Had his life taken different turns,+
-he argued, had he not been called upon to+
-participate in the great political movements+
-of the day, his library would have been quite+
-different. Nonetheless he had books to consult+
-for all his interests and occupations, and he+
-used them assiduously. One of the most telling+
-glimpses we have of Jefferson in his library+
-is given by his former slave, Isaac, whose recollections+
-constitute a series of incisive pictures+
-of the man in his characteristic employments.+
-Isaac remembered: "Old master had abundance+
-of books: sometimes would have twenty of 'em+
-down on the floor at once: read fust one then+
-tother. Isaac has often wondered how old master+
-came to have such a mighty head: read so many of them books: & when they go to ax+
-him anything, he go right to the book & tell+
-you about it."+
-I have written above about the numbers that+'''1815.''' (George Ticknor). "On Sunday morning, after breakfast, Mr. Jefferson asked me into his library, and there I spent the forenoon of that day as I had that of yesterday. This collection of books, now so much talked about, consists of about seven thousand volumes, contained in a suite of fine rooms..."<ref>[[Short Title List|Peterson, ''Visitor,'']], 63.</ref>
-constituted. at various stages.. this abundance+
-of books because it is a subject about which+
-there has been much confusion and a good deal+
-of misinformation. Although Thomas Jefferson+
-was an unusually methotical man who kept+
-careful records on everything from the weather+
-to the contents of his wine cellar, when it came+
-to the size of his great library, he was surprisingly+
-vague. He told a correspondent in 1811+
-"my bibliomany has possessed me of perhaps+
-20,000 volumes," a figure he probably intended+
-as an exaggeration. In January 1814,+
-he estimated his library at "about seven or+
-eight thousand volumes." Both of these seem+
-to be serious estimates, but why they should+
-be at variance, and why the first should turn+
-out to he more accurate than the second, is difficult+
-to explain. This uncertainty about the+
-size of Jefferson's famous library has proved+
-strangley infectious and continues down to the present day. As late as 1958, the ''Encyclopedia+
-Britannica'' was reporting its size as 13,000+
-volumes, and, more recently, the dust jacket+
-of a book published just last year put this number+
-at 10,000.+
- +
-When E. Millicent Sowerby prepared her+
-monumental five-volume ''Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson'' for the Library of+
-Congress, one might have expected that she+
-would resolve this problem once and for all,+
-but in fact she only added to the confusion.+
-Her own numbering system was not geared to+
-volumes, and in discussing her work a few+
-years later before the Bibliographical Society+
-of America, she confessed that she could never+
-discover whether the figure usually given for+
-Jefferson's library of 6,500 referred to "hooks+
-or volumes." In spite of Miss Sowerby's expressed+
-confusion, that figure clearly derives+
-from a volume count made at the time of the+
-sale. This count was not made by its owner+
-nor was it made at Monticello. It was performed+
-at Jefferson's request by Joseph Milligan,+
-a Georgetown bookseller, and was done+
-in Washington from the manuscript catalogue+
-that had been sent for the inspection of the+
-joint congressionlal library committee. He was+
-able to make a count away from the library+
-because Jefferson's catalogue entries specified+
-the number of volumes for each entry. The exact+
-number arrived at by Milligan, which was+
-duly written into the congressional legislation+
-authorizing the purchase of Jefferson's library,+
-was 6,487 volumes, but even this number was,+
-alas, in error.+
- +
-When the decision to purchase the library+
-had finallv been taken by Congress, Jefferson's+
-manuscript catalogue was returned to him at Monticello in March 1815, and he proceeded+
-to "revise" his library, by which he meant carefully+
-comparing the catalogue with the books+
-on the shelves. In offering his books to Congress+
-six months earlier, he had warned: "I have not revised the library since I came home+
-to live, so that it is probable some of the books+
-may be missing . . ." With the numbers specified+
-so precisely in the legislation, he became+
-concerned that he might not be able to provide+
-what the Congress had coutracted for. Upon+
-making a careful count, he was relieved to+
-discover that the number of volumes accidentally+
-excluded from the catalogue far exceeded+
-the number included but missing from the+
-shelves.+
- +
-In perfect keeping with the ambiguity surrounding+
-the size of Jefferson's library is the+
-fact that his own tally sheet, an important+
-document which survives but seems to have+
-gone unnoticed, contains totals that are overmitten+
-and therefore difficult to read, but the+
-grand total, being the number of bound volumes+
-that were sent off to Congress in April,+
-was 6,707. According to Jefferson's final reckoning,+
-he sent Cougress 220 volumes more+
-than they had bargained for, something he felt+
-obligated to do because they had contracted,+
-at his insistence, for the entire library. As a+
-consequence, he actually received $1,172 less+
-than he might have, but characteristically, though he reckoned up the difference on his+
-tally sheet, he offered no complaint.+
- +
-Sadly, almost two-thirds of the original volumes+
-of Jefferson's great library are no longer+
-in the Library of Congress, largely due to a+
-disastrous fire in 1851. But it seems likely that+
-nothing could have given Thomas Jefferson+
-more pleasure and satisfaction than to know+
-that his library would continue to he studied+
-and talked about even after a substantial portion+
-of it had been destroyed, and that it would+
-still be important to posterity if not a single+
-copy of the original librnry survived. This is+
-an object lesson in the kind of immortality that+
-Jefferson believed in-a dispensation wherein+
-things that have lost their material form retain+
-their value and so take on an importance that+
-transcends the limits of time and space. And+
-this importance that we accord Jefferson's library+
-is perhaps the final and most fitting+
-tribute to the man who couldn't live without+
-books.+
==Footnotes== ==Footnotes==

Current revision

View into the Bookroom from Jefferson's Cabinet (Study)
View into the Bookroom from Jefferson's Cabinet (Study)

Dimensions: 14' 10"x 15' 3" (with an annex 10' 10" x 10' 1"); ceiling 10' 0"

Order: Tuscan

Color: There is evidence that this space was originally wallpapered; today painted oyster white

Purpose of Room: Held Thomas Jefferson's libraries, the largest of which consisted of more than 6,000 books and was sold to Congress in 1815

Architectural features: Part of a "suite" of private rooms used by Jefferson, comprising the Library, the Greenhouse, the Cabinet, and Jefferson's Bedroom; the plan based on an octagon, a favored architectural shape for Jefferson

Furnishings of Note: Books (most of the books in Monticello today represent the same titles but not the original books Jefferson owned); book boxes stacked as bookshelves (today, reproductions are shown); an octagonal filing table, with drawers labeled for alphabetical filing; the easy chair which Jefferson, according to tradition, used while vice president; Jefferson's desk used for reading, writing, or drawing.

Objects on Display in this Room

Primary Source References[1]

1796. (Isaac Weld). "A large apartment is laid out for a library and museum, meant to extend the entire breadth of the house, the windows which are to open into an extensive green house and aviary."[2]

1800 November 25. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "It [catalog of books] is lying I believe either on the table in my book room, or under the window by the red couch in the Cabinet."[3]

1802 September 21. (Mrs. William Thornton). "Mr. Thornton arrived this morning-went into the Library which is very extensive, and said to be one of the best private Libraries on the continent..."[4]

1804-1805. (Sir Augustus John Foster). "On the ground floor were four sitting rooms, two bed rooms and the library, which contained several thousand volumes classed according to subject and language...In Mr. Jefferson's library there was a picture representing battle, painted by one of the Big-bellied tribe of Indians...If the library had been thrown open to guests, the President's country house would have been as agreeable a place to stay at as any I know, but it was there he sat and wrote and he did not like of course to be disturbed by visitors who in this part of the world are rather disposed to be indiscreet."[5]

1806 January 31. (Jefferson to James Ogilvie). "I had understood that Mr. Randolph had directed that you should have the free use of the Library at Monticello or I should have directed it myself. I have great pleasure in finding an opportunity of making it useful to you."[6]

1806 November 30. (Jefferson to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "Mr. Burwell asks in the name of your Mama, a Nautical almanac. She will find those of many years in the library at Monticello, in the press on the right hand of the Eastern outward door of the cabinet.[7]

1808 February 26. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "...you will find it in one of the 3. or 4. volumes of MS. laws in the bottom part of the press on the right of the N.E. window of my bookroom."[8]

1809. (Margaret Bayard Smith). "When we descended to the hall, he asked us to pass into the Library, or as I called it his sanctum sanctorum, where any other feet than his own seldom intrude. This suite of apartments opens from the Hall to the south. It consists of 3 rooms for the Library...The library consists of books in all languages, and contains about twenty thousand vols, but so disposed that they do not give the idea of a great library."[9]

1809. (George Gilmer). "Mr. Jefferson's library-room was locked, but the window-blinds were thrown back, so that I could see several books turned open upon the table, the ink stand, paper, and pens, as they had been used when Mr. Jefferson quitted home."[10]

1815. (George Ticknor). "On Sunday morning, after breakfast, Mr. Jefferson asked me into his library, and there I spent the forenoon of that day as I had that of yesterday. This collection of books, now so much talked about, consists of about seven thousand volumes, contained in a suite of fine rooms..."[11]

Footnotes

  1. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  2. Peterson, Visitors, 19.
  3. PTJ, 32:259.
  4. Papers of William Thornton. Library of Congress.
  5. Peterson, Visitors, 38-39.
  6. Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Library of Congress.
  7. Family Letters, 291.
  8. Massachusetts Historical Society
  9. First Forty Years,, 71.
  10. George Gilmer, Sketches of some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, of the Cherokees, and the Author. (New York: 1855), 242.
  11. Peterson, Visitor,, 63.