Last week, we had the privilege of being the first Monticello staff to set eyes on the more than 70 Jefferson books that we recently discovered at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). We flew to St. Louis early on Valentine’s Day on February 14 to see firsthand the volumes Jefferson once owned in his library at Monticello during his retirement.A tiny scrap of paper with Greek notes in Jefferson’s hand tucked in a volume of Plutarch’s ‘Lives.’ Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections.
Our trip was the culmination of three months of intense and thrilling detective work done in cooperation with Erin Davis, Curator of Rare Books at WUSTL. Late last fall, Ann Lucas Birle was putting together the finishing touches on the forthcoming documentary edition of Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838-1839, which she is editing with Lisa Francavilla. The book, a joint publication of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Massachusetts Historical Society, and distributed by University of Virginia Press, will be published in October 2011
On January 25, we received the news we were waiting for. Erin [Davis, Curator of Rare Books at WUSTL] had pulled the books from their offsite storage facility, and confirmed that the volumes contained Jefferson’s distinctive ownership mark. Jefferson typically marked his books by adding his initial “T” to the I-quire signature, and his initial “I” (for J in the Latin alphabet) to the T-quire signature. We were thrilled and overjoyed that our suspicions had proved to be true. A few days later, Miranda Rectanwald from WUSTL’s archives found an undated library ledger with “c” annotations next to volumes, indicating that these were likely part of the original 3,000-volume gift to WUSTL. This ledger represents the only known catalog of the Joseph Coolidge Library.
Hat Tip and Thanks: Gordon Belt, The Prosperity Project