Former US president Thomas Jefferson’s missing books discovered

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NEW YORK - Dozens of books from former US president Thomas Jefferson’s private library have been discovered nearly 200 years after his heirs sold them off, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The author of the Declaration of Independence and the US’ third president sold his original book collection to the Library of Congress in Washington, now the world’s largest library. But he then immediately began building a new collection of books to satiate his hunger for reading, and it was the fate of those books that had long interested scholars.

The books had been believed missing after Jefferson’s heirs sold off his so-called retirement library in 1829 to pay off his debts after his death. What happened to the books after that was unclear.

But Endrina Tay, a researcher at Jefferson’s home Monticello, did extensive literary detective work to track 74 books to Washington University in St Louis.

They had been donated to the university’s library by a grandson-in-law of Jefferson and contain markings that the US Founding Father used to identify his books, the university and Monticello said. The books also contain notes made by Jefferson as he read, providing insights into his thoughts.

“Our discovery provides an amazing and intimate look into Jefferson’s world, said Leslie Greene Bowman, president of Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “To find his handwritten notations is like peering over Jeffersons shoulder to see his mind at work.”

The find makes the university’s collection, the third largest holder of Jefferson’s books, behind the Library of Congress and the University of Virginia, which Jefferson started.

Filed under: Politics

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