The Thomas Jefferson Papers

About This Collection

Thomas Jefferson is one of twenty-three presidents whose papers are in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. The first nine Series of the Thomas Jefferson Papers was microfilmed in 1974. Series 10, the Addenda to the Jefferson Papers, was acquired after the rest of the collection had been processed and microfilmed. Most of the collection is being made available online as digital images with selected searchable transcriptions. This is the most important collection of Jefferson manuscripts in the world. It includes correspondence, official statements and addresses, records of early Virginia laws and history, and other writings on political, legal, educational, and scientific matters. Letters, notes, lists, and essays document Jefferson's role as the founder of the University of Virginia and his interest in such diverse areas as agriculture, anthropology, architecture, botany, ciphers, culinary arts, geology, literature and language, meteorology, travel, viticulture, and weights and measures. The bulk of the correspondence and writings falls within the period 1775-1826 and encompasses the major events of the founding and growth of the United States in that era. The correspondents, in addition to the political and military leaders of the American Revolution and early Federal period, include Abigail Adams; Joel Barlow; Benjamin Smith Barton; Francois Jean de Beauvoir, marquis de Chastellux; Jose Francisco Correia da Serra; Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy; Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours; Alexander Hamilton; Jean-Antoine Houdon; Alexander von Humboldt; Thaddeus Kosciuszko; Benjamin Henry Latrobe; Pierre Charles L'Enfant; Meriwether Lewis; James Madison; Robert Mills; Samuel L. Mitchill; Charles Willson Peale; Joseph Priestley; Benjamin Rush; David Rittenhouse; William Short; Samuel Harrison Smith; J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur; William Thornton; John Trumbull; Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes; C.-F. Volney; William Wirt; and Caspar Wistar.

Notes about the Original Collections

In 1829, under the supervision of Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's grandson, the federal government acquired the Virginia Records, bound volumes of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manuscripts. In 1848, the remainder of the Jefferson Papers was sold to the federal government with the understanding that Jefferson's private papers would eventually be separated out and returned to his grandson. This was accomplished in 1870-71. It should be noted that since 1829, numerous documentary editions have been published, from Thomas Jefferson Randolph's four-volume The Memoirs, Correspondence and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson to the current edition of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson from Princeton University. Selected Bibliography

Notes about the Transcriptions

For the most part, this online collection consists of digitally scanned images of microfilmed copies of handwritten documents. Scanning directly from the original documents would have been too costly and potentially damaging to the material. Legibility of both the original documents and the microfilm copies varies substantially depending on many factors; the inks and papers used, the age of the documents, contrast variations within the microfilm, early document copying methods, and handwriting variations all affect the readability of the images presented. When possible, fully searchable text transcriptions of the documents will be provided to the reader. This has not been possible for all of the documents because some transcriptions have copyright restrictions.

  • Transcriptions are taken from:
    Ford, Paul Leicester, ed. The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904.

    Padover, Saul K., ed. Thomas Jefferson and the National Capital. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1946.

    Fitzpatrick, John C., ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1931-1944. Reprint, New York: Greenwood Press, 1970.

    John C. Fitzpatrick was chief of the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, in the 1930s and '40s when he edited The Writings of George Washington; he included transcriptions of documents from the Jefferson Papers in his edition.

  • The transcription that accompanies volume 1, Thomas Mathew's "The Beginning, Progress and Conclusion of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia in the Years 1675 & 1676," in Series 8, Virginia Records, came from The Beginning, Progress and Conclusion of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia in the Years 1675 & 1676, by Thomas Mathew (Washington: Printed by Peter Force, 1835).
  • Special thanks to Gerard W. Gawalt, Subject Specialist, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, for providing transcriptions of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson's Household Accounts in Series 7 and for authoring the accompanying essay. He provided transcriptions of correspondence between Jefferson and William Short, as well as many other transcriptions used throughout this online collection.
  • The following published edition accompanies Series 8, Virginia Records:
    Records of the Virginia Company. Ed., Susan Myra Kingsbury. Volumes I and II: Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906; volumes III and IV, 1933, 1935.

    Volumes I and II accompany manuscript volumes 16 and 17, Virginia Company of London Court Book, 1619-24. Volumes III and IV publish documents drawn from volume 20, Miscellaneous Records, 1606-26, and documents from many other repositories in the United States and Great Britain. The table of contents, indices, and prefatory material from these volumes, in Modern English, have been transcribed. Corrections were made in transcription to a few misprinted page numbers in the tables of content in Volumes III and IV. The actual manuscript content of the volumes, in Early Modern English, has been digitally scanned and is presented in preview as grayscale GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) images, and in archival reference form as as bitonal TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) images.