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[Detail] Thomas Jefferson


The Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress chronicle Jefferson's public and private life from his days as a student through his years as a public servant to his retirement at Monticello. In 1815, following the burning of the Library of Congress by the British, Jefferson sold his library to Congress as a replacement for the burned volumes. The online collection includes approximately 83,000 page images, including correspondence, memoranda, notes, drafts of documents, and more. Also available is a rare set of volumes documenting the early history of Virginia (1606-1737), which were part of Jefferson’s personal library.

The collection can be used to explore several periods in American history, including colonial Virginia, the events leading to the American Revolution and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, formation of the party system and conflicts over issues in the Washington administration, the Kentucky Resolution, the Jefferson presidency, and pivotal issues of the 1820s, including the Missouri Compromise. Two timelines presented with the collection — The Virginia Records Timeline and The Thomas Jefferson Papers Timeline — are useful tools for organizing a study of the papers. Another useful feature is the Selected Quotations.

Many of the documents are original handwritten manuscripts. A number of these handwritten documents are difficult to read because of ink bleeding, penmanship, and other factors. Some documents are presented in both handwritten and transcribed formats. The full text of the transcriptions is searchable by word or phrase as well as by the descriptive (bibliographic) information; documents that have not been transcribed can be searched by descriptive information. The collection can also be browsed by the ten series into which the documents are organized.