Library of Congress contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Viking contact: Linda McFall (212) 366-2229

March 20, 2000

New Book Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty will be published in April in cooperation with Viking Studio. The publication is one of several planned to celebrate the Library's Bicentennial on April 24, 2000, and is a companion volume to the major exhibition "Thomas Jefferson."

Thomas Jefferson is a central figure in the history of the Library as well as the nation. Congress purchased Jefferson's personal library of 6,487 volumes after its own collections, housed in the U.S. Capitol, were burned by the British in 1814. His collection was the seed from which the nation's library grew.

"The Library of Congress is one of Thomas Jefferson's principal legacies," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "The wide range of his interests determined the universal and diverse nature of the Library's collections and services."

Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty examines and illustrates one of the largest assemblages of Jefferson documents from the rare and historically important holdings of the Library of Congress ever gathered in one volume as well as other artifacts related to his life and legacy. Weaving back and forth between Jefferson's public career -- author of the Declaration of Independence, governor of Virginia, minister to France, secretary of state, the nation's third president, and founder of the University of Virginia -- and his personal life at his beloved Monticello, the book studies the conflicts among Jefferson's public ideals, the political realities he faced, and his private life.

Illuminated by Jefferson's own words, the book also includes an introduction by historian Garry Wills and contemporary commentary by prominent scholars Joseph J. Ellis, Annette Gordon-Reed, Pauline Maier, Charles A. Miller and Peter S. Onuf. Touching upon such controversial topics as his relationship with slave Sally Hemings, this book offers no single view of Jefferson but rather explores the life of a complex man whose views influenced every major political event in this country's early life.

The volume's companion exhibition is on view in the Northwest Gallery and Pavilion of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., from April 24 through October 31. Items from the exhibition will be available on the Library's Web site at, along with the Library's entire collection of Jefferson Papers (more than 25,000 items). The exhibition marks the first time that Jefferson's personal library has been assembled in one place in the original order that Jefferson himself devised since the collection came to Washington in 1815. Spurred by a very generous donation by Jerry and Gene Jones as a Bicentennial "Gift to the Nation," the Library has been reassembling copies of the same editions of the works that Jefferson held that were lost in a second fire in 1851. The reconstituted Jefferson library, which should be more than 90 percent complete by April 24, will be on public display for the first time.

Garry Wills, Professor of History at Northwestern University, is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for Lincoln at Gettysburg. He is also the author of Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.

Joseph Ellis, Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College, is the author of American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, which won the National Book Award.

Annette-Gordon Reed, Professor of Law at New York Law School, is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.

Pauline Maier, Professor of American History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the author of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence.

Charles A. Miller, Professor Emeritus of Politics and American Studies at Lake Forest College, is the author of Jefferson and Nature: An Interpretation.

Peter Onuf, Professor of History at the University of Virginia, is the editor of Jeffersonian Legacies.

Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty -- a 182-page, hardbound book, with more than 150 illustrations, mostly in color -- is available for $35 in major bookstores and from the Library of Congress Sales Shops (Credit card orders: 202-707-0204)

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PR 00-039
ISSN 0731-3527

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