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Completing the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series

Among the most critical priorities of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) is the completion of funding for the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. This editorial project, begun by TJF in 1999, prepares and publishes the definitive edition of the letters (incoming as well as outgoing) and other papers documenting the period of Jefferson’s post-presidential years, 1809–1826, when he was in residence at Monticello. The project operates in tandem with its pre-retirement counterpart at Princeton University; both series are published by Princeton University Press.

$6 million is needed to fully fund the self-depleting endowment established in 1999 to cover the expenses of the Retirement Series through its completion in 2026. The needed amount will increase every year it remains partially unfunded.

  • TJF has now published nine volumes, containing over 4,500 accurately transcribed and annotated documents.   A new volume comes out every year, and the anticipated completion date for both halves of the project (Princeton and Monticello) is 2026.
  • Two-thirds of the documents written by Jefferson are being published for the first time, and the figure for letters he received is even higher.
  • This work is already transforming Jefferson studies, and its completion will inevitably produce a surge of new and path-breaking scholarship.
  •  A free internet edition of these volumes, made in collaboration with the National Archives, will greatly aid the Foundation’s long-term goal of circulating Jefferson’s ideas to the widest possible national and international audience.

J. Jefferson Looney, editor of the Papers Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, edits one of Thomas Jefferson's letters that has been digitized by his staff.Jefferson’s retirement is the least studied and one of the most fascinating periods of his life. During these years he founds the University of Virginia, and in selling his own unrivaled book collection, he turns the Library of Congress into a great cultural institution. But he also has time to ponder and distill his final word on the multiplicity of topics that interest him, with his large and fruitful correspondence with John Adams being only one of the richer examples. Completing a reliable edition of the full corpus of documents from this period is a worthy goal for the Foundation in itself. However, the long-term goal of the Foundation is not just to complete its commitment to this section of the Papers, but also to broaden and perpetuate its stewardship of Jefferson’s written legacy.

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