Search the Encyclopedia
Bookcase with Press
Created: c. 1810
Origin/Purchase: Monticello Joinery
Materials: Bookcase: mahogany; Press: mahogany, mahogany veneer over pine on door, walnut breadboard ends, and tulip poplar
Dimensions: Bookcase: 125.1 x 36.8 x 16.8 (49 1/4 x 14 1/2 x 6 5/8 in.)
Accession Number: 1988-1
Historical Notes: This unusual piece has two distinct parts that have been paired together: a tall, narrow bookcase with five shelves set atop a press. The bookcase has a strong family tradition that states that it was actually made by Jefferson, "he having made the upper part of the Bookcase with his own hands and having kept it in his bedroom with a reading chair standing by, keeping in this Bookcase such books as he was currently reading." According to family tradition, the press with four interior shelves was used by Jefferson to store memoranda concerning the farm and observations on the weather.
The bookcase and press are identified on Cornelia Randolph's drawing of Monticello's floor plan, which reveals a small bookcase next to the mantlepiece in Jefferson's bedroom.
The top of the press features an astragal molding typical of Monticello-made furniture. One of the two unmatched bail handles on the sides of the press exactly matches a dumbwaiter. The interior of the door has an inscription in Jefferson's handwriting, beginning with the words "Dead Papers" (the rest is illegible).