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Dimensions: 18' 6" x 11' 10"; ceiling 10' 0"
Color: There is some evidence that the room was originally wallpapered; today painted oyster white.
Purpose of Room: Office for reading, writing, architectural drafting, and scientific observation
Unusual architectural features: Part of a "suite" of Jefferson's private rooms, along with the Book Room, Greenhouse, and Bedroom; adjoins Jefferson's Bedroom via a passage and an alcove bed open on both sides; plan based on an octagon, a favored architectural shape for Jefferson
Furnishings of note: Reading and writing arrangement, which included a revolving chair, a table with a revolving top, a revolving bookstand made in the Monticello joinery, and a Polygraph copying machine (see a full article, or open a QuickTime movie that allows you to "operate" the device). The room also held a vast collection of scientific instruments, such as an orrery, microscope, and telescope.
Objects on Display in this Room
- Astronomical Case Clock
- Book Boxes
- Desk with Adjustable Top
- Drawing Instruments with Mahogany Case
- Hand Magnifier
- Hand Telescope
- John Adams (Sculpture)
- Joinery Side Table
- Oblong Revolving Table
- Revolving Bookstand
- Revolving Armchair by Burling
- Spirit Chest
- Thomas Jefferson "Medallion Profile" (Painting)
- Whalebone and Ivory Walking Stick
- Windsor Bench
Primary Source References
1801 October 8. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "From an actual survey of the plantation I occupy there (Which you will see in one of the desk drawers in my study)..."
1801 December 4. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "It is in one of the volumes...which you will find in the press on the right side of the cherry sash door in my cabinet."
1806 January 31. (Jefferson to James Ogilvie). "The arrangement begins behind the partition door leading out of the Book room into the Cabinet, and proceeds from left to right round the room; then entering the Cabinet it begins at the Eastern angle, and goes round that room."
1808 October 4. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "But I think it must be in one of the cartoons in the Cabinet window near which I usually sit to write, that is to say near the red turning chair."
1819 July 28. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "In my Cabinet, and in the window on the right of my writing table you will see 4. or 5. cartoons of papers. The 2d. and 3d. of these contain a compleat [sic] set of alphabeted papers..."
- Beiswanger, William L. Monticello in Measured Drawings. Charlottesville, Va.: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2011.
- 1. PTJ, 32:259. Copy available online from the Library of Congress.
- 2. Ibid., 35:414.
- 3. Ibid., 36:20. Letterpress copy available online.
- 4. Letterpress copy available online.
- 5. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society
- 6. Gaillard S.Hunt, ed. The First Forty Years of Washington Society: Portrayed by the Family Letters of Mrs. Samuel Harrison Smith (Margaret Bayard) from the Collection of her Grandson, J. Henley Smith (New York: Scribner, 1906), 72.
- 7. Family Letters, 429.