This scholarly enterprise is sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and housed at the Foundation's Jefferson Library under the auspices of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. Publication in 2004 of the first of an estimated twenty-three volumes in the Retirement Series represents a milestone in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, the definitive edition of the papers of the author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States. The project began in 1943 with the goal of printing, noting, or otherwise accounting for "everything legitimately Jeffersonian by reason of authorship or of relationship," as Julian P. Boyd, the first editor, put it. Some forty volumes, covering much of the earlier period of Jefferson's life and related topical materials, have been prepared in an ongoing effort located at Princeton University and published since 1950 by Princeton University Press.
The Retirement Series is documenting Jefferson's written legacy between his return to private life on 4 March 1809 and his death on 4 July 1826. During this period Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and sold his extraordinary library to the nation, but his greatest legacy from these years is the astonishing depth and breadth of his correspondence with statesmen, inventors, scientists, philosophers, and ordinary citizens on topics spanning virtually every field of human endeavor.
The documents printed in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson reproduce original spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Annotation accounts for the location of each known text, describes significant additions and deletions, gives the relationship between documents for which more than one text survives, explains obscure terms and events, and briefly identifies correspondents. A full index is also included at the end of each volume, and a cumulative index is available on this site.
The Family Letters Digital Archive is a digital companion to the letterpress volumes of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. The documents archived on the Family Letters Digital Archive website provide full text-searchable transcriptions of a rich body of correspondence by and to members of Jefferson's immediate and extended family.