Books We're Reading: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series
The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, edited by J. Jefferson Looney, sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia. Hardbound.
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 volumes, 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.
About the Editor
J. Jefferson Looney was formerly editor and project director of the "Dictionary of Virginia Biography", and author or editor of several works on the history of Princeton University.
"The material is a joy to read, for the ex-president remained incredibly active and took a keen interest in the world beyond his mountaintop home. . . . [T]his [is a] magnificent endeavor."--Choice
". . . . a landmark event . . . . endlessly fascinating . . . . Led by J. Jefferson Looney, the Retirement Papers project at Monticello is sustained by a talented staff." -- Andrew Burstein. Read the full review »
The launch of THE PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON: RETIREMENT SERIES is a major event in American historical scholarship, and this splendid volume gets the series off to a magnificent start. The editorial methods are, as always, exacting; the scholarship is superb; and the contents of this volume already illuminate the beginning of Jefferson's retirement and the ways in which he and the American people collaborated in devising the roles that an ex-President should play in American public life. Anyone who cares about Thomas Jefferson should study this volume and its successors with care. --Richard B. Bernstein
". . . . a monument for the ages."--Steve Goddard's History Wire
"If the first volume is any indication, the Retirement Series will sustain the high quality of scholarship Julian P. Boyd established more than a half century ago." -- From The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2008) by Kevin J. Hayes.
Monticello Podcast on the Retirement Series »