In his library, part of his private office, Thomas Jefferson received incoming mail and stored his valuable collection of books and scientific instruments.
- Thomas Jefferson could read in seven languages, including English: he learned Ancient Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Anglo-Saxon.
- Jefferson designed the University of Virginia in this space, calling it “the hobby of my old age” and his “last act of usefulness.”
- Jefferson proposed one of the first American attempts at a broad public education system, a “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge.”
The books on these shelves are period copies of books Jefferson owned. The ones behind glass belonged to Jefferson, a devoted lover of reading and language. Over the course of his life he collected one of the largest private libraries in the country. When an invading British army burned the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812, Jefferson promptly offered his own library of 6,500 books to Congress. Even before these books left Monticello, he made plans for a new library. By his death in 1826, he owned some 1,600 volumes.
Declaration of Independence
Find the copy of the Declaration of Independence hung by the entry to the library. With its stirring endorsement of liberty and equality, the Declaration of Independence has inspired generations of Americans and many others around the world. In the early 19th century, engraved prints began to celebrate the legacy of the Declaration. This is Benjamin Owen Tyler’s 1818 engraving, the first of the decorative prints to have copies of the signatures. Tyler dedicated this engraving to Jefferson and sent him a copy just like this one. Jefferson owned two other engravings of the Declaration.