Artist/Maker: Unknown

Created: 1770-1800

Origin/Purchase: England

Materials: brass, steel

Dimensions: H: 50.2 (19 3/4 in.); W: 33 (13 in.); D (base): 15.2 (6 in.)

Location: Library (Book Room)

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Edward Cabot Rotch, Abbott Lawrence Rotch and Ann R. Magendantz; by gift and purchase to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1985

Accession Number: 1978-79-2

Historical Notes: This unusual form of lighting device, sometimes called a "reading lamp," reflected candlelight downward for ease of reading or writing. Jefferson, who said of his daily routine that "from candlelight to early bed-time I read," would no doubt have found such a light useful.[1] The completely adjustable candelabrum has two pivoting brass candle cups. The arms are attached to a piece with fixtures for holding candle snuffers and extinguisher; this piece can be raised or lowered on the central steel shaft. The height and angle of the rectangular reflector, attached to the shaft above the candle branches, are also adjustable. The turned brass base is lead weighted for stability, and at the top of the shaft is a brass handle for carrying.

When and where Jefferson purchased this item has not been established. George Washington owned a similar device, and both might have been obtained in New York City or Philadelphia. The inscription, "Thomas Jefferson, Monticello," is a later addition.

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 419


  1. ^ Jefferson to Tadeusz Kosciuszko, February 26, 1810, in PTJ:RS, 2:257-61. Transcription available at Founders Online.