Maybe we don’t have Jefferson’s actual letters here at the Jefferson Library, but we have other cool stuff – oh yes we do! One perhaps less showy-cool but nonetheless important sort of thing we have here is books, correspondence, and research notes from a lot of the great Jefferson scholars.
You can walk through our reading room and handle Dumas Malone’s own books. You can follow the intellectual trails of Marie and Fiske Kimball, Milton Grigg, and other movers-and-shakers of the early-to-mid-twentieth century in the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Archives. One researcher we hosted here was practically awestruck to be able to read through Howard Rice’s own copy of his dissertation, in which he had charmingly inscribed, “For Mother & Father, My first book! Howard. Paris, February 16, 1933.”
As you may imagine, Monticello owns many many sets of the Princeton Papers of Thomas Jefferson (12 sets, to be precise – not counting any that happen to be uncataloged). One of the two Reading Room sets belonged to George Green Shackelford, another well-known Jefferson scholar (and incidentally, a descendant of Jefferson). Betty, one of our volunteers, happened to be doing research not long ago on Jefferson’s travels through France, and told me later that she found herself literally following Shackelford’s trail as he combed through his set of the Papers, made his own notes right in the margins of the volumes, and later published his thoughts and observations in Thomas Jefferson’s Travels in Europe, 1784-1789 (1995). So Betty was tracing Shackelford tracing TJ. And if you want, you can trace Betty tracing Shackelford tracing TJ, using the fruits of her labor, in the TJ Encyclopedia. AND, you can see all the photographs that Shackelford took as he literally traced TJ’s steps through Europe – we have those here, too.