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Completing the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series

The Retirement Series is creating the definitive edition of Thomas Jefferson’s letters and papers covering the period from 1809 to 1826 in both letterpress and digital form. Jefferson’s retirement is the least studied and yet one of the most fascinating periods of his life. During these years, spent primarily at Monticello, he founded the University of Virginia, and in selling his own unrivaled book collection, he began the transformation of the Library of Congress into a great cultural institution. But he also had time to ponder and distill his final word on the multiplicity of topics that interested him, with his extensive, thought-provoking exchanges with John Adams being only one of the richer examples. Highlights of the Retirement Series portion of the project include:

  • The Retirement Series has published fourteen volumes (through 2017), containing over 8,100 accurately transcribed and annotated documents. A new volume comes out every year, and the anticipated completion date for the project is 2026.
  • Two-thirds of the documents written by Jefferson are being published for the first time, and the figure for letters he received is even higher.
  • This work is already transforming Jefferson studies, and its completion will inevitably produce a surge of new and path-breaking scholarship.
  •  Two digital versions of the first volumes of the Retirement Series greatly aid the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s long-term goal of bringing Jefferson’s ideas to the widest possible national and international audience. A subscription edition released by the University of Virginia Press contains links from the index, while a freely accessible version with less robust searching tools has been issued in collaboration with the National Archives. New volumes are added on a regular basis, and both versions are part of a larger platform containing hundreds of thousands of documents from the American founding era.

J. Jefferson Looney, editor of the Papers Thomas Jefferson : Retirement Series, edits one of Thomas Jefferson's letters (Image: Norm Shafer/The Washington Post).Completing a reliable edition of the full corpus of documents from this period is a worthy goal for the Foundation in itself. However, the long-term goal of the Foundation is not just to complete its commitment to this section of the Papers, but also to broaden and perpetuate its stewardship of Jefferson’s written legacy.

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by Andrea Gray
Here at the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series , we spend most of our days reading Jefferson’s two-hundred-year-old mail. Jefferson wrote approximately 19,000 letters during his lifetime,...More >>

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