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Summary Journal of Letters

Page from Jefferson''s Summary Journal of Letters. Library of Congress.From late 1783 until shortly before his death in 1826, Thomas Jefferson maintained a “Summary Journal of Letters” in which he recorded all of his correspondence. In this epistolary record the left column contains his written letters, and is organized chronologically by the date of composition. Jefferson’s incoming letters are in the right column organized by the date he received them, and include each letter’s author, date written, and location from which it was sent. Occasionally Jefferson added other details, perhaps noting who delivered a letter if it was not sent through the mail, or making a very brief comment about the content or its author. Jefferson’s papers are located in dozens of archives and libraries across the country (in addition to private homes and dealers), and by consulting his Summary Journal of Letters we have a much more complete record of his correspondence, including those letters that remain to be found.

-Andrea Gray, 5/13/16

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by Andrea Gray
When Thomas Jefferson was seventy-four years old and had been retired from Washington for seven years, he mused in a letter to William Short on 5 May 1816 that “when the world imagines I have nothing to do, I am in a state of as heavy drudgery as any office of my life ever subjected me to. from sunrise till noon I am chained to the writing table.”More >>


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