Massachusetts Historical Society
Thomas Jefferson Papers: an electronic archive

Thomas Jefferson
Architectural Drawings, [manuscript], circa 1772-1819
From the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

Summary description

There are over 600 pages of architectural documents in the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society. These pages relate to 390 manuscript items (discrete physical items) and include 329 pages with architectural drawings, 213 pages of Jefferson’s handwritten notes about various projects, and 85 additional pages that are a combination of sketches and notes. Approximately 200 items (384 pages) of these materials relate to Jefferson's home, Monticello. The collection also contains plans of some of Jefferson's other homes, as well as his Paris apartments, and sketches of homes owned by his friends. The collection also contains Jefferson's drawings for municipal and civic institutions: the University of Virginia; capitol buildings for Washington and Richmond; the president's house; and the governor's residences at Williamsburg and Richmond. About 40 sketches (included in the previous counts) show miscellaneous household objects and machines. Please note: about 30 of the drawings in this collection were not made by Jefferson.

Additional information: Numbering schemes for the architectural drawings

The first study of the drawings in the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts was compiled in 1916 by Fiske Kimball in Thomas Jefferson: Architect (Boston: Privately printed, 1916). Kimball identified 233 Jefferson drawings from the Massachusetts Historical Society's collections in his book and arranged them chronologically, with related subjects grouped together. The numbers Fiske Kimball assigned to the drawings are referred to as "Kimball" or "K" numbers.

Frederick Doveton Nichol's study of Jefferson's drawings culminated in the publication of a checklist, Thomas Jefferson's Architectural Drawings (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1960). The first edition of this publication included a foreword with commentary on Jefferson's work as an architect, selected illustrations, and a checklist containing brief descriptions of 531 Jefferson drawings held by various repositories. The revised and enlarged fourth edition, published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, and The University Press of Virginia in 1978, includes 45 additional entries, bringing the total number of Jefferson drawings listed in the checklist to 576. The drawings in the checklist appear in alphabetical order by place or building. The numbers Nichols assigned to the drawings are referred to as "Nichols" or "N" numbers.

At some point after the drawings came to the Massachusetts Historical Society, approximately two dozen drawings were given "M" numbers. The origin of the third numbering scheme is unclear and these numbers do not overlap with either the Nichols or Kimball numbers. It is not obvious why some drawings were selected and assigned "M" numbers.

A fourth set of numbers, "MHi," came into existence when drawings previously filed within a large chronological arrangement of documents within the collection (mostly letters) were re-filed with the architectural drawings. These previously unnumbered drawings were assigned "MHi" numbers in the 1990s.

The drawings may be searched by using the identification numbers from any of these numbering schemes. On the search form, simply type the letter prefix immediately followed by the number, with no intervening space. For example, "n488", "k204", "m15", or "mhi29".

Use of the images

Permission to reproduce images of manuscripts and/or publish transcriptions of collections must be obtained in writing from the Massachusetts Historical Society. Please forward requests to the Reference Librarian, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215, or send an e-mail message to:

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