The Massachusetts Historical Society owns a remarkable document in Thomas Jefferson's own handwriting, the text of his only full-length book, Notes on the State of Virginia. When Jefferson was in Paris in 1785 representing the United States as a diplomat, he paid to have 200 copies of Notes printed for private distribution. Prior to publication, Jefferson reworked an earlier version of his manuscript by using sealing wax to attach corrections and changes written on small additional pieces of paper to full handwritten pages. He also expanded the text by inserting additional full pages. These changes show the evolution of Jefferson's ideas on a number of topics, and the supplemental information he gathered as he wrote. This website allows the reader to interact directly with Jefferson's complex manuscript by reading the original manuscript and by following all the changes that he made to the text before it was first published—including the opportunity to see passages written by Jefferson that have been hidden by attachments for more than two centuries.
Tutorial:follow the tutorial describing the web presentation of the manuscript pages
Make-Your-Own Page 5of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia [manuscript] download pdf
Browse the manuscript
- by Chapter (Jefferson's list of queries)
- Start on page 1
- by Selected passage
- by List of pages with attachments
Search the manuscript
- Look for pages containing your search keywords or phrase.
Please note: Search results will link to page images, not digital text.
About the manuscript
- Summary description
- Physical description of the manuscript
- Conservation treatment
- Use of the images
- Sources for further reading
Funding from the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation supported this project.