Massachusetts Historical Society

Thomas Jefferson Papers

About this Website

This website, Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive, presents full-color images and some transcriptions of manuscripts selected from the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), a private, non-profit manuscripts repository located in Boston, received a grant from the federal Save America's Treasures program to preserve Jefferson manuscripts. The grant enabled the MHS to conserve the collection and to prepare digital images of selected manuscripts. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts provided additional funds that made it possible for the MHS to add materials to this website including some transcriptions and images of architectural drawings. This website presents digital images and searchable transcriptions of Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book and Garden Book (his personal records relating to his farm holdings and gardens), and a handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence. This website presents digital images of, and searchable descriptive information about, two manuscript library catalogs, Jefferson's architectural drawings and sketches, and Jefferson's heavily annotated draft of Notes on the State of Virginia, his only extended published work.

The manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence featured on this website is one of the manuscript copies written by Jefferson that represents the Declaration as he drafted it. The manuscript was donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur C. Washburn in 1893, and is often referred to as the "Washburn copy."

Additional information is available about:

The Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts

The Massachusetts Historical Society is home to the second largest collection of Thomas Jefferson manuscripts (primarily his private papers) thanks to the generosity of several generations of Jefferson descendents; the Library of Congress holds the largest single collection of Jefferson manuscripts (primarily his public papers). In 1898, Jefferson's great-grandson, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge (1831-1920) of Boston, presented a large number of Jefferson papers to the Massachusetts Historical Society. This material included correspondence (nearly 8,800 pages of both incoming correspondence and Jefferson's retained copies of outgoing correspondence), manuscript volumes including Garden Book, Farm Book, almanacs, accounts, law treatises, and the manuscript volume listing the books in Jefferson's personal library. Coolidge's son, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge (1863-1912), of Manchester, Massachusetts, obtained additional family manuscripts and made it possible for his son, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge III (1893-1959), to donate these Jefferson manuscripts (including architectural drawings and family correspondence) to the MHS in 1937. Twenty years later, in 1957, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge III donated another group of manuscripts (additional Jefferson family correspondence) to the MHS.

For more information about the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts please refer to the guide to the manuscripts. The entire manuscript collection is available on microfilm.

Save America's Treasures

In 1999, to preserve significant American historical sites and collections, Congress approved the Save America's Treasures program. During the first year of the program, sixty-two grants were awarded to various projects, including the preservation of the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society. For more information about Save America's Treasures and to see a full list of projects, please visit the web page:

Support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In 2003, the Massachusetts Historical Society added some transcriptions, a search tool, and some additional images to this website thanks to funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Technical production of images

The MHS's scanning procedures and policies are based on recommendations and guidelines from the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia, and from online resources created by the Research Libraries Group, the Digital Library Federation, and the Council on Library and Information Resources. During the scanning process the digital projects team creates uncompressed, high-quality (600 dpi) TIFF files. These master TIFFs are used to create derivative JPEG images. The compressed JPEGs range from less than 100 dpi (for the thumbnails) to 200 dpi or more (for the large images). The intent of the large JPEGs is twofold: MHS wants to provide detailed images for researchers and MHS wants to gain experience with delivering and maintaining fairly large derivative digital images across the World Wide Web.

Technical production of electronic texts

The transcriptions of Jefferson's Farm Book and Garden Book featured on this website were derived from The Garden and Farm Books of Thomas Jefferson, Robert C. Baron, ed. (Golden, Colo., 1987) with the permission of Fulcrum Publishing.

To produce the electronic transcriptions, the Massachusetts Historical Society's digital projects team, scanned the published volume, used an OCR (optical character recognition program) to convert the images of the published transcription into electronic text files, examined the text files (and corrected the occasional errors that occur in the OCR process), and encoded the electronic text files using an established markup scheme. The digital projects team used the XML version of MEP (Model Editions Partnership), a DTD (Document Type Definition) based pm TEI (Text Encoding Initiative). During the encoding process, the Digital Project team inserted deletions and additions visible on the original manuscripts. This process provides transcriptions that most closely mirror the original manuscripts shown alongside the electronic transcriptions.

The descriptive information about the architectural drawings was created by MHS staff and incorporated into the XML files that appear alongside the images by the digital projects team.

The transcription of the manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence and the descriptive information about the book catalogs was created by the digital projects team.

Use of this website

The images presented as part of this website are to be used for study purposes only. 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 email message to:

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