Massachusetts Historical Society

Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes of the State of Virginia Manuscript

From the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

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of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia [manuscript] download pdf

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.

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Funding from the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation supported this project.