August 06, 2008
By Elisabeth Grant
Find hundreds of high quality digital images on the Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive site, from the Massachusetts Historical Society. The online collection includes two catalogs of Jefferson’s books (one from 1783, the other from 1789, a manuscript version of the Declaration of Independence, a Farm book, a Garden book, a manuscript copy of his Notes on the State of Virginia (still under development), and an array of Architectural Drawings. Each work is presented through high-quality images, and many have also been transcribed. The site also provides clear citation text, summaries, and related information for each document.
It’s documents like the Garden Book, rather than the more well known works (like the Declaration of Independence), that offer unique looks into Jefferson’s life. He meticulously recorded the sprouting and blooming of the plants in his garden, and included detailed notes like “strawberries come to table…the plants bear 20 strawberries each. 100 fill half a pint.”
His Farm book is even more detailed, containing “precise lists,” and “concise notes, observations, and calculations about farming subjects such as equipment, livestock, workers, plants, crop rotation, and spinning.”
While one could spend countless hours delving into the seven manuscripts on the Thomas Jefferson Papers site, there are even more treasures to be found on the main Massachusetts Historical Society site. Read the Diaries of John Quincy Adams, check out the Object of the Month, learn about slavery in Massachusetts, and find so much more. Hat tip.