JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826), President]. Notes on the State of Virginia: written in the year 1781, somewhat corrected and enlarged in the winter of 1782, for the use of a Foreigner of distinction, in answer to certain queries proposed by him.... [Paris: Philippe-Denis Pierres for the author], 1782 [i.e., 1785].
8o (7 5/8 x 5 in.). Folding table between pp.168 and 169, full-page woodcut of Madison's Cave on page . Leaves D2 and D3 cancelled. Bound with an appendix (pp.367-391) containing notes on American Indian tribes by Charles Thomson (1729-1824); Jefferson's "Draught of a Fundamental Constitution for the Commonwealth of Virginia," 14pp; and "An Act for establishing Religious Freedom passed in the assembly of Virginia in the beginning of the year 1786," 4pp. Contemporary mottled French calf, flat spine gilt, red morocco spine label gilt-lettered NOTES ON VIRGINIA, marbled edges, marbled endpapers (front cover nearly detached, joints, corners and board edges rubbed). Provenance: Benjamin Smith Barton (1766-1815), the eminent Philadelphia physician and scientist; inscription on verso of title; Edward Harris (signature at top margin of title-page); T.J. Coolidge, bookplate.
FIRST EDITION, ONE OF ONLY 200 COPIES PRINTED for private circulation among Jefferson's friends and acquaintances. WITH THE APPENDIX AND ADDITIONAL TEXTS not present in all copies.
Jefferson's detailed account of his home state of Virginia is "a classic statement about the promise and the perils of the American experiment" (Frank Shuffleton, Introduction to Notes). Jefferson's notes range widely, embracing topography, natural history, botany, mineral and agricultural productions, manufactures, ethnography, religion, commerce and government, plus a pioneering bibliography of state papers. The work was begun in the spring of 1781 in response to questions from the Marquis de Barbé Marbois, Secretary of the French Legation in Philadelphia, on behalf of the French government. Marbois's queries were forwarded by a Virginia delegate in Congress, Joseph Jones, to the outgoing governor, Jefferson. In May 1781 he promised Marbois that when he had adequate time he would furnish "as full information as I shall be able to do" (Papers, 5:58). For some years, Malone reports, he had been "making memoranda about Virginia on loose sheets"; after leaving the governorship, he returned to Monticello and took up the project in earnest (ibid., p.374). By December he sent Marbois a draft, cautioning that it was "very imperfect" (Papers, 6:142). Over the next two years, Jefferson expanded the notes and sent manuscript copies to a few friends for comment. After embarking for Paris as U.S. Minister, he concluded "I may have a few copies struck off in Paris" (Papers, 7:282). From Paris, in May 1785, he wrote to James Madison that the printers "yesterday finished printing my notes. I had 200 copies printed, but do not put them out of my own hands, except two or three copies here, and two which I shall send to America, to yourself and Colo. Monroe..." (Papers, 8:147).
Note: From the Coolidge family, Christie's has sold a copy of the Notes on 7 December 2012, lot 47, $260,000 hammer; a second copy on 21 June 2013, lot 145, $150,000 hammer; the present copy is the last owned by the family.