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The Private Jefferson

From the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Private Jefferson
Explore some of the most significant pieces from the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts
See Jefferson's manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence and more than sixty architectural drawings, broadsides, and letters.

As author of the Declaration of Independence, architect of the Virginia State Capitol, founder of the University of Virginia, and third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson is one of history’s best-known figures. Surprisingly, the largest collection of Jefferson’s private papers (more than 8,000 pieces) cannot be found in his native Virginia but is instead in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

For the first time since the late 1800s, the most significant pieces from the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts have returned to Virginia and are now on display at the Virginia Historical Society in the exhibition The Private Jefferson: From the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical SocietyThe Private Jefferson features Jefferson's manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence and more than sixty architectural drawings, broadsides, and letters. This exhibition offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these important American documents in one place. 

Admission: Free for VHS members; $10 for nonmembers; $8 for groups of 10 or more

  • Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 804.358.4901.
  • Admission is free for individuals under the age of 18.
  • Interested in booking a group of 10 or more to view The Private JeffersonLearn more

Exhibition Information

From
Sat Oct 15 2016, 10:00amSun Jan 22 2017, 5:00pm
Open
10:00 am -5:00 pm
In Virginia Sargeant Reynolds Gallery

Highlighted objects from The Private Jefferson

The Private Jefferson: From the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society
Jefferson's Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence, 1776 Enter Fullscreen More information
Jefferson's Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence
Jefferson, unhappy with the changes made by the Continental Congress to his draft of the Declaration of Independence, made several copies of the text "as originally framed," including this one, to show friends and colleagues how his text had been altered. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)
John Adams Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence Enter Fullscreen More information
John Adams Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence
John Adams served with Thomas Jefferson on the committee appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. Adams's copy shows the text before it was further edited by the committee and before Congress made much more substantive changes. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)
Printed version of the Declaration of Independence Enter Fullscreen More information
First printed version of the Declaration of Independence
One of only 26 known copies of the first printed version of the Declaration of Independence. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)
Drawing of an observation tower, ca.1771; never built Enter Fullscreen More information
Drawing of an observation tower, ca.1771; never built
In his enthusiasm for garden temples and decorative objects in the landscape, Jefferson designed observation tower to overlook Monticello. The notes on the reverse of the plans indicate that the windows in the towers were to "direct the line of sight to Monticello."
Virginia Capitol, 1785 Enter Fullscreen More information
Virginia Capitol, 1785
Front elevation of the Virginia State Capitol, showing its relationship to the Maison Carree, a Roman temple in the French city of Nimes. One of a series of elevations made while Jefferson worked with Charles-Louis Clerisseau in Paris. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)
Jefferson’s manuscript for his book Notes on the State of Virginia Enter Fullscreen More information
Jefferson’s manuscript for his book Notes on the State of Virginia
Although the manuscript title page of Notes is dated “1782,” Jefferson continued to edit and add to the manuscript until he privately published it in Paris in 1785. Almost half the manuscript pages have one or more partial-page attachments once affixed to the original text with sealing wax. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)
Farm Book, 1774-1824 Enter Fullscreen More information
Farm Book, 1774-1824
Lists of slaves leased and retained, 1801; slaves at Bedford (Poplar Forest), 1805, and index to "Aphorisms, Observations, Facts in husbandry," pp. 60-61. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)
The Private Jefferson: From the Collection
Jefferson's Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence, 1776
Jefferson's Handwritten Copy of the D
John Adams Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence
John Adams Handwritten Copy of the Declara
Printed version of the Declaration of Independence
First printed version of the Declaration o
Drawing of an observation tower, ca.1771; never built
Drawing of an observation tower, ca.1771;
Virginia Capitol, 1785
Virginia Capitol, 1785
Jefferson’s manuscript for his book Notes on the State of Virginia
Jefferson’s manuscript for his book Notes
Farm Book, 1774-1824
Farm Book, 1774-1824

In the museum shop

This volume is published as a companion to the exhibition The Private Jefferson.
$35.00
The Private Jefferson: Perspectives from the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society
Single tile coaster with a memorable Jefferson quote: "Wine....a necessary of life with me." Comes in a gift box.
$13.95
Wine Coaster
This roomy tote could hold a couple of binders or in the case of Thomas Jefferson, several books. The quote is excerpt from a letter that Jefferson write Adams on June 10, 1815.
$45.00
"I cannot live without books." Tote
A reproduction of the Jean-Antoine Houdon bust at Monticello, this bust of the author of the Declaration of Independence makes a perfect addition to home or office
$19.95
Thomas Jefferson Bust in Bronze (6")
The first is the famous Jefferson cup, designed by Thomas Jefferson around 1809 or 1810 and crafted by John Letelier, a Richmond silversmith, according to a model Jefferson enclosed with his order.
$28.00

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