Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel L. Mitchill to Thomas Jefferson, 10 February 1817

From Samuel L. Mitchill

New york feby 10. 1817


I forwarded to you a few days ago by the mail, a print of the characters distinguishable on the Chaldean bricks, lately brought to New york.

It did not seem likely at that time, I should trouble you so soon again. But the request of Richard C. Derby Esq. to carry a note of introduction to you, determines me to put pen to paper sooner than I expected. This gentleman informs me he intends to make a voyage to Europe, and to travel through several of its most important States. He is desirous of becoming the medium of intercourse between the Sçavans of his own Country & those of the Regions he [m]ay visit. He will feel himself honoured by [y]our commands & dispatches to your learn[e]d friends & correspondents beyond the Atl[an]tic:

So many things are reported [to] me from the North & Northwest, that I [i]nfinitely regret that the President of the US. has not imitated the example you set, of exploring the physical geography & natural history of the Land. Can you not induce him to attach to the Commission for settling boundaries with Great Britain, one or more persons who can report to him the geology, zoology, and statistics of the places they shall visit?

I have the honour of renewing Sir assurance of my respect

Saml L Mitchill

RC (DLC); edge torn; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Feb. 1817 and so recorded (with letter mistakenly dated 21 Feb.) in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Thomas Eston Randolph, 22 Mar. 1817, on verso; addressed: “The honble Thomas Jefferson Monticello (to introduce R. C. Derby of Boston Esq).” Enclosed in Richard C. Derby to TJ, 23 Feb. 1817.

The print of the characters distinguishable on the chaldean bricks was Antiquities from Asia, brought to New-York in Jan. 1817, by Capt. Henry Austin, and now at Dr. Mitchill’s (broadside in PPAmP). Drawn by C. H. Smith and engraved by Alexander Anderson for Henry Meigs, it contained two illustrations of cuneiform characters in “the actual size.” The first depicted “the Inscription on a Fragment of Brick taken from the Mosque at the Tomb of Daniel the Prophet, situated in the Desert, forty miles N.W. of Basra.” The second represented “the Characters distinguishable on the Bricks, nearly thirteen inches square and three inches thick, from the ruins of ancient Babylon.”

sçavans: an obsolete variant of “savants” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

Index Entries

  • Anderson, Alexander; as engraver search
  • Antiquities from Asia, brought to New-York in Jan. 1817, by Capt. Henry Austin, and now at Dr. Mitchill’s search
  • Austin, Henry; and Asian antiquities search
  • cuneiform; characters reproduced in print search
  • Derby, Richard Crowninshield; introduced to TJ search
  • Great Britain; boundary negotiations with search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); presidency of search
  • Meigs, Henry; as publisher search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; and geographical exploration search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; introduces R. C. Derby search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; letters from search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; sends work to TJ search
  • Smith, C. H.; as artist search