James Madison Papers

John Tayloe Lomax to James Madison, 5 March 1827

Univ: Va. March 5th 1827.


It has been represented that the following were the terms in which Mr. Jefferson bequeathed a part of his books to the University of Va

"I give to the University of Virginia my Library, except such particular books only and of the same edition as it may already possess when this Legacy may take effect—the rest of my said Library remaining after those given to the University shall have been taken out I give to my two grand sons in Law Nicholas P. Trist and Joseph Coolidge."

That the executor is anxious to transfer the books to the Library of the University—and for that purpose a comparison has been made between Mr. Jefferson’s Catalogues and that of the University. In making the comparison it has been discovered that many of the books, classical as well as others, though the contents are precisely the same, are not, in one sense, exactly the same editions; because printed in different years, or at different places. It has been doubted whether such an unimportant difference as this should class these books within the exception of the liberal donor—and whether they should belong to the University or the residuary legatees of the Library—It is wished that the visitors should express their interpretation of this clause in the will and their understanding as to the extent of the claim of the University—And it is also desired that they would appoint some person to make the selection of those books of Mr. Jeffersons which the claim of the University may fairly be interpreted to comprehend—

Last Spring orders were given for 60 periodical works for the use of the Library—Of these only about one half have yet come in. The rest, or the greater part of the rest, will probably never come on—Many of them, it is said, have ceased to be published—and are become extinct. In the Catalogue which was made out there were no orders for Law publications, which are much wanted—I should suppose that the term, or annual, reports of Common Pleas, King’s Bench, and Chancery Court of England of the Supreme Court of the U. S. and of Ct. Appeals of Virginia, might without impropriety be called periodical publications. To these I would also add Halls Law Journal published in Baltimore—I have mentioned this Subject to Genl. Cocke who concurs with me in thinking, that orders for these works might be given in the place of others which are not expected—And with your sanction will permit me to direct them accordingly—

I am sorry that the number of our Students has fallen so far short of the former session. The present number is I believe 112 or 113. We have however much cause to rejoice in the correct deportment & the studious temper displayed by them almost universally—I am with great respect Your obt. Servt.

Jno Tayloe Lomax

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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