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Rodolph Schaer to Thomas Jefferson, 25 March 1819

From Rodolph Schaer

Washington City the 25th march, 1819


Having learned from several news papers, that a university is forming, under your patronage, in Virginia, and presuming, that the founders thereof will be desirous of providing the same with every object necessarily appartaining to institutions of this nature, I hereby, take the liberty to offer you respectfully the following articles, presently in my possession.

I A philosophical apparatus, consisting of

one telescop, 3 feet 10 inches by 6½ inches.

one solar microscop

one simple—do

an air-pump

an electric machine

a hydrostatic balanse

a set of instruments to demonstrate the powers of mechanics comprising

The lever

The pulley, simple, & different systems of pullies.

axis & wheel


Inclined plan

wedge & screw (This set of instruments is made of brass & Ivory)

one pantograph—

II a mineralogical cabinet, consisting of about three thousand specimens of minerals from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, England & other countries of Europe; also minerals from different parts of the U. States. This cabinet contains likewise a collection of 120 different sorts of polished marbles & alabasters from Europe; it is accompanied with a complete mineralogical apparatus, & particularly intended for lecturing

III  a small collection of European shells,
IV a collection of anticks 1320 specimens.
 V a collection of books & prints, comprising

Tournefort, system of botany, 5 vol. fol. plants coloured

Ichtiology by Bloch, 2 vol. fol. fish coloured

natural history of Surinam, 3 vol. fol. with figures.

History of insects by Geoffroy, 2 vol. 4o

Animaux sans vertebre, by Lamark, 1 vol. 8o

Tableau d. la Suisse, or a collection of the most interesting views of Swizzerland, 2 vol. fol.

Architecture by Inigo Johns, 1 vol. fol.

Modern italian and ancient architecture, 1 vol. fol.

a collection of engravings of different subjects,

Chimistry by Fourcroix, Chaptal, Lagrange, David, Klaproth &c.

Experimental philosophy by Sigau, Hauy, Bossut &c—

mineralogy by Delametherie, Brochant, Cleaveland &c—

Mathematics by Bossut, Lacroix, Clairaut &c

Astronomy, by Newton & Delambre

Geography consisting of several atlases & a number of separate maps.

Also different works on history & other subjects, the whole of which I wish to dispose of, if possible, before the first of mai, at the moderate price of five-thousand dollars. Terms of payment would be easy & acceptable.

The favour of a few lines from your hand, in answer to the above would infinitely oblige

Dear sir,   your very humble servant

R. Schaer

RC (ViU: TJP); addressed: “T Jefferson Esqr. Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Mar. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

Rodolph Schaer (Rudolf Schär) (1786–by 1822), educator, hailed from Schüpfen in the canton of Bern, Switzerland. He studied under Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and taught in various parts of his homeland from 1807 until around 1814, when he relocated to the United States. In 1817 Schaer established a day school in Washington, D.C. He soon joined the Botanical Society of Washington and the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences. The latter body used his schoolroom for its meetings, 1817–18. At the beginning of 1818 Schaer advertised a series of public lectures on mineralogy, geology, and experimental philosophy, and in the same year he proposed to publish by subscription a work entitled A System of Rational Education, a project that evidently did not come to fruition. Following his death his collections of books, minerals, and scientific instruments were auctioned off, with the mineral specimens ultimately making their way into the hands of the Columbian Institute (Sämtliche Briefe an Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi [2009–15], 2:648; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 7 June 1817, 2 May 1818, 24 Dec. 1822; Schaer to Nathaniel Cutting, 28 Oct. 1817 [DSI: Smithsonian Institution Archives]; Richard Rathbun, The Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences [1917], 32, 55, 76; City of Washington Gazette, 1 Jan. 1818).

axis is an archaic spelling of “axle,” while cabstan is probably derived from “cabestan,” meaning “capstan.”

anticks: “antiques,” perhaps recalling “antiken,” German for “works of art from antiquity.” Schaer’s estate included “A collection of sulphur Medallions, &c. &c.” (Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 24 Dec. 1822). For medals cast in sulfur and depicting ancient personages, see Durot to TJ, 4 June 1817, and note.

inigo johns was Inigo Jones, while david was probably the English chemist Humphry Davy.

Index Entries

  • An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology (P. Cleaveland) search
  • architecture; books on search
  • astronomy; books on search
  • balances, hydrostatic search
  • Bloch, Marcus Elieser search
  • books; atlases search
  • books; on architecture search
  • books; on astronomy search
  • books; on botany search
  • books; on chemistry search
  • books; on fish search
  • books; on geography search
  • books; on history search
  • books; on mathematics search
  • books; on mineralogy search
  • books; on natural history search
  • Bossut, Charles; writings of search
  • botany; books on search
  • Bouillon-Lagrange, Edme Jean Baptiste; writings of search
  • Brochant de Villiers, André Jean François Marie; Traité Élémentaire de Minéralogie suivant les Principes du Professeur Werner search
  • capstans search
  • Chaptal, Jean Antoine; writings of search
  • chemistry; books on search
  • Clairaut, Alexis Claude; writings of search
  • Cleaveland, Parker; An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology search
  • Davy, Sir Humphry; writings of search
  • Delambre, Jean Baptiste Joseph; writings of search
  • Elemens de Botanique (J. P. de Tournefort) search
  • fish; ichthyology search
  • fish; works on search
  • Fourcroy, Antoine François, comte de; writings of search
  • Geoffroy, Étienne Louis; Histoire Abrégée des Insectes search
  • geography; books on search
  • Haüy, René Just; writings of search
  • Histoire Abrégée des Insectes (É. L. Geoffroy) search
  • Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertèbres (Lamarck) search
  • insects; works on search
  • Jones, Inigo; works of search
  • Klaproth, Martin Heinrich; writings of search
  • Lacroix, Sylvestre François; writings of search
  • Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet de; Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertèbres search
  • Lamétherie, Jean Claude de; writings of search
  • levers search
  • machines; capstans search
  • machines; electricity search
  • machines; levers search
  • machines; planes (inclined) search
  • machines; pulleys search
  • machines; pumps search
  • machines; screws search
  • marble; polished search
  • mathematics; books on search
  • microscopes search
  • mineralogy; books on search
  • natural history; books on search
  • Newton, Sir Isaac; Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica search
  • pantographs search
  • Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (I. Newton) search
  • planes (inclined) search
  • pulleys search
  • Schaer, Rodolph (Rodolf Schär); identified search
  • Schaer, Rodolph (Rodolf Schär); letter from search
  • Schaer, Rodolph (Rodolf Schär); offers books, minerals, and scientific instruments to University of Virginia search
  • scientific instruments; balances, hydrostatic search
  • scientific instruments; capstans search
  • scientific instruments; electricity machines search
  • scientific instruments; for University of Virginia search
  • scientific instruments; levers search
  • scientific instruments; microscopes search
  • scientific instruments; pantographs search
  • scientific instruments; planes (inclined) search
  • scientific instruments; pulleys search
  • scientific instruments; pumps, air search
  • scientific instruments; screws search
  • scientific instruments; telescopes search
  • scientific instruments; wedges search
  • scientific instruments; wheels and axles search
  • screws search
  • shells search
  • Sigaud de Lafond, Joseph Aignan; writings of search
  • Suriname; works on search
  • Switzerland; works on search
  • telescopes; for University of Virginia search
  • tools; wedges search
  • Tournefort, Joseph Pitton de; Elemens de Botanique search
  • Traité Élémentaire de Minéralogie suivant les Principes du Professeur Werner (Brochant de Villiers) search
  • Virginia, University of; Books and Library; books for search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; mineral specimens for search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; scientific instruments for search
  • wheels and axles search