James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 8 August 1824

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Aug. 8. 24.

Dear Sir

I recd yesterday a letter from mr. Gilmer which I now inclose, as also a former one,1 which had only communicated his arrival at Liverpool. I add also a letter from mr. Rush.2 So far his trust is going on well. I wish the suggestion of mr. Brougham3 respecting Ivory4 may be found groundless. There is no mathematician in Gr. Britain who can rival him but Woodhouse5 professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, who is following the track and treading close on the heels of the first members of the French school. The Ed. Reviewers place Ivory in the first rank, and his name would set our institution above all rivalship. I had long ago cast my eyes on him, but was told that his birth at the head of the Mathematical school of Woolwich was too good to expect him.

I have undertaken to make out a catalogue of books for our library, being encouraged to it by the possession of a collection of excellent catalogues, and knowing no one, capable, to whom we could refer the task. It has been laborious far beyond my expectation, having already devoted 4. hours a day to it for upwards of two months, and the whole day for some time past, and not yet in sight of the end. It will enable us to judge what the object will cost. The chapter in which I am most at a loss, is that of divinity; and knowing that in your early days you bestowed attention on this subject, I wish you could suggest to me any works really worthy of place in the catalogue. The good moral writers, Christian as well as Pagan I have set down; but there are writers of celebrity in religious metaphysics, such as Duns Scotus, & alii tales,6 whom you can suggest. Pray think of it and help me.

Our library must of course possess such standard books as the Polyglott bible. Lackington,7 the cheapest bookseller in England by far, states it’s price in his catalogue at 50. Guineas or 333. Dollars. There is a good copy now to be had in Boston for 85. D. I should not hesitate to take on myself the responsibility of the purchase but for the scantiness of our building funds, and the slow progress in the collection of subscriptions. Yet with your encouragement, I might perhaps do it. Affectionately yours

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC); draft (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1Francis Walker Gilmer to Jefferson, 6 and 21 June 1824 (William P. Trent, English Culture in Virginia description begins William P. Trent, English Culture in Virginia, Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 7th ser., 5–6 (Baltimore, 1889). description ends , Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 7th ser., vols. 5–6 [Baltimore, 1889], 55, 56–58). In the second letter Gilmer informed Jefferson that he had engaged George Blaettermann as professor of modern languages; that Henry Brougham thought that James Ivory might be induced to become professor of mathematics, but that Ivory had “recently been a good deal disordered in his mind and unable to attend to his studies”; and that Gilmer had conferred with Jefferson’s preferred booksellers and “endeavoured to impress upon them the importance of attention and moderate charges in their dealings with us.”

2Richard Rush to Jefferson, 13 June 1824 (DLC: Jefferson Papers, Epistolary Record).

3Henry Peter Brougham (1778–1868) was educated at the University of Edinburgh and helped found the Edinburgh Review, to which he was a prolific contributor. He passed the English bar in 1802 and was a member of the House of Commons from 1810 until his elevation to the peerage as 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux in 1830. He was lord chancellor, 1830–34. While a member of Parliament, he supported the Whigs, and was a leading voice in legal reform, popular education, freedom of the press, and the abolition of slavery.

4James Ivory (1765–1842) was a mathematician educated at the University of St. Andrews, who became professor of mathematics at the Royal Military College, then at Marlow, and subsequently at Sandhurst, from which he resigned his appointment in 1819. Ivory’s numerous mathematical papers brought him renown: he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1815 and knighted in 1831.

5Robert Woodhouse (1773–1827), a mathematician educated at Cambridge University, taught there until his death, holding successively the Lucasian professorship of mathematics from 1820, and the Plumian professorship of astronomy and experimental philosophy from 1822. Woodhouse published a number of works, including Principles of Analytical Calculation (1803) and Elements of Trigonometry (1809), but he was known best for his work in introducing calculus into England. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1803.

6Other such.

7George Lackington (1768–1844) was a relative of James Lackington (1746–1815), who established the famous bookshop in Finsbury Square, London, known as the Temple of the Muses. George became head of the firm in 1798, and continued the practice of selling cheaply and always for cash. The firm also published catalogues of their merchandise; that of 1803 featured eight hundred thousand books.

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