Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Volney, [25 June 1801]

From Volney

6 messidor [25 June 1801]

Je Voulais envoyer à Mr jefferson un Modele en relief et geometrique de la grande pyramide d’Egypte: mais le tems de faire sa caisse a consumé celui dont il avait besoin pour se rendre au havre. ce sera pour le prochain vaisseau—je joins ici le prospectus du plus interessant ouvrage qui ait été fait sur l’egypte, comme art et comme Monument d’antiquité.

C Volney

editors’ translation

6 Messidor

I wanted to send to Mr. Jefferson a geometric and relief model of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, but the time to make its crate consumed the time necessary to send it to Le Havre. It will be for the next ship. I attach herewith the prospectus of the most interesting work that has been done on Egypt as art and as a monument of antiquity.

C Volney

RC (NNPM); English date supplied; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Sep. 1801 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: see below.

Un Modele: A. H. Homberg, writing on 7 July for the company Veuve Homberg & Homberg Frères at Le Havre, informed TJ that the firm had, on Volney’s order, shipped “One Box contain’g a model of an Egyptian pyramid” on the sloop Maryland, placing it in the care of Captain John Rodgers. “Highly flattered that this furnishes us the opportunity of paying you our sincerest respects,” Homberg wrote, “we shall deem ourselves happy if we can in any occasion be of any service to you” (RC in MHi; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Sep. and so recorded in SJL). The Homberg firm and TJ had corresponded in 1788, when he was U.S. minister in Paris and the Hombergs raised a question about duties on a shipment of whale oil they had imported from the United States (Vol. 9:308; Vol. 13:221–2, 299).

TJ displayed the model of the pyramid of Cheops in the Entrance Hall at Monticello (Bedini, Statesman of Science description begins Silvio A. Bedini, Thomas Jefferson: Statesman of Science, New York, 1990 description ends , 437; Stein, Worlds description begins Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, New York, 1993 description ends , 69).

In 1801, publisher Pierre Didot issued a prospectus for the Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte of Vivant Denon, who had been a member of Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt. The book, published in Paris in 1802, was the means by which the French public became aware of Egyptian art, and Denon became the director of the museum in Paris where art and antiquities collected during France’s military campaigns were displayed. On Volney’s recommendation, TJ purchased Denon’s work for his library (Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 590, 1209–11; Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , No. 3947; TJ to Volney, 20 Apr. 1802; Volney to TJ, 10 May 1803).

Index Entries