Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Silvain Godon, 21 May 1810

To Silvain Godon

Monticello May 21. 10.

Th: Jefferson returns his thanks to M. Godon for the communication of the prospectus of his treatise on Mineralogy, to which he asks permission to become a subscriber. he anticipates with satisfaction this addition to the stores of science, and salutes him with the best wishes for it’s success & the assurances of his esteem & respect.

PoC (DLC); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ.

Silvain Godon (ca. 1774–1840), geologist, came from France to Boston in 1807 as a lecturer on mineralogy. He spent a year there before settling in Philadelphia, where he became a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1809. That same year, he published a pamphlet containing his observations on the geology of the Boston area. In Philadelphia, Godon continued to lecture both at the society and at Charles Willson Peale’s museum. While he worked to organize the society’s collection of minerals, he became involved with Rubens Peale in a venture to mine and manufacture chrome yellow paint. Godon’s distress over the failure of this venture in 1810 brought an end to his lectures at the Peale Museum and landed him in debtors’ prison (Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983–2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , vol. 2, pt. 2, pp. 1178, 1182n, 1190, 1239, 1244, vol. 3:3, 8, vol. 5:369–70; Greene, American Science description begins John C. Greene, American Science in the Age of Jefferson, 1984 description ends , 230–1; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 21 Apr. 1809 [MS in PPAmP]; Godon’s APS membership certificate, 21 Apr. 1809 [MS in PPAmP: APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends Archives, Manuscript Communications; printed form with blanks filled in, signed by TJ as president and seven other officers]; Charles Willson Peale to TJ, 3 Apr. 1809).

Earlier this month Godon sent TJ a printed prospectus describing his proposed “Treatise on Mineralogy; adapted to the present state of science; including important applications to the arts and manufactures,” to be published by Birch & Small, of Philadelphia. The work, evidently never published, was to consist of two octavo volumes of text and a quarto volume of plates. Subscribers could purchase it in boards for $10 (printed circular, dated Philadelphia, Apr. 1810, in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections; addressed: “Honble Thomas Jefferson Virginia”; franked; postmarked 7 May at Philadelphia; endorsed by TJ as received 13 May 1810 and so recorded in SJL). With that communication, or at about the same time, Godon also sent TJ a “Communication on the Manufacture of Paper from the Bark of the American Mulberry,” not found, but immediately forwarded by TJ to Robert Patterson for the American Philosophical Society in an extant address cover made from a specimen of mulberry paper (RC in PPAmP: APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends Archives; torn; addressed: “Robert Patterson esq. Philadelphia”; notation by TJ: “transmitted by the [. . .] society, & forwarded by th[. . .]”; endorsed: “Specimen of Paper from the Mulberry accomanyg S— Godons Communn on that subject 4 May 1810”). A committee of the society consisting of Benjamin Smith Barton and Thomas C. James reported on 16 June 1810 that the report was worthy of publication by the society (MS in same; endorsed as read 15 June 1810), but Godon’s paper did not subsequently appear in APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Transactions.

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; and S. Godon search
  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • American Philosophical Society; Transactions search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; and S. Godon’s mulberry paper search
  • geology; scholars of search
  • Godon, Silvain; identified search
  • Godon, Silvain; letters to search
  • Godon, Silvain; treatise on mineralogy by search
  • James, Thomas C. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives books search
  • mineralogy; and S. Godon search
  • mulberry; paper search
  • mulberry; trees search
  • museums; Philadelphia Museum search
  • Patterson, Robert; letters to accounted for search
  • stationery; made from mulberry bark search
  • trees; mulberry search