Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert McDermut to Thomas Jefferson, 5 December 1811

From Robert McDermut

Richd Dec: 5th 1811

Having fortuitously met with Doctor Young’s translation, from the french, of “D’Anville’s complete body of Ancient Geography,” in the hands of a near relation to whom he had presented the copy, it imediately occured to me that an Edition of it might be very acceptable in our schools and Colleges, as an useful key to Ancient History &c.

The work might, perhaps, be better adapted to use of schools by omitting most of the notes, which turn on Philosophical subjects; and by curtailing the elaborate enquiries into the extent of Ancient discoveries in Asia & Africa, and such other dilatations as swell the work without increasing the stock of information.

Should such an undertaking meet your approbation, with that of the Presidents of some of our Principal Colleges, it will be immediately commenced in Philadelphia, whither1 the Editor will be compelled to resort for the convenience of employing an engraver for the maps.

I presume that the price of the book will not be more than two dollars.

Your correspondent is a native of Virginia, but thinks it prudent to withhold his name for the present. He will thank you for any thing that you may suggest on this subject, addressed R. M. to the care of Samuel Pleasants jr Printer, Richd—and will ever be, with sentiments of the highest consideration

yr most obt St

R. M.

RC (MHi); dateline beneath author’s initials; at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as a letter from “Anon. Richmd” pertaining to “Danville’s geography” received 22 Dec. 1811 and so recorded in SJL.

Robert McDermut (ca. 1764–1841) was a native Virginian who worked as a carpenter in New York City before opening a bookstore there in about 1803. He continued as a bookseller and printer, both alone and with various partners, until his death. McDermut was a Federalist who lost a bid for a seat in the lower house of the state legislature in 1815 by just two votes (William Duncan, The New-York Directory, and Register, for the year 1791 [New York, 1791], 79; Longworth’s New York Directory description begins Longworth’s American Almanac, New-York Register, and City Directory. New York, 1796–1842 (title varies; cited by year of publication) description ends [1803], 203; [1813], 56, 213; [1841], 460; Ballston Spa, N.Y., Independent American, 10 May 1815; New York City Hall Recorder 4 [1819]: 12–25; New York Evening Post, 20 Aug. 1841).

During a partnership that lasted from about 1813 until 1817, McDermut joined Daniel D. Arden in publishing the first American edition of Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville’s Compendium of Ancient Geography … Calculated for Private Libraries, as well as for the Use of Schools (New York, 1814). This work, which had originally appeared as Géographie Ancienne Abrégée (Paris, 1768), had already gone through several London editions.

1Manuscript: “whiter.”

Index Entries

  • Anville, Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’; Compendium of Ancient Geography search
  • Arden, Daniel D.; publisher search
  • books; on geography search
  • Compendium of Ancient Geography (Anville) search
  • Géographie Ancienne Abrégée (Anville) search
  • geography; books on search
  • McDermut, Robert; and Compendium of Ancient Geography search
  • McDermut, Robert; identified search
  • McDermut, Robert; letters from search
  • Pleasants, Samuel; Richmond printer search
  • Young, John; translates Compendium of Ancient Geography search