Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to George Ticknor, 4 July 1815

To George Ticknor

Monticello July 4. 1815.

Dear Sir

Availing myself of the kind offer of your aid in replacing some of the literary treasures which I furnished to Congress, I have made out a catalogue which I now inclose. it is confined principally to those books of which the edition adds sensibly to the value of the matter. this, as to translations, notes Etc other accompaniments, chiefly respects the classics: but size and type respect all. I am attached to the 8vo because not too heavy for the hand, and yet large enough to lie open on the table according to convenience. of the Latin classics, their notes add value to particular editions; of the Greek, their notes and especially those of the Scholiasts, their translations & types are circumstances of preference. in some instances I have selected the edition from it’s description in the printed catalogues without having seen it; and as the catalogues cannot exhibit the type, I may sometimes be disappointed in the choice I have hazarded, in the Greek classics particularly by the obsolete type of that which I have selected, in the Latin by the Italian letter which is disagreeable to the eye. sometimes there may be other editions equivalent1 to the one I name, in size, translation & notes, and superior in type. in these cases be so good as to avail me of your better opportunity of comparing for a selection of the best. I like good bindings and handsome, without being over elegant for use. I should have greatly scrupled to abuse your kindness by this scrupulous attention to editions were it not for the circumstance mentioned in my letter of Mar. 3. that having once selected a good bookseller in Paris, he will save you all further trouble in seeking out any particular edition to be had in Paris, or procuring them from any part of Europe where they are to be had; giving you no other trouble than that of recieving & paying. the booksellers of capital there have their correspondents in every considerable book-town in Europe, and understand the conveyances by which they may be forwarded. estimating these books by the prices stated in the catalogues and particularly in Koenig’s, a copy of which I inclosed you and adding about 25. or 30.2 p.c. as the supposed advance of price since that date, & for other incidentals, I have deposited with mr Girard of Philadelphia the sum of 350.D. to be answered by his correspondent in Paris, with a request however to answer the amount of the catalogue, should my reckoning be short, on the assurance of replacing the balance in Philadelphia the moment it is known to me. the particular details of this part of the business I leave to be communicated by mr Girard to his correspondent, and by my friend John Vaughan of Philadelphia to yourself, as they shall be arranged between him & mr Girard. and as your first destination was changed from Paris to London and I am uninformed of the stay you may make in London, I send a copy of this thro’ your father to London, and a duplicate to Dr Jackson our chargé des affaires at Paris, to be delivered to you if there, or kept until you arrive there. I shall desire mr Vaughan also to write to you by duplicate for each place, it being important that the books should be shipped so as to arrive before winter on account of the unavoidable damage of a winter passage. indeed as some of the books will probably be called for by your bookseller from distant places, which will take time, it would be best to ship immediately what can be immediately procured, and to reserve the residue for a second envoi in the Spring. a trunk is the securest package. Richmond is my most convenient port, and Messrs Gibson and Jefferson my correspondents there. all North of that are equal, and if addressed to the Collector of the port he will give me notice of their arrival. so much for this mass of trouble which your goodness has permitted me to impose on you. I had divided my catalogue between Paris & London, meaning to call for from London those of which the best editions had been printed in England. but a late reciept of a London catalogue, with the present prices, shewed that they had risen there beyond every thing imagined. I have made a little extract from this catalogue (Longman’s) which I will subjoin as a specimen, of which perhaps you may profit for yourself, by reserving yourself for the cheaper market of the Continent. I send to my friend mr Maury of Liverpool for English books only.

What is the present state of things in Europe, at this time and what it may be when you recieve this, is unknown to us. their horison seems overspread with clouds, and whether the storm may pass away, or burst on their heads seems uncertain. if the latter, they have long scenes of misery to go through, and not without risk of involving us, and certainty of embarrassing our communications with them. but I hope for peace. I trust that the allied powers will be sensible that they have neither the right nor the power to impose on France a ruler which she rejects, or to displace one who, from being originally an Usurper, seems now to have become a legitimate despot, by the will of the great body of the nation. they have rejected their king Log, and preferred a kite. they have a right to be eaten, if they chuse it. altho’ war seems to be one of the obstacles which nature has provided against the too great multiplication of the human species, and therefore can never be expected to be entirely done away, yet there is still room enough in the world for many more than are yet living, and we may therefore, without irreligion, pray for peace, which, while it lengthens the lives of many, gives comfort & prosperity to the general mass. Whatever we have of great news you will learn thro’ our papers, which I presume you recieve, and for small news, that of your own state being alone interesting to you, will be communicated by your friends there. I have only therefore to repeat a thousand apologies for the trouble I propose to you, and add the assurance of my thankfulness, and of my great esteem and respect for you

Th: Jefferson

P.S. there is an edition of the Encyclopedie de D’Alembert et Diderot à Lausanne et a Berne, chez les societés Typographiques. 1781. 39. v. 8vo which I bought in Paris for 260. livres. I should be glad to know it’s present price, as if still cheap it might make an article in the next year’s demand.

RC (MdHi: David Bailie Warden Papers); at foot of first page: “Mr Ticknor”; with MS of enclosure subjoined. PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ; with PoC of enclosure subjoined. Other enclosure not found. Enclosed in TJ to Henry Jackson and TJ to Elisha Ticknor, both 5 July 1815, and TJ to James Monroe, 15 July 1815.

scholiasts: those who provide explanatory notes on an author; especially ancient commentators discussing classical writers (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). For TJ’s letter of mar. 3., see note to TJ to Ticknor, 19 Mar. 1815. envoi: “parcel; package.” The recently received london catalogue was A General Catalogue of Valuable and Rare Old Books, in the Ancient and Modern Languages, and Various Classes of Literature; which are now on sale at the prices affixed to each, by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, Paternoster-Row, London, 4 parts (London, 1814).

Louis XVIII was the ruler rejected by France, and Napoleon had evidently now become a legitimate despot. In Aesop’s fable of “The Frogs Desiring a King,” the frogs asked Zeus to place a monarch over them. He threw them a piece of wood, king log. When they asked for a more energetic ruler, he sent a stork, which promptly gobbled them up. encyclopedie: for TJ’s purchase of an edition of Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers (Paris, 1751–72), see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 37 vols. description ends , 4:211, 5:15, 311–2; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4890.

1TJ here canceled “or superior.”

2Reworked from “20. or 25.”

Index Entries

  • Aesop’s Fables; referenced by TJ search
  • A General Catalogue of Valuable and Rare Old Books, in the Ancient and Modern Languages, and Various Classes of Literature (Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown [London firm]) search
  • Alembert, Jean Le Rond d’; Encyclopédie search
  • books; encyclopedias search
  • books; packing and shipping of search
  • books; sold by A. Koenig search
  • Catalogus auctorum classicorum (A. Koenig) search
  • Diderot, Denis; and Encyclopédie search
  • Encyclopédie (J. d’Alembert and D. Diderot) search
  • France; TJ on search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); and books acquired by TJ search
  • Girard, Stephen; and TJ’s lines of credit search
  • Jackson, Henry (1778–1840); as chargé d’affaires in Paris search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; catalogues from booksellers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; orders books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; packing and shipping of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; preferred physical characteristics search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; lines of credit in Europe search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; European affairs search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; France search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war search
  • Koenig, Amand; Catalogus auctorum classicorum search
  • Library of Congress; TJ replaces books sold to search
  • Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown (London firm); A General Catalogue of Valuable and Rare Old Books, in the Ancient and Modern Languages, and Various Classes of Literature search
  • Louis XVIII, king of France; flees France search
  • Maury, James; and purchase of books for TJ search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; returns to power search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Perregaux, Laffitte & Compagnie (Paris firm); and TJ’s lines of credit in France search
  • Ticknor, Elisha; forwards letters to and from TJ search
  • Ticknor, George; and books for TJ search
  • Ticknor, George; letters to search
  • Ticknor, George; travels of search
  • Vaughan, John; and TJ’s lines of credit in Europe search