Thomas Jefferson Papers

William F. Gray to Thomas Jefferson, 3 August 1818

From William F. Gray

Charlottsville Aug. 3. 1818

Respected Sir,

I had intended to pay my respects to you at Monticello, but on my arrival here I found you had set off for the Mountain Top, and I could not, with any propriety, break in upon your important avocations there with a business so much of a personal and private nature.

My object in taking the liberty to address you in this way, is, in the first place, to ask your attention to the accompanying Catalogue of Books, which contains most of the articles, in my store; and, to solicit your orders, either for any thing contained therein, or for any thing from the Northern1 Towns of the U. S. or from Great Brittain, in the procuring of which my agency can be serviceable. As I declare in my advertisement, my correspondence abroad, enables me to get, with tolerable ease and certainty, any Books in the American or English markets; or, any Philosophical Aparatus that are commonly used in Schools or Colleges. And if no other arrangement has been made, I tender my services for the supply of the Central College, or, of the University, if it should be established here, with the above named articles; and I take the liberty, Sir, of soliciting your consideration of the subject, and, if you shall think proper, you[r] influence in procuring me the agency. My terms shall be satisfactory.

Another subject, to which I beg your attention—Several of my friends in this neighbourhood, have suggested to me the expediency of establishing a branch of my business at Charlottsville. As my business has not led me to an acquaintance with the character of this section of the state, I am, of course, totally unable to judge what would be the chance of success in such an enterprize. Will you, Sir, have the goodness to give me your opinion on the subject. If it shall suit your inclination and convenience, please to say what you think would be the chance of support from the adjacent country, and what from the College: for, without the patronage of the College I apprehend the undertaking would be futile.

If I do effect an establishment here I shall endeavour so to conduct it as to merit success at least.

I shall be much gratified, Sir, at hearing from you at your convenience; and if you shall think proper to give me a part of your orders, I am sure I shall execute them to your satisfaction. I will guarantee the safe delivery in Charlottsville, of any thing you may order; and will cheerfully attend, as heretofore, to any thing directed to my care.

Very Respectfully,
Sir, Your Obt. Svt.

Wm F. Gray

RC (DLC); edge trimmed; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esq. Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Sept. 1818 and so recorded in SJL.

the mountain top: the Mountain House Inn at Rockfish Gap. The enclosed catalogue of books may have been A Catalogue of Books and Stationary, for sale by Gray & Cady, Booksellers and Stationers, Fredericksburg–Va. September, 1817 (Fredericksburg, 1817).

Filed and probably enclosed with this letter is an undated prospectus headed “THE EDINBURGH AND QUARTERLY REVIEWS, published by kirk and mercein, new-york,” extolling the virtues of European literary journals, particularly the abovementioned British publications; highlighting their widespread circulation, translation into foreign languages, extensive range of articles, and quality of composition; encouraging Americans to become acquainted “with the best models of classic taste and purity in our language” so as to “compel us to equal, if not to surpass them”; noting that Kirk & Mercein are the “sole proprietors of the American edition” and able to deliver it to “every part of the United States, with regularity, and at a very small expense to the subscriber”; stating that each journal is published quarterly “at the moderate price of five dollars a year, which is less than half the price of a daily newspaper”; and concluding with a paragraph in a different typeface probably added at Gray’s behest, reading “The publishers of the above Works, have appointed Wm. F. Gray their Agent for Fredericksburg, and the adjacent counties, who will receive subscriptions, and deliver the Books to the subscribers in the vicinity of Fredericksburg free of charges, or will forward them to any part of the country in any way most convenient to the subscribers” (broadside in DLC: TJ Papers, 213:38056).

1Manuscript: “Norther.”

Index Entries

  • A Catalogue of Books and Stationary, for sale by Gray & Cady, Booksellers and Stationers, Fredericksburg–Va. September, 1817 ([W. F. Gray]) search
  • Central College; books for search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; bookstore proposed for search
  • Edinburgh Review; Kirk & Mercein publish American edition of search
  • Gray, William Fairfax; A Catalogue of Books and Stationary, for sale by Gray & Cady, Booksellers and Stationers, Fredericksburg–Va. September, 1817 search
  • Gray, William Fairfax; and bookstore for Charlottesville search
  • Gray, William Fairfax; and transmission of packages to and from TJ search
  • Gray, William Fairfax; as bookseller search
  • Gray, William Fairfax; as subscription agent search
  • Gray, William Fairfax; letters from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Travels; to Rockfish Gap search
  • Kirk & Mercein (New York firm) search
  • Quarterly Review search
  • Rockfish Gap, Va.; Mountain House Inn search
  • Virginia, University of; Books and Library; bookstore proposed for search