Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William J. Coffee, 14 June 1822

To William J. Coffee

Monticello June 14. 22.

Dear Sir

I am in the daily hope of hearing from you on the subject of the engraving of the ground plan of our University, as to price and any other particulars you would recommend.

When in Bedford I examined the Doric entablature for which I should want ornaments, on the model of that of the Thermæ of Dioclesian, of which you took a note. my room will require 16 of the human busts, 20. ox sculls entire, and 4 other ox sculls cut in halves & mitred for the 4. corners, to be of composition. the spaces for the metops are 15.I. high & 14.I. wide.1 our 2d cistern answers well, having now 4 f 3.I. water. the last (or 3d) has but 2 f 1.I. altho it has exactly the corresponding and equal area of roof to supply it. I think the fault may be in the gutturs conveying the wa[t]er, and shall2 have that examined. I salute you with friendly esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of Thomas P. Jones to TJ, 5 Mar. 1821; mutilated at seal; at foot of text: “Mr Coffee”; endorsed by TJ.

The thermæ of dioclesian were the baths of Diocletian in ancient Rome. By my room, TJ meant the central dining room at Poplar Forest. composition, or “compo,” is “a mixture of whiting, resin, and glue, used instead of plaster of Paris for wall and cornice ornamentation” (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 ).

1Sentence interlined, with omitted period editorially supplied.

2Manuscript: “shell.”

Index Entries

  • architecture; architectural ornaments search
  • building materials; composition search
  • cisterns; at Monticello search
  • Coffee, William John; and cisterns at Monticello search
  • Coffee, William John; and University of Virginia ground plan search
  • Coffee, William John; fashions ornaments for TJ search
  • Coffee, William John; letters to search
  • Diocletian (Roman emperor); baths of search
  • gutters; at Monticello search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); cisterns at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); gutters at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); roofs at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); architectural ornaments for search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); dining room at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; ground plan of search