Jefferson’s Books

Washington University in St. Louis
Image via Wikipedia

As long as we’re talking about Greek (see next post) we might as well mention an item from Washington University in St Louis which  mentions the recent identification of a number of books which once belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Some excerpts:

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Washington University in St. Louis announced the discovery by Monticello scholars that a collection of books, long held in the libraries at Washington University in St. Louis, originally were part of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library.

These books, held at the university’s libraries for 131 years, have been confirmed by Monticello scholars as having belonged to Thomas Jefferson himself. They are part of the university’s rare books collection, and were not identified by the books’ donor in 1880 as a part of Jefferson’s personal collection.

Monticello scholars identified several notable books among the 28 titles and 74 volumes, including:

* Aristotle’s Politica, which was likely one of the last books Jefferson read before his death on July 4, 1826.
* Architecture books used by Jefferson to design the University of Virginia, which, like Monticello, is recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. Two of these volumes, Freart de Chambray’s Parallele de l’architecture antique avec la moderne and Andrea Palladio’s Architecture de Palladio, contenant les cinq ordres d’architecture contain a few notes and calculations made by Jefferson.
* A small scrap of paper with Greek notes in Jefferson’s hand tucked in a volume of Plutarch’s Lives.

The best part is that they have a high res photo of that small scrap of paper:

WUStL photo


They have ‘posed’ the scrap on the page of Plutarch’s Lives which compares Marcellus and Pelopidas, but I don’t think what is written thereon has to do with them. Seems to be an awful lot of ‘corrections’ being listed and I can’t figure out that word before ‘bibliothekes’ …

6 thoughts on “Jefferson’s Books

  1. Diaphorai Graphai
    Eterai Diorthôseis
    Êmeterai Diorthôseis
    AB Autokrator –ks Bibliothêkês —- (Eng.?)
    PR. Pro hêmôn ekdoseis D diorthôseis
    AT. A. Amioton kai tên Amiotou metaphrasin

    Selis *page*
    Stoicheia. *line*

    1. “Autokratorikês Bibliothêkês”. I think the word in Roman letters is “Paris”. If so, that suggests it’s a book title (“[On the] imperial library”). I can’t locate a book of that title right now, though.

      I note that “autokratorikôs” appears in Plutarch’s Lives, specifically in Antonius 15.5, in a section that also mentions Antonius inheriting Caesar’s library (“ta biblia tou Kaisaros”). Coincidence? I wonder.

  2. @absconn … thanks for the gloss; G. Dachris writes in to the fourth line as ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΙΚΗΣ ΒΙΒΛΙΟΘΗΚΗΣ

    @zoilos … I found a similar phrase in the life of Aemilius Paulus

    Looking at the note, though, it almost looks like Jefferson is making notes in an apparatus criticus sort of way; he seems to be noting how many corrections there are in a particular line and has also made note of some abbreviations which he probably came across (perhaps there’s an ‘Imperial Library’ manuscript copy of Plutarch, e.g.) and the PR and AT A seem to be abbreviations for what follows as well.

  3. Looks to me as though he’s making notes _about_ an apparatus criticus. That is, this looks like a slip of paper that Jefferson kept in the book to refer to as he read so that he could decipher the abbreviations in his text of Plutarch. It almost certainly does belong with the Plutarch–note the reference to Αμιοτον. That’s our old friend Amyot. The αυτοκρ. βιβλ. is presumably the Imperial Library in Constantinople.

  4. Hi, I’m the classics librarian at Washington University. I haven’t been directly involved with the discovery, but I did have a chance to briefly examine the note and the volume it was in. My first thought was that Jefferson was noting variant readings in the edition he was using, but, in fact, I think he was using it as a key to the textual notes appended to the end of the text. (The notes about variants are keyed to “sellis” and “stoicheia.”) This still leaves some features of the note unexplained, and things don’t match up as I precisely as I would hope.
    AT. A. Amioton kai tên Amiotou metaphrasin refers to Amyot, the 16th century translator of Plutarch.
    Autokrator –ks Bibliothêkês Paris refers to the Bibliothèque nationale, which was refered to as the Imperial Library during much of the 19th century. There’s an important Plutarch mss. there.

  5. Ah, nice to know what the Imperial Library really is!

    But I wonder what doesn’t match up?

    Presumably we have a purely Greek edition where the notes use the following abbreviations:
    ΔΓ for manuscript variants (διαφοραι (sic) γραφαι)
    ΕΔ for other corrections
    ΗΔ for “our” corrections
    ΑΒ for the Bibl. nat. MS.
    ΠΡ for earlier editions
    Δ for corrections (in those editions?)
    ΑΤ for Amyot’s edition
    A for Amyot’s translation

    Is it the 1st ed. of Philimon & Koromilas?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s