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About the Papers of Thomas Jefferson

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson is the definitive edition of the papers of the author of the Declaration of Independence, our nation’s third president. Begun in 1943 as the first modern historical documentary edition, the project includes not only the letters Jefferson wrote but also those he received. Julian P. Boyd, librarian, scholar of the Declaration of Independence, and first editor, designed an edition that would provide accurate texts with accompanying historical context. With the publication of the first volume in 1950 and the first volume of the Retirement Series in 2004, these volumes print, summarize, note, or otherwise account for virtually every document Jefferson wrote and received. Today, the project continues publishing at least two volumes a year under the leadership of James P. McClure at Princeton University and J. Jefferson Looney at the Jefferson Retirement Series at Monticello. A team of historians at each location transcribes, verifies, annotates, and indexes documents copied from over nine hundred repositories and collections worldwide, maintaining the high standards crafted by Boyd. To reach a modern audience, the edition also incorporates new technologies including XML software, content management systems, databases, and websites for both the main series and the Retirement Series.

The Jefferson Papers is a successful private/public partnership. The benefactions of several foundations and dedicated individuals have sustained the enterprise in the years since its inception. The Jefferson Papers at Princeton received its initial funding from the New York Times; recently, significant investments have been made by the Packard Humanities Institute, the Lenfest Foundation, the New York Times Company Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, amplifying funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Retirement Series, sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and located at Monticello, began with a generous grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, and has been supported by leading gifts from Richard Gilder, Mrs. Martin S. Davis, and Thomas A. Saunders III.

The Jefferson Papers is well poised to complete the written legacy of the Jefferson corpus by the bicentennial of Jefferson’s death in 2026. In cooperation with its publisher, Princeton University Press, these volumes provide the foundation of the Jefferson electronic edition, now sponsored by the University of Virginia Press and appearing through Founders Online.

See a complete list of Jefferson Papers volumes included in Founders Online, with links to the documents.

The letterpress edition of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson is available from Princeton University Press.

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