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Scrapbooks show Jefferson was a voracious and sentimental clipper of newspapers

Staff report

Thomas Jefferson's scrapbook
Stephanie Gross
Thomas Jefferson probably put together this scrapbook, which is part of Alderman Library's special collections.

Scholars who have worked with old newspaper scrapbooks located in Alderman Library's special collections department and originally attributed to Thomas Jefferson and his family have reported the books were, in fact, assembled by Jefferson himself.

The commonplace books contain thousands of newspaper articles on a wide variety of subjects. They confirm the breadth of Jefferson's interests, from agriculture to politics, and also show a sentimental side to the University's founder in, for example, the number of poems he clipped and saved, according to Robert M.S. McDonald, a history professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who poured over the scrapbooks as a research fellow at Monticello last summer. The bulk of the articles, some with notes in Jefferson's handwriting, cover the years when he was president from 1801 to 1808.

The scrapbooks are spurring new efforts by researchers to identify dates and origins of some of the newspaper articles. They have been available for research since the library acquired them in 1952 and are listed in both the library catalog and in the index to the Jefferson papers. As with all of the rare and valuable materials found in special collections, the scrapbooks are available to anyone who visits.

Along with the scrapbooks, the library possesses a rich collection of Jefferson materials comprising some 3,650 items. Most are original documents or contemporary transcripts made by secretaries and family members. Of the total collection, 1,610 are written by Jefferson with the rest of the correspondence either to Jefferson or bearing a direct relationship to him. There are 80 architectural drawings by Jefferson, most relating to the building of the University. The library holds Jefferson's personal copy of the only book he wrote, Notes on the State of Virginia, in which he was constantly making edits and notes in the margins. A description of and a guide to the Jefferson holdings in special collections is available online at: http://www.lib. virginia.edu/speccol/tj/tjpapers.html.

The special collections department administers over 12 million manuscripts, 2.5 million items in the University archives, and 268,600 rare books, as well as approximately 3,500 maps, over 4,000 broadsides, more than 125,000 photographs and small prints, over 8,000 reels of microfilm, nearly 8,000 microfiche, and substantial holdings of audio recordings, motion picture films, and other paraphernalia.

Special collections archives, protects and makes available these rare materials for study. "Our responsibility is to make our collections available to scholars who then lend interpretation to the written matter," said Michael Plunkett, director of special collections.

Many scholars have accessed and studied the materials in special collections. Some have a clear idea of what they are looking for and thus what they will find, while others discover additional information they were not anticipating.

For more details about the special collection department, visit it on the second floor of Alderman Library, or visit its web site at: http://www.lib. virginia.edu/speccol/.


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