George Santayana's Essay on Lucretius (1910)

  • 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...

    But I realize this doesn't answer our question. The only thing this does is tell us when they seem to have been collected and disseminated in a "modern" context. Still looking...

  • Why am I thinking that I remember somewhere that when Jefferson died he was in terrible financial condition, so perhaps his papers were auctioned off pretty early and therefore might also have been published fairly early too..... But I haven't had a chance to look into it yet either. Probably one of these editions has an introduction that explains the history.

  • Okay, this may be significant from Wikipedia:


    The [Papers of Thomas Jefferson] grew out of a plan developed in 1943 by Julian P. Boyd, the chief librarian of Princeton University, a scholar of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, and the historian of the Thomas Jefferson Bicentennial Commission. The Commission tasked Boyd with studying whether or not a comprehensive collection of Jefferson's papers would be feasible. Prior to this less than 20% of Jefferson's papers had been published in any format and what had been published had been highly selective and thinly or poorly annotated.

    So that begins to address collections of his papers.

    This from Monticello also leads me to believe the private letters written in retirement were not in wide circulation.


    Two-thirds of the documents written by Jefferson are being published for the first time [in 2004], and the figure for letters he received is even higher.

    And this additional info from Monticello summarizes the editions of Jefferson's writings back to the early 1800s.

    And finally, it looks like the 1819 Epicureanism letter to short was published in 1905:

    Text: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (ed. A. A. Lipscome and A. E. Bergh) Volume XV (Washington DC: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association 1905) pp. 219-224. (See footnote here.)

  • You are correct about his penury, Cassius—I recently read a book called Measuring America in which Jefferson figured prominently—but it was his personal library that he sold to Congress. The British had just burned the capital in the War of 1812, including the Library of Congress, and Jefferson's private collection was the largest in North America. It seemed like a perfect match—except that many in Congress grumbled at the deal, complaining that many of Jefferson's books were far too irreligious, far too politically radical (he was highly sympathetic to the bloodsoaked revolution in France), and far too unreadable; a high percentage of them were not in English. :D In fact, at least five of these books were copies of Lucretius, in Latin.

    I don't think his letters would have been included in this sale, however.

  • Joshua is absolutely right. It was just Jefferson's library that he offered for sale to Congress. Here's an online exhibit about that process from the Library of Congress site.

    I also added some edits with more info about his papers and letters in my previous post above.

    As a side note: The Library of Congress is one of my favorite places in DC. The history, the architecture, the collections! If you've never been there - and IF we ever get to travel again - you owe it to yourself to visit if you're in DC. And the bar to get a Reader's Card is low, and that gets you into the actual Reading Room and collections.

  • I wonder if it is possible that the jefferson-adams letters were published earlier. Although not as explicit as the William Short letter, there is some very Epicurean material in those, particularly these two:

    Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, July 5, 1814 Here Jefferson denounces Plato (labeling The Republic as full of “whimsies, puerilities, and unintelligible jargon”) and stating of the Platonisms grafted into Christian theology that “nonsense can never be explained.”

    Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 15, 1820 Here Jefferson complains to Adams about Christian theology and states that “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise.”

  • Cassius I think you are remembering when I teasingly said Nietzsche was being "emo"-- which is not just emotive but over the top weepy and introspective pop music. And somebody got mad at me for being disrespectful to Nietzsche. Lol!