“I cannot live without books.” To Thomas Jefferson, reading was more than a hobby; it was his investment to the future, one of his loves in life. He enjoyed the classical epics and poems as well as reading the new mathematical and scientific happenings and the philosophies of ancient and modern thinkers. The Virginia native lived in a world of literature, one in which he laid a great deal of importance upon the thousands of volumes that he collected over the years. Jefferson recorded that in 1815, he held over 6,700 volumes, close to twice the size of other notable Founding Fathers’ libraries.
Within this vast library, he included numerous books on most subjects available to him, including the works of classical authors from the ancient Mediterranean. Thomas Jefferson’s library was exceptional, largely due to its all-encompassing nature. In many ways, his collection was beyond anything that would have been found in a single library, contemporary or ancient, and even beyond numerous collections combined. By looking into this collection, we can see evidence of his commitment to classical texts, his ongoing education, his own personal beliefs and ideals, and his organization of knowledge, physically on the shelves as well as in his written catalog.
Johnathon Hilliard, ’18