JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826)
Notes on the state of Virginia
London: printed for John Stockdale, 1787. 8vo. (8 3/8 x 5 1/8 inches). 1 engraved folding map, hand-coloured in outline, 1 folding letterpress table.
Contemporary calf gilt, the covers with neat restoration to the corners and edges, expertly rebacked to style with the flat spine divided into six compartments by double gilt fillets, red morocco label in the second compartment, modern morocco-backed slipcase
Provenance: Francis Maseres, 1731-1824 (signature)
The first English edition of Jefferson's famous work. This is the only book-length work by Jefferson to be published in his lifetime, and has been called "one of America's first permanent literary and intellectual landmarks."
Jefferson's greatest work was largely written in 1781 and first published in Paris in 1785. Written in the form of answers to questions about Virginia, the book supplies a description of the geography, with an abundance of supporting material and unusual information. As J.M. Edelstein notes: "Jefferson wrote about things which interested him deeply and about which he knew a great deal; the Notes , therefore, throws a fascinating light on his tastes, curiosities, and political and social opinions." The handsome map which accompanies this edition (but is often lacking), based on the Fry and (Peter) Jefferson map, was not issued with the Paris editions. The story of the creation of this book and its publishing history is an interesting one and is described in full by Millicent Sowerby in her catalogue of Jefferson's library, where it occupies some thirty pages in small type.
This copy bears the contemporary ownership signature of Francis Maseres on the front free endpaper. Maseres (1731-1824) was a longtime Baron of the Exchequer, and a noted jurist and mathematician. He was attorney-general of Quebec in the late 1760s and wrote frequently on issues concerning British colonies in North America, and on the rights of British subjects in the colonies. A fine association copy.
Adams The Eye of Thomas Jefferson 57; Clark I:262; Howes J78; Sabin 35895; cf. Sowerby IV, pp.301-30; Vail 760.