JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826); Library of - James A. ROSS (1744-1827)
Graecae Grammaticae Westmonasteriensis Institutio Compendiaria In usum juventutis civitatibus Americanis Studiosae ... Editio Secunda
Philadelphia: William Fry, 1817. 12mo. viii, 100pp.
Contemporary speckled calf, flat spine ruled in gilt (joints cracked but holding). Housed in a morocco backed cloth box.
Provenance: Thomas Jefferson (presentation inscription from the author, initialled ownership mark on page 97); Jefferson estate (sale, Poor, 27 February 1829, lot 840); Rapin E. Smith (booklabel); Charles Francis Jenkins (bookplate)
Thomas Jefferson's copy of an important American Greek grammar: "...to read Latin & Greek authors in their original is a sublime luxury" -- Thomas Jefferson.
By the end of the 18th century, Thomas Jefferson held the largest private library in America. In 1783, his library at Monticello included 2,640 volumes. Over the next thirty years, the collection swelled to over 6,000. In 1815, Jefferson's library was sold en bloc to the Library of Congress to replace their collection lost during the War of 1812 when the British burned the Capitol. The bulk of that collection was destroyed, again by fire, on Christmas eve 1851. Jefferson would build another library between 1815 and his death in 1826, which was dispersed at auction in 1829 by Nathaniel Poor. The present volume derives from Jefferson's final library and is inscribed to Jefferson on the blank leaf facing the title. In a bold hand, Ross has written: "The Honble. Tho. Jefferson respectfully from James Ross." In addition, the volume bears Jefferson's "secret" ownership mark on page 97, being his initial T. preceding signature mark I. The volume further appeared in the 1929 Poor sale of the books from his estate, described in the catalogue as "Poor's Westminster Greek Grammar 12mo" -- the volume bears the wax pencil lot number 840 on the front pastedown. The study of the classics, particularly in their original Latin and Greek, constituted an important part of Jefferson's education, and their study was actively promoted by Jefferson throughout his life. He would write that the classical languages "constitute the basis of good education, and are indispensable to fill up the character of a 'well-educated man'" and the study of classics, particularly in their original languages, would become an important element of the original curriculum at the University of Virginia. Jefferson would read Latin and Greek nearly every day of his adult life and once wrote that he thanked God on his knees for the teacher who had given him such a source of sublime pleasure. The author of this grammar, James Ross, studied at Princeton and would become the first professor of languages at the new Dickinson College. In 1794, he would establish Franklin School, a "classical school" in Chambersburg and would later serve as professor of languages at Franklin College (i.e. the pre-cursor to Franklin & Marshall). His magnum opus was a Latin grammar first published in 1798. The present work -- a Greek grammar with explanatory text in Latin -- would first be published in 1813, prescribed for use at Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere. In his prefatory testimonial to this second edition, Princeton professor of languages Philip Lindsley notes that the first printing of Ross's grammar had been quickly exhausted.
Cf. Sowerby, Library of Thomas Jefferson 4786 (for Jefferson's copy of Ross's Latin grammar).