>Can you imagine finding a lost work in your college, public or documentary library?
Dozens of Thomas Jefferson’s books, some including handwritten notes from the nation’s third president, have been found in the rare books collection at Washington University in St. Louis.
Now, historians are poring through the 69 newly discovered books and five others the school already knew about, and librarians are searching the collection for more volumes that may have belonged to the foundingfather
Even if no other Jefferson-owned books are found, the school’s collection of 74 books is the third largest in the nation after the Library of Congress and the University of Virginia.
“It is so out of the blue and pretty amazing,” said Washington
University’s rare books curator Erin Davis of the discovery that was announced on President’s Day.
The books were among about 3,000 that were donated to the school in 1880 after the death of Jefferson’s granddaughter, Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge, and her husband, Joseph Coolidge.
There was no indication at the time that any of them had belonged to Jefferson. But it turns out that 2 1/2 years after Jefferson’s 1826 death, his library of 1,600 books was sold to settle debts. Ellen Coolidge’s grandfather helped oversee her schooling when she lived at his mountaintop estate at Monticello when she was a teenager and young adult.
She was eager to acquire some of her grandfather’s books, and her husband wrote her brother-in-law, Nicholas Trist, and told him what they wanted him to buy them at the auction. They were particularly interested in books that contained Jefferson’s notes or other marks.