Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Sully
Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Sully, 1856 copy by Sully, after his original life portrait, 1821; Extract of Thomas Jefferson to Angelica Schuyler Church, 8 Sept. 1795. Image courtesy of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters is a growing, online companion to the volumes of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series and is edited by the staff of that project. The content presented as part of this collection includes full, searchable transcriptions of a rich body of correspondence to and among members of Jefferson’s immediate and extended family; documents on the early years of the University of Virginia; material relating to Jefferson’s death; and an extensive, searchable, and fully verified collection of quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson. This scholarly enterprise is sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and housed at the Foundation’s Jefferson Library under the auspices of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies.

The Retirement Series is creating the definitive edition of Thomas Jefferson’s letters and papers covering the period from 1809 to 1826 in both letterpress and digital form. Jefferson’s retirement is the least studied and yet one of the most fascinating periods of his life. During these years, spent primarily at Monticello, he founded the University of Virginia, and in selling his own unrivaled book collection, he began the transformation of the Library of Congress into a great cultural institution. But he also had time to ponder and distill his final word on the multiplicity of topics that interested him, with his extensive, thought-provoking exchanges with John Adams being only one of the richer examples. Highlights of the Retirement Series portion of the project include:

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  • The Retirement Series has published eighteen volumes (through 2022), containing more than 10,000 accurately transcribed and annotated documents. A new volume comes out every year, and the anticipated completion date for the final volume of the series is 2028.
  • Two-thirds of the documents written by Jefferson are being published for the first time, and the figure for letters he received is even higher.
  • This work is already transforming Jefferson studies. The publication of each volume will inevitably inspire new and path-breaking scholarship.
  • Two digital versions of the first volumes of the Retirement Series greatly aid the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s long-term goal of bringing Jefferson’s ideas to the widest possible national and international audience. A subscription edition released by the University of Virginia Press contains links from the index, while a freely accessible version with less robust searching tools has been issued in collaboration with the National Archives. New volumes are added on a regular basis, and both versions are part of a larger platform containing hundreds of thousands of documents from the American founding era.

The documents printed in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series reproduce original spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Annotation accounts for the location of each known text, describes significant additions and deletions, gives the relationship between documents for which more than one text survives, explains obscure terms and events, and briefly identifies correspondents. A full index is also included at the end of each volume, and a cumulative index is available here.