Conservation of Jefferson’s Bible

Posted in books, the 18th century in the news by Editor on March 19, 2011

Press release (11 March 2011), from the National Museum of American Art:

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is currently performing a specialized conservation treatment to ensure the long-term preservation of Thomas Jefferson’s bible, a small handmade book that provides an intimate view of Jefferson’s private religious and moral philosophy.

At age 77 and living at Monticello in retirement following his two terms as President, Jefferson completed a project he had long planned and long discussed with others. In 1820 he assembled what he titled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Using excerpts from the Four Gospels of the New Testament, Jefferson
arranged the text to tell a chronological and edited story of Jesus’
life and moral philosophy.

“The volume provides an exclusive insight to the religious and moral beliefs of the writer of the Declaration of Independence, the nation’s third President, as well as his position as an important thinker in the Age of Enlightenment,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “The treatment will ensure that generations to come will be able to study and view this tangible witness to history.”

Professionally bound in rich Morocco leather with gold tooling, this volume (86 pages; 8.25 inches by 5 inches) was not printed but rather constructed more like a “scrapbook.” Jefferson clipped
various passages from printed New Testaments in English, French,
Greek and Latin and glued them onto the front and back of blank
pages in four columns to allow for immediate comparison. On
those pages, Jefferson wanted to clarify and distill Jesus’ teachings. (more…)