Legal History

Digital collection of Jefferson's books may reveal his ideals about legal education

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Thomas Jefferson/

Digital versions of Thomas Jefferson’s collection of law books will soon be available online for free nearly 200 years after he founded the University of Virginia.

The collection, referred to as the 1828 Catalogue, reflects the year a university librarian assembled a book inventory, according to the law school’s special collections website.

Currently, the library has 326 of the 375 books in the collection, and some volumes were published as early as the 1500s, law school library director Taylor Fitchett told UVA Today.

Students, supervised by a digital collections librarian and a postdoctoral fellow, will scan and digitize the books. A graduate student also will examine how Jefferson, who founded the school in 1819, selected the books to tie in with his ideas about citizenship and legal education.

The passage of time and an 1895 fire at the law library destroyed some of the original books. Jefferson’s personal library, which he sold to Congress after its collection was destroyed by the British during the War of 1812, is also being assembled by the Library of Congress.

“We hope to collaborate with other libraries to digitize as many of the remaining titles as possible in order to build a complete digital collection,” Fitchett told UVA Today.

A grant of $29,419 for the project came from the Jefferson Trust, funded by the University of Virginia Alumni Association.

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