Notes on the State of Virginia; written in the year 1781, somewhat corrected and enlarged in the winter of 1782, for the use of a foreigner of distinction, in answer to certain queries proposed by him.[Paris]: [For the author by Philippe-Denis Pierres], 1785.
Jefferson wrote Notes on the State of Virginia in response to a series of questions sent in 1781 to various members of the Continental Congress by François Barbé-Marbois, then secretary to the French legation at Philadelphia. Joseph Jones forwarded the questionnaire received by the Virginia delegation to Jefferson, who was then completing his term as Governor of Virginia.
By the time the book was first published Jefferson was serving as U.S. trade representative in Paris, having been sent there in 1784. Jefferson issued the first edition of this work privately, and anonymously, in Paris in 1785, in an edition limited to 200 copies. The first edition begins with an unconventional first page that combines a statement of the title with a table of contents, and no place, publisher or publication date specified. A conventionally printed French translation by the Abbé André Morellet appeared in 1786. The first conventionally published English-language edition was issued by John Stockdale in London in 1787. In her catalogue of The Library of Thomas Jefferson Sowerby devoted 30 pages to her description and annotations of this work (Vol. 4, no. 4167; pp. 301-330).
Jefferson divided the text into 23 chapters called "Queries," each describing a different aspect of the state of Virginia. They are:
When I wrote this entry in January 2020 I did not find a digital facsimile of the first edition online; however the Massachusetts Historical Society preserves and has digitized Jefferson's autograph manuscript for the work. It is available from masshist.org at this link.
Subjects: ANTHROPOLOGY, NATURAL HISTORY, U.S.: CONTENT OF PUBLICATIONS BY STATE & TERRITORY › Virginia
Catalogue of the library of Thomas Jefferson. Compiled with annotations by E. Millicent Sowerby. 5 vols.Washington, DC: U.S. Library of Congress, 1952 – 1959.
This fully annotated catalogue of nearly 5000 items from the library of the U.S. President, while unillustrated, is perhaps the finest and most detailed annotated bibliographical catalogue of the library of any scientist. It appears to be exhaustive in all details regarding each work in Jefferson's library. Sowerby was hired in 1942 by the Library of Congress to prepare a fully annotated catalogue of the books that Jefferson sold to the U.S. government in 1815. Because of the complexity of the task the first volume did not appear until 1952. Prior to the Jefferson project Sowerby had an extensive career as a rare book cataloguer:
After graduating from Girton College, Cambridge, Sowerby worked in London as a cataloger for rare book dealer Wilfrid Michael Voynich, and then briefly as a librarian at Birkbeck College before serving as a counterintelligence agent in Paris during World War I. Upon her return to England in 1916, Sowerby worked as a cataloger at Sotheby's, the first woman in the 'expert' workforce of an auction house. She moved to the United States in 1923, finding employment as a cataloger with the American Art Association and then at the New York Public Library (until January 1925).In March 1925, she became a bibliographer for A. S. W. Rosenbach in Philadelphia and New York City where she was employed until February 1942.
Reprinted by the University of Virginia Press with a new Foreward, 1983.
Subjects: BIBLIOGRAPHY › Catalogues of Physicians' / Scientists' Libraries, WOMEN, Publications by › Years 1900 - 1999