Notes of the State of Virginia.

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever": First American edition of Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia

Notes of the State of Virginia.


Item Number: 109291

Philadelphia: Printed & Sold by Pritchard & Hall, 1788.

Rare first American edition of the most important American book published before 1800 and the only full-length book published by Thomas Jefferson during his lifetime. Octavo, bound in full contemporary sheep with burgundy morocco spine label lettered in gilt. In very good condition.

Widely considered the most important book published in America before 1800, Notes on the State of Virginia is both a compilation of data by Jefferson about the state's natural resources and economy, and his vigorous argument about the nature of the good society, which he believed was incarnated by Virginia. He expressed his beliefs in the separation of church and state, constitutional government, checks and balances, and individual liberty and wrote extensively about slavery, the problems of miscegenation, a justification of white supremacy, and his belief that whites and blacks could not live together in a free society. Jefferson initially had only 200 copies of Notes of the State of Virginia printed in Paris and published anonymously for private distribution, but due to high demand, it was soon reproduced in various inferior and inaccurately pirated editions. He was soon forced to release authorized editions in French and English in 1786 and 1787, respectively, and the present edition in 1788 which was preceded by the first English edition printed in London. "During his long and productive life Thomas Jefferson wrote and published only one full-length book. ... Though he gave it a misleadingly modest title and was originally reluctant to publish it at all, the Notes on Viriginia was eventually accepted as an important contribution to American letters and science, and it is recognized today as the best single statement of Jefferson's principles, the best reflection of his wide-ranging tastes and talents. It is, in short, an American classic" (Peden, p. v).

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