Thomas Jefferson: First Edition of Notes on the State of Virginia (Edmund Randolph’s Copy, Signed and Annotated)
Winning Bid: $220,000
Thomas Jefferson: First Edition of Notes on the State of Virginia (Edmund Randolph's Copy, Signed and Annotated):
Rare book authored by Thomas Jefferson, owned and signed by fellow Virginian founding father Edmund Randolph: 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. Rare, privately printed first edition. [Paris: Philippe-Denis Pierres for the author,] 1782 [i.e., 1785]. Hardcover bound in brown calf, 5.25 x 8, 391 pages, bound with 32 pages of supplementary pamphlets (“Draught of a Fundamental Constitution for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” “Notes on the Establishment of a Money Unit, and of a Coinage for the United States,” and “An Act for establishing Religious Freedom, passed in the assembly of Virginia in the beginning of the year 1786”). Signed at the head of “Query I” by founding father Edmund Randolph, “Edm: Randolph,” who attended the Constitutional Convention as a delegate from Virginia and later served in George Washington’s cabinet. Randolph also adds his personal handwritten table of contents before the title page (including citations to “Slaves,” “Slavery,” “Indians,” and “Negroes”) and annotations in various places (mostly glosses; only one note is substantive, adding the “Osprey” to Jefferson’s list of birds).
On the rear flyleaf is an interesting, indignant Civil War-dated handwritten note by Randolph’s grand-niece, in full: “In 1864 Edmonia Preston, grand-daughter of the owner of this book, (Edmund Randolph the first Attorney-General and the second Secretary of State of the United States) being ‘Kindly permitted’ to purchase supplies for her destitute family, rode into Fredericsburg, clothed in a single garment made of an old quilt, because the soldiers of the United States had robbed her and her children of their clothing. K. P. Wormeley, great niece of Edmund Randolph.” Autographic condition: fine. Book condition: VG-/None, with professional mending to hinges and some pages, minor staining to textblock, rebacked spine and selectively consolidated leather, and the small bookplate of Thomas W. Streeter affixed to front pastedown. Accompanied by a custom-made clamshell case.
Notes on the State of Virginia emanated from Thomas Jefferson’s responses to questions about Virginia posed by François Barbé-Marbois, the secretary of the French delegation in Philadelphia. Jefferson divided his response into 23 “queries,” each discussing a different aspect of Virginia—offering a wide-ranging survey of the state, covering everything from its geography and climate to its commerce and manners. He first had the work printed anonymously in Paris in 1785, in a limited edition of just two hundred copies—this being one.
In a letter to James Madison of May 11, 1785, Jefferson wrote of the volume’s publication: ‘I had 200 copies printed, but do not put them out of my own hands, except two or three copies here, and two which I shall send to America, to yourself and Colo. Monroe.’ He asks for their opinions in confidence, fearing that some of the commentary ‘might be displeasing to the country.’ If Madison finds them offensive, Jefferson promises to ‘only send over a very few copies to particular friends in confidence and burn the rest.’ Randolph—a second cousin of Jefferson, and later his successor as United States Secretary of State—was evidently one of the later recipients of the volume.
In the influential work—the only full-length book that Jefferson published during his lifetime—the founding father expresses his beliefs in the separation of church and state, constitutional government, checks and balances, individual liberties, and the institution of slavery. The first edition of Notes on the State of Virginia is immensely desirable in its own right; that this example derives from the personal library of Edmund Randolph, and was sold in the famed ‘Streeter sale’ of the 1960s, heightens its rank amongst surviving copies.
Provenance: ex. Thomas W. Streeter, the foremost collector of Americana in the 20th century, whose collection was dispersed by Parke-Bernet Galleries (1967).