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Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson

A tri-corner hat tip to Thomas Jefferson on his birthday today, April 13.

In honor of TJ’s 269th, here is an item about a project at his favorite school, the University of Virginia.

(Note: That would NOT be the College of William & Mary, of which he was an alumnus. He referred to Williamsburg as “Devilsburg.” Ask any undergraduate around exam time and you’ll get a nod of agreement.)

Law school librarians at UVa have been working for 40 years on a project to reconstruct a collection of law books selected by Jefferson himself, according to the Associated Press.

In 1828, a librarian at the school had the foresight to compile the titles of 375 law books, relying on a manuscript prepared by Jefferson. Unfortunately, due to a fire at UVa in 1895, many of Jefferson’s books were destroyed.

The librarian’s list survived, and it is kept in the law library’s rare book room.

Book by book, UVa library officials have been obtaining the books, and 317 are on grounds at the law school. They are searching for the other 58, some of which date back to the 1500s.

The most recent acquisition was made last October, when a San Francisco-based dealer located a title worth $750.

[Note: Image borrowed from UVa — the school’s alumni association is serving free birthday cake on the lawn at UVa today from 11:30 to 1:00 to honor TJ.]

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