Among a pile of old and donated books to the Oberndorf Central Library in Virginia Beach was a notable and dusty copy of a rare work from Thomas Jefferson himself.
The book, entitled “Reports of Cases: Determined in the General Court of Virginia” was published posthumously after Jefferson’s death, but nevertheless remained an exceptional collection. From Stacy Parker over at The Virginian-Pilot:
Endrina Tay, director and researcher at Jefferson Library, was aware the book existed and had access to a reprint.
“We’ve never had an opportunity to acquire an 1829 edition,” Tay said. “This publication is essentially a first edition of one of Thomas Jefferson’s little known works.”
She was able to determine that 82 copies exist in law and academic libraries in the world, which makes the book “relatively rare,” she said.
Jefferson was known to be a meticulous record keeper. He kept detailed notes of the temperature outside, food in the farm markets and plantings in his garden, Tay said.
He wrote the court case book when he was a young lawyer, extracting details from decisions made in Colonial Virginia courts that would be used as legal precedence in the future.
“It was his way of documenting history,” Tay said.
Bob Gilson, a volunteer in Virginia Beach who discovered the rare tome, was delighted at the find:
Gilson mentioned the book to a friend who contacted the Jefferson Library at Monticello in Charlottesville. The library provides access to and preserves research and archival resources related to Thomas Jefferson’s life and legacy.
“We’ve had some other valuable books come in over the years, but $9,800 is a gem,” Gilson said.
The book — originally hand published in by a small printer in Charlottesville — will be donated to Monticello at a small reception in Virginia Beach, filling in what was previously a missing part of Virginia history and Jefferson’s own contributions to Virginia’s early legal history pertaining to property law (including slavery).