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Like many eminent men of his time, Thomas Jefferson was in the habit of preserving every scrap of writing which came into his hands, and of keeping copies of all of his own letters. Consequently he left at his death a very great mass of letters and papers of priceless value for biographical and historical purposes, together with many which would not now be thought worth preserving. Subsequently the whole collection was roughly divided into two parts, one comprising documents mainly relating to his public life. and the other letters and papers mainly connected with his private and personal relations. By an Act of Congress, approved April 12, 1848, the first portion was acquired by the United States, and is now deposited in the State Department at Washington. The second portion. was presented to the Historical Society, in June, 1898, by Mr. Jefferson's great-grandson, Thomas

1 This is the first part of the Preface to the "Jefferson Papers" when they were originally issued in 1900 in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Seventh Series, Volume 1. The editorial footnotes throughout the "Jefferson Papers" were made by the editors who supervised the compiling of the volume for the Society-Charles Card Smith, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, and Archibald Cary Coolidge. It is due to their courtesy and the courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society that the letters written by Jefferson comprised in the "Jefferson Papers" are now published for the first time in any edition of Jefferson's writings.

Jefferson Coolidge; and it is from this latter portion of the Jefferson papers that the letters printed in this volume have been for the most part selected. Few of them are of a political character or deal with public affairs; but they very clearly illustrate many phases of Jefferson's character, and show the range and variety of his interests in his more private life.

The volume is almost equally divided between letters written by Jefferson himself and letters written to1 him by personal or political friends. It is not surprising, but is worthy of note, that in the original separation of the papers letters were not always placed in the division to which they would seem naturally to have belonged, and that a letter and its answer were not always kept together. The letters to Jefferson are all original autographs: the letters from him are, with the exception of a few where the Committee have had access to the letters actually sent and of a few rough draughts, either copies made in the ordinary way by pressure on moistened paper or copies made by a polygraph, or stylograph, as Jefferson sometimes called it. This instrument produced a perfect facsimile, indistinguishable from the original letter, and as it is no longer in use. and is not described in any of the cyclopædias examined by the Committee, it may

The letters written to Jefferson, with the exception of a letter from Lafayette, have not been reproduced, in connection with the "Jefferson Papers," presented in the following pages, as they are too numerous to include them all.

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be of interest to quote a description of one of two actually used by Jefferson, which is now in the Rouss Laboratory of the University of Virginia. The polygraph," writes Professor Francis H. Smith, of that institution, "is a very ingenious double writing-desk, with duplicate tables, pens, and inkstands. The pens are connected together at an invariable distance by a system of jointed parallelograms, with two fixed centres, such that the pens are always parallel. Whatever movement is impressed upon one is simultaneously by the connecting linkwork communicated to the other pen. Hence, if one traces on a sheet letters or figures, its companion traces at the same time identically the same forms on another sheet. The writer, therefore, produces two identical pages at the same time. He does it with sensibly no more fatigue than if he were using one pen only, for the weight of the pens and linkwork is supported by a strand of delicate spring wires from a silver arm extending from the frame of the box above, out of the way of the writer. By this polygraph the copy may be made on paper and with ink of the same kind as the original.'

Most of the letters are in excellent condition; but many of those which were copied by pressure on moistened paper are either wholly or in large part illegible, and a considerable number have been so mutilated by carelessness or accident as to render many portions of the letter unintelligible. Writing


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