Thursday, June 13, 2013

Free website provides access to digitized papers of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison

Today the University of Virginia Press is launching “Founders Online,” a website offering free access to the papers of six of the most important figures from America’s founding era: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton (right), and James Madison. Two of those personages have direct links to the Charlottesville, VA region. Jefferson, of course, is the founder of the University, and both it and his nearby residence, Monticello, are UNESCO world heritage sites. Madison's house is a ways up the road north in historic Orange County. Both the papers of Washington and those of Madison are housed at the University.
Franklin, Washington, Madison, Adams
The Rotunda at UVA, designed by Jefferson
 The site, developed by the press’ electronic imprint, Rotunda, is being launched today at a ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Here's how the University's press release describes the project:
For the past 50 years, the National Archives, through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, has invested in documentary editions of the original historical records of the founding era. These projects, led by dedicated historians and expert editors, draw from archives across the country and around the world. The editors have collected copies of the original 18th- and 19th-century documents, transcribed and annotated them, and produced hundreds of individual print volumes.
In February 2008, inspired by the Capitol Hill testimony of historians, including David McCullough and others, Congress directed the U.S. archivist to expedite public access to these founding documents through online publication. In 2010, it provided funding to the commission to make the project possible.
Founders Online will include thousands of documents, replicating the contents of 242 volumes drawn from the published print editions. As each new print volume is completed, it will be added to the database..... Students and others will be able to view transcribed, unpublished letters as they are being researched and annotated by the documentary project editors and staff. Together, some 175,000 documents are projected to be on the Founders Online site.
This video also gives an overview. Let us know if you turn up anything interesting! If there's one thing we know about Daedalus customers, it's that a goodly percentage of you are history buffs. So here are some of our books relating to the FFs you might want to know about.
We have John Ferling's biography of John Adams from Oxford in both paper and hardback; more than a dozen intriguing books on George Washington—as sage, political genius, symbol, mason and more; The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture; Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson; A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution; Historic Houses of Virginia: Great Plantation Houses, Mansions, and Country Places; and Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism.
This is a new arrival that looks particularly interesting.


  1. Glanced over the Founders Online site, and read a letter from John Adams to Abigail while they were a-courtin'. He called her Diana (the goddess) and signed himself Philander.
    It's pleasant to see this side of our very serious Founding Fathers. I shall take a look now and then, as time permits.

  2. I find myself always curious about John Adams, he seemed to be much the serious earnest man. Definitely going to check out the papers to get a glimpse at his lighter side.

  3. Let us know if you turn up anything interesting!

    Here's a remarkable letter from 1771, Thomas Jefferson describing what books he would recommend for someone's personal library. Hard to believe any politician today would have a fraction of this breadth of literary acumen.

    Jefferson himself, in 1814, owned at least three times as many books as the Library of Congress!

    1. Fascinating! And how many of the list have you read? ;-)
      Nice to know he thinks "the entertainments of fiction are useful as well as pleasant", and he includes Don Quixote and "Tristam Shandy" among his suggestions.
      Epictetus seems to be popular among our Founding Fathers--John Adams suggested that Abigail read the Stoic philosopher too.
      In fact, the mind of the ancient Greeks seems to have influenced them all the profit of the Nation, thankfully.

    2. I guess it's fitting that TJ's books ended up as the nucleus of the LOC.

    3. Thanks for the fruitful digging, RPS!

    4. How much would such a collection cost today? Using current editions, that is.

  4. For people who sell& read books, you should make sure that what you publish is easy to read.
    Nothing is easier to read than black on white. Yet, you allow so-called "designers" to make this and your catalogs difficult to read. Grey typefaces, light yellow, orange, and that dreaded
    "Internet Blue" to obfuscate your message. Ask your "designers" the name of the last book they read. In 40 years of advertising I seldom met an artist who read books.
    William Mathis