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Bookcase for Petit-Format Books

Artist/Maker: Unspecified

Created: c. 1810

Origin/Purchase: Monticello Joiner's Shop

Materials: mahogany; southern pine

Dimensions: 64.3 × 76.5 × 13.3 (25 5/16 × 30 1/8 × 5 1/4 in.)

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Francis Eppes(?); by purchase to David Francis in 1827; by descent to D.G. Francis; by purchase to Barclay Dunham; by purchase to Mrs. W.H. Burr; by purchase to Mrs. Glen Wright; by purchase to Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Millikan; by purchase to Mr. and Mrs. O. Hakola; by purchase to Winterthur Museum in 1967

Historical Notes: This wall-mounted bookcase with four shelves for petit-format books may have been one of several bookcases made at the Monticello joinery for Poplar Forest.

In the drawing-room there was what Mr. Jefferson called his petit-format library, contained in four cases, each of which was perhaps between three and four feet in width and height. The books, to economize space, were generally of the smallest sized editions published. ... It contained upwards of one hundred volumes of British, a considerable collection of Italian and French, and a few favorite Greek and Latin poets, and a larger number of prose writers of the same languages—all, it is unnecessary to say, in the original.1

Three of the four bookcases were put up for sale with the books from the Poplar Forest library in 1873. Included were ninety-eight petit-format books with the description "Principally from the press of Wetstein, Elzevir, and Jansonii."2 The bookcase in the collection of the Winterthur Museum has a tradition of Jefferson ownership, "to hold his choice little collection of Elzevirs and Aldines (small pocket-size books)."3

The attribution to the Monticello joinery is based upon the detailed molding on the three bookshelves, which is identical to the seed press, another joinery-made piece, and the mullions, which are similar to Septimia Randolph's cabinet.

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 297

Further Sources

  • 1. Randall, Life, 3:344-45.
  • 2. S. Allen Chambers to Ann Lucas, September 8, 1991.
  • 3. Object Folder, Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware.
Filed In: 
Books, Furniture


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