Jefferson's Construction

"I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other." —Thomas Jefferson, 1803

Title page in Jefferson's hand
Title page in Jefferson's hand

At seventy-seven years of age, Thomas Jefferson constructed his book by cutting excerpts from six printed volumes published in English, French, Latin, and Greek of the Gospels of the New Testament. He arranged them to tell a chronological and edited story of Jesus's life, parables, and moral teaching. Left behind in the source material were those elements that he could not support through reason or that he believed were later embellishments, such as the miracles and the Resurrection.

The act of cutting and rearranging passages from the New Testament to create something fresh was an ambitious, even audacious initiative, but not an act of disrespect. Through this distillation Jefferson sought to clarify Jesus's teachings, which he believed provided "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."

News

Opening in November Press Release

The Thomas Jefferson Bible goes on exhibit November 11, 2011 at the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery in the National Museum of American History

Continue reading...

Conservation Blog Post: Disbinding Blog Post

It is difficult to describe how one faces the prospect of taking apart a national treasure. Of course, in order to reach the level of craftsmanship required, there are years of education and practice required, but that doesn't begin to fully describe it.

Continue reading...

History

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
"I am of a sect by myself, as far
as I know." — Thomas Jefferson, 1819

Conservation

Separating pages
Removing the stubs
Resewing

Purchase a Copy

The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition, is a full-color facsimile created from high-resolution digital photographs of recently conserved and rebound pages.

Continue reading...