Massachusetts Historical Society
Thomas Jefferson Papers: an electronic archive

Thomas Jefferson
Garden Book, [manuscript], 1766-1824
From the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

Summary description

This manuscript volume, Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book, forms part of the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts. In the Garden Book, Jefferson kept records of his gardens at Monticello and Shadwell. The volume contains information about the varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers and trees planted, sowing locations, harvesting dates, and notations about weather conditions. The volume spans the years 1766 to 1824; the entries for the first three years (1766-1768) primarily relate to gardening activities at Shadwell, the home Jefferson inherited from his parents. The entries dating from 1769 to 1824 describe gardening activities at Monticello, the property that became Jefferson's primary home after Shadwell burned in February 1770. Because Jefferson was away from Monticello, the Garden Book does not contain entries for the years 1784 to 1789; there is also a gap between 1795 and 1801, and there are no entries for several other years.

The Garden Book contains two types of entries. The entries for the years 1766 to 1806 consist of brief notations arranged by date. The records for 1809 to 1824 include both notations arranged by date and tables (Jefferson called them "Kalendars") with columns in which he listed the vegetables in his garden, where they were planted, when the seeds were sowed, when the ripe vegetables "came to table" (were harvested), and other observations.

Physical description of the manuscript volume

The Garden Book is a bound volume of 66 pages of manuscript text, followed by 248 blank pages. Pages 33-34 and 37-38 are missing. It does not have a formal title page, and each page measures approximately 6 1/4 X 7 3/4 inches.

In 2000, the volume was disbound by the Massachusetts Historical Society conservation staff. Individual pages were cleaned, deacidified, and repaired and reinforced with Japanese tissue paper and wheat paste. The conservator added hinges along the spine for the eventual rebinding of the volume. Digitization project staff scanned the pages and then a conservation bookbinder rebound the volume.

About the transcription

The electronic version of the text of Jefferson's Garden Book featured on Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive was derived from The Garden and Farm Books of Thomas Jefferson, Robert C. Baron, ed. (Golden, Colo., 1987) with the permission of Fulcrum Publishing.

Fulcrum Publishing, based in Colorado, publishes non-fiction books about gardening, travel, Native American culture, conservation and the environment, and the American West. The published transcription of Jefferson's Garden Book can be ordered online, The Garden and Farm Books of Thomas Jefferson, Robert C. Baron, ed.

Use of the images

Permission to reproduce images of manuscripts and/or publish transcriptions of collections must be obtained in writing from the Massachusetts Historical Society. Please forward requests to the Reference Librarian, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215, or send an email message to: library@masshist.org.


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