Reading and Writing at Poplar Forest

Research recently revealed that Jefferson kept nearly 1,000 books at Poplar Forest, hundreds more than previously thought. There were more than 330 titles and almost 1000 volumes in Jefferson’s Poplar Forest collection.

petit-format-books1.smallIn 1815 Jefferson sold his books at Monticello to Congress to start the nation’s library. He relied on his retreat library while he began rebuilding a collection at Monticello. Some of the books at Poplar Forest were “petit-format” editions, meaning they were small in size, allowing Jefferson to maintain a portable library away from home.

Analysis of the full array of book titles at Poplar Forest illustrates Jefferson’s intellectual preferences in retirement. He seemed to select titles for his retreat library that related more to personal rather than professional interests. For example, at Poplar Forest Jefferson kept more literary works, accounting for 36.3% of the Poplar Forest collection and only 9.7% of the titles in his Monticello library. By contrast, there were only 19 titles on politics (5.6% of the Poplar Forest library), compared to 22.1% of Jefferson’s original Monticello library.