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THE so-called Jefferson Bible, more accurately “ The Life and Morals of Jesus of
Nazareth,” is now the property of the United States National Museum at Washington, having been obtained by purchase in 1895. The following is a description of the volume:
Measurements: Height, 874 inches; width, 48 inches; thicknessat back, 1/4 inches; in middle, 158 inches; at edge points, i inch.
Binding: Full red leather with gilt tooling. The back divided in five (5) panels; in second (2d) panel from top title in gold: “Morals of Jesus.”
The margin of the covers of all four sides on the outside, and on the three outer ones on the inside, as well as on the edges, are tooled in gold. Inside of the upper cover is on the left side top a label containing the words: “Bound by Fred A. Mayo, Richmond, Va.”
The cover inside as well as the fly-leaves are covered with gray paper in marble designs.
Order: Upper cover; two (2) manuscript leaves in the handwriting of Jefferson, containing on the first two and a half pages the table of texts; the rest is blank; fly-leaf; three (3) blank leaves; title
page in manuscript in Jefferson's handwriting, reading :
LIFE AND MORALS
JESUS OF NAZARETH
FROM THE GOSPELS
folded printed maps of Palestine and Asia Minor, taken out from a book; that of Palestine has on top in print: “page 1,” and that of Asia Minor “page 414;” blank page excepting for a black line in its middle, running from top to bottom. Then come, on numbered leaves, beginning on the left side of the first (the reverse of the page just described), and closing on the right side of the last, the extracts arranged in two columns, separated by a black line, on each page, in the following order: On the left hand page Greek and Latin, on the right, French and English. The sources are indicated in the margin in Jefferson's handwriting. The numbers of the leaves, which run from 1 to 83, are on the left side top of the left hand pages. Leaf 83 has extracts on the right hand page, the left hand page has only the black line; it is followed by three (3) other blank leaves, the first of which has the black line on both sides; then come the Aly-leaf and the cover. Between each of the
leaves, with the exception of the blank ones, there are alternately one and two narrow strips of paper bound in.
That Jefferson had in mind the preparation of such a book, and that he actually prepared it, has been known to students of his letters and writings, and especial attention was drawn to the fact in “ The Life and Times of Thomas Jefferson," by Henry S. Randall, published in three volumes, New York, 1858.
It was, moreover, brought to the attention of the Government very definitely in the form of a report, Fifty-first Congress, First Session, Senate Report 1365, presented June 14, 1890, by Senator Evarts of the Committee on Library, and ordered printed. This report was with reference to a bill relative to the proposed purchase of the manuscript papers and correspondence of Thomas Jefferson, which does not appear to have been followed by favorable action. In it the following description is given of the book in question, which was written by Mr. Ainsworth R. Spofford, then Librarian of Congress:
“The Morals and Life of Jesus of Nazareth, extracted textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French and English. Title and very full index in his own hand. Texts were cut by him out of printed copies of Greek, Latin, French and English Testaments and pasted in this book of blank pages, which was handsomely bound in red morocco, ornamented in gilt, and titled on the back in gilt letters, ‘The Morals of Jesus. His original idea was to have the life and teachings of the Saviour, told in similar excerpts, prepared for the Indians, thinking this simple form would suit them best. But, abandoning this, the formal execution of his plan took the shape above described, which was for his individual use. He used the four languages that he might have the texts in them side by side, convenient for comparison. In the book he pasted a map of the ancient world and the Holy Land, with which he studied the New Testament.”
In 1886 I was engaged, when a fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, in cataloguing a small but very valuable Hebrew library gathered together by Dr. Joshua I. Cohen. Amongst the books were two copies of the New Testament mutilated, which contained on the inside of the cover a newspaper slip giving an account of what Jefferson had undertaken, and referring to a letter to John Adams, dated October 13, 1813, followed by the words here given:
“ This and the corresponding vol. are the identical copies alluded to in the above article. They were purchased by me at the sale of Dr. Macaulay's Medical Library, by whom they had been bought at the sale of Mr. Jefferson's library. “See letter to John Adams, “Jefferson's Works, vol. vi, 217.
"Joshua I. Cohen.”