JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826).Observations sur la Virginie. Paris: Barrois, 1786.
8vo (7 3/4 x 5 inches). Half-title, folding letterpress table. Fine engraved folding map by S.J. Neele. Early 20th-century half diced calf, gilt. First edition in French from a translation by André Morellet, and first published edition, first printed and issue privately in Paris, 1782 [but 1785]. The only full-length book by Thomas Jefferson to be published during his lifetime, the "Notes on the State of Virginia" was not originally intended for publication. It was written as Jefferson's formal response to inquiries regarding the general features of the state posed by M. Barbé Marbois, a French ambassador to America. Jefferson's comprehensive "Notes " address Virginia's topography, climate, boundaries, population, colleges, government, commerce, agriculture, native Indian tribes, natural history, and many other subjects. The tables include a chart of the "Birds of Virginia," indicating "Catesby's designations" and "popular names." Perhaps the first truly American piece of writing, the "Notes " demonstrate a style and language beholden to no particular European literary ancestors. Elements of Jefferson's political and literary eloquence permeate the book, which he wrote primarily while he was U.S. minister to France. Although he intended the "Notes " only for limited circulation rather than for publication, demand from his friends was so great that Jefferson decided to make them available in book form. Jefferson's "Map of the Country between Albemarle Sound and Lake Erie...", engraved by Neele was first issued with this French edition and published again for the English edition. This is the only map that the Jefferson ever drafted, and one of supreme importance. This map has considerable historical value, serving as primary documentary evidence of the westward movement in Virginia which is recorded cartographically on very few maps. The period between 1750 and 1800 was one of extensive and accelerated migration, which Jefferson's map captures at mid-point between the map that his father, Peter Jefferson, made with Joshua Fry in 1750, and James Madison's map of 1807. Jefferson's familiarity with the heavily populated area of the state resulted in the location of towns and county seats with greater precision than had been achieved previously. Many natural monuments were marked for the first time on a map, including Zane's and Madison's Caves, the Indian Grave, and the Natural Bridge. This pivotal map, furthermore, served as a forum in which Jefferson could not only record with precision the geography of the state, but also make a political statement regarding the proper western boundary of Virginia and the future division of the western lands into five new states. Three of these he labeled simply as "A New State," but two others were named specifically: "Kentuckey" because it was already one of the western counties of Virginia and known by that name, and "Frankland for the area that is now Tennessee. In this way Jefferson's map reflects not just the conventional cartographer's task of mapping the land and its boundaries as they stand, but the excitement of delineating the land as it was envisioned to become. Howes J78; Phillips, p. 984; Virginia in Maps, II-23 . Catalogued by Kate Hunter