"PRESIDENT JEFFERSON WITH MRS BOWDOIN'S RESPECTFUL COMPLIMENTS": AN EXCEPTIONAL AMERICAN RARITY—JEFFERSON'S PERSONAL COPY OF ADVICE TO SHEPHERDS AND OWNERS OF FLOCKS, 1811, WITH HIS INITIALED OWNERSHIP MARKING, PRESENTED TO HIM BY THE WIDOW OF THE BOOK'S TRANSLATOR, JAMES BOWDOIN
(JEFFERSON, Thomas) DAUBENTON, Louis-Jean-Marie. Advice to Shepherds and Owners of Flocks, on the Care and Management of Sheep. Translated from the original French of M. Daubenton [by James Bowdoin]. Boston: Joshua Belcher, 1811. Slim octavo, contemporary full mottled brown calf gilt, marbled endpapers, black morocco spine label. $78,000.
Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of this guide to sheep farming—one of Jefferson's primary agricultural interests—containing Jefferson's characteristic and distinctive ownership mark, presented to Jefferson by the widow of the book's translator, James Bowdoin, Jefferson's minister to Spain, with the inscription: "President Jefferson with Mrs Bowdoin's respectful compliments. 24 May 1812." Second edition in English, with three illustrated plates appearing for the first time in this edition, in contemporary mottled calf.
This volume was in Jefferson's final "Retirement Library" when he died, and it contains Jefferson's characteristic ownership identification marks—he has penned a "T" before the "1" denoting the first numbered signature. Jefferson habitually penned a "T" before the "I" signature mark and a "J" after the "T" signature marks in his books; in his volume, with the letter "J" not being used in its signature markings, the number "1" provided Jefferson a workable substitute for "I" in a book without lettered signatures. Jefferson built three collections of books in his lifetime. The first burned in a fire at his childhood home, Shadwell, in 1770. In 1815, Jefferson sold his second collection of books to the government in order to help rebuild the collection of the Library of Congress, which had been destroyed in 1814 when the British burned Washington and the Capitol building during the War of 1812. The third collection was dispersed after Jefferson's death in 1826, largely through auction to satisfy creditors.. This copy was listed in Jefferson's retirement library catalogue as "Daubenton's advice to Shepherds. 8vo." (page 32, item 265), and it was sold at the 1829 Nathaniel Poor auction of Jefferson's library as item 263 in that catalogue. This copy with Mrs. Bowdoin's presentation inscription is described in Sowerby's annotated catalogue of Jefferson's library (Sowerby 794). In the 1950s it was in the collection of Dr. Joseph E. Fields of Joliet, Illinois (first president of the Manuscript Society, editor of Martha Washington's letters), and it was in the renowned Americana collection of Mrs. Philip D. Sang until 1985.
Jefferson owned copies of the 1810 first and 1811 second editions of Bowdoin's English translation of Daubenton's 1782 French work, which Bowdoin issued anonymously and printed at his own expense. Jefferson sold his first edition to Congress in 1815 but kept the second edition (this copy) until his death. The first edition was sent to Jefferson in January 1811 by George W. Erving, who wrote that Bowdoin was "preparing a more perfect edition with plates &c, which he will have the honor of presenting to you himself." But Bowdoin died on October 11, 1811, so the promised copy of the second edition was presented to Jefferson by his widow, Sarah Bowdoin, in May 1812. On June 24, 1812, Jefferson wrote from Monticello to Mrs. Bowdoin, thanking her for the book: 'Th: Jefferson presents his respectful compliments to Mrs. Bowdoin, and his thanks for the book she has been so kind as to forward him. It is an interesting present to the American public, who owed so much before to the patriotism of its author, and to his steady views & efforts for the promotion of their best interests. With the public gratitude, he is peculiarly bound to mingle his own, for the aid and support he received from him personally in administering the affairs of their common country, of this he knows no depository to whom it may be committed with so much propriety as to Mrs. Bowdoin, while he tenders to herself the homage of his high respect and consideration." Laid in is a facsimile of this letter. James Bowdoin III (1752-1811), a Jeffersonian Republican, was a merchant and diplomat who was appointed by Jefferson as minister to Spain in 1804. He was an early benefactor of Bowdoin College (named for his father, James Bowdoin II, the second governor of Massachusetts), to which he bequeathed his impressive library.
Interestingly, Jefferson had quite a history with sheep husbandry. In 1793, Jefferson began to contemplate the income potential of sheep-rearing. Stuck in the city at the Department of State, he began to order books on sheep and visited farms around Philadelphia, attempting to combine research with practical experience. In the winter of 1794, finally released from official duties, Jefferson sent his overseer to secure 40 ewes. Jefferson used the sheep to repair the fields he had destroyed with tobacco and corn. Eventually, Robert Morris gave Jefferson a Spanish ram, who, as the only ram, substantially increased the size of the flock through his endeavors. Unsatisfied with a common, pedestrian flock, Jefferson began to introduce the many sheep he was given as gifts, including an exotic Bengal sheep. His flock thus became greatly diversified, with Jefferson enthusiastically assessing the value of various breeds. Then, having succeeded with the basics of sheep husbandry, Jefferson accepted an ill-tempered Shetland ram with four horns. Jefferson was fascinated and attempted to breed many more sheep like the ram. The ram's behavior did not improve. Rather, he was known for attacking anyone who entered his territory, badly hurting one man to the point that he was bed-bound for over a month. The diary of Jefferson's friend Anna Maria Thornton even noted that ""a fine little boy killed by the Ram that the president has." Jefferson—some time later and after the violent ram had killed two other rams that were introduced to the flock—eventually had the ram destroyed.
Relieved of his burden, Jefferson turned to wool production. In an era where "make American" was as much an ethos as "buy American," Jefferson helped to popularize homespun wool clothing. He dedicated himself to raising the finest merino wool for sartorial purposes. The American consul in Lisbon had purchased 4,000 merino sheep, eight intended for Jefferson and Madison. Jefferson had helped to spark "Merino Mania," with Merino sheep becoming essential purchases for anyone with an agricultural bent. Jefferson even offered to donate his own rams to Virginia's counties to ensure the quality continued into the next generation. However, the merino sheep proved small, sickly, and disappointing. Due to an unexpected oversupply, the merino bubble burst… albeit not before Jefferson's wool had been deemed the best in Washington. As late as 1815, the Jeffersons were appearing publicly in Monticello's famed merino wool, though, by then, homespun had become downright unfashionable.
This is the second edition in English/first illustrated edition, preceded by an edition in French and the first edition in English of 1810. Sowerby 794. Pencil signature. Pencil pointing hand drawn on page 26. Early ink pricing details. Binder ticket.
First signature partially detached, foxing to interior, light wear to extremities. An extremely good copy, with an extraordinary provenance, most rare from Jefferson's library and with his ownership marking.