Thomas Jefferson was a prolific reader. In fact, his personal library was so massive that when the Library of Congress burned in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold the majority of his book collection to the United States Government to replace what was lost. Jefferson had to learn seven languages in order to read all the books he acquired. Many words were spelt differently back then, and punctuation was also a bit dissimilar.

The following is the recommended reading list Jefferson sent to his nephew Peter Carr in a letter dated August 10, 1787. Many of these are on Amazon:


  • Heredot
  • Thucyd
  • Xenoph
  • hellen
  • Anab
  • Q. Curt
  • Just
  • Livy
  • Polybius
  • Sallust
  • Caesar
  • Suetonius
  • Tacitus
  • Aurel
  • Victor
  • Herodian
  • Gibbon’s decline of the Roman empire
  • Milot histoire ancienne


  • Tacit
  • Germ. & Agricole
  • Hume to the end of H. VI. then Habington’s E.IV.
  • Sir Thomas Moor’s E.5. & R.3.
  • Ld. Bacon’s H.7
  • Ld Herbert of Cherbury’s H.8.
  • K. Edward’s journal (in Burnet) Bp. of Hereford’s E.6. & Mary.
  • Cambden’s Eliz. Wilson’s Jac.I. Ludlow (omit Clarendon as too seducing for a young republican. By and by read him)
  • Burnet’s Charles 2. Jac.2. Wm. & Mary & Anne
  • Ld. Orrery down to George 1. & 2.
  • Burke’s G.3. Robertson’s hist. of Scotland


  • Robertson’s America
  • Douglass’s N. America
  • Hutcheson’s Massachusets, Smith’s N. York
  • Smith’s N. Jersey
  • Franklin’s review of Pennsylvania
  • Smith’s, Stith’s, Keith’s, & Beverley’s hist. of Virginia


  • Mallet’s Northn. Antiquities by Percy
  • Puffendorf’s histy. of Europe & Martiniere’s of Asia, Africa & America
  • Milot Histoire Moderne
  • Volatire histoire universelle
  • Milot hist. de France
  • Mariana’s hist. of Spain and Span[ish]
  • Robertson’s Charles V.
  • Watson’s Phil. II. & III.
  • Grotii Belgica
  • Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical history


  • Homer
  • Milton
  • Ossian
  • Sophocles
  • Aeschylus
  • Eurip
  • Metastasio
  • Shakesp.
  • Theocritus
  • Anacreon
  • […]


  • Bezout & whatever else Mr. Madison recommends


  • Delalande &c. as Mr. Madison shall recommend


  • Musschenbroeck


  • Linnaei Philosophia Botanica
  • Genera Plantarum
  • Species planetarium
  • Gronovii flora [Virginica]


  • Fourcroy


  • Home’s principles of Agriculture — Tull &c.


  • Cheselden


  • The Socratic dialogues
  • Cicero’s Philosphies
  • Kaim’s Principles of Natl. religion
  • Helveticus de l’esprit et de l’homme
  • Locke’s Essay
  • Lucretius
  • Traite de Morale & du Bon[heur]


  • Locke’s Conduct of the Mind
  • Middleton’s works
  • Bolingbroke’s philosoph. works
  • Hume’s Essays
  • Voltaire’s works
  • Beattie


  • Whatever Mr. Wythe pleases, who will be so good as to correct also all the preceding articles which are only intended as a group work to be finished by his pencil.

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