The Thomas Jefferson Papers

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Series 8: Virginia Records, 1606-1737

Volume 17

The Virginia Records volumes were part of Jefferson's personal library. These volumes were very fragile when Jefferson first collected them, can only be handled with the greatest care today, and are generally not made available for researchers except in microfilm format. Their presentation here, online, makes this unacknowledged treasure widely available to the public for the first time in an easily accessible format.

Virginia Records
Manuscript Volumes:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21

Records of the Virginia Company
Published Edition Volumes: I | II | III | IV

Correlating the Published Edition
(Volumes I & II) with the
Virginia Records Manuscripts (Volumes 16 & 17)

Virginia Records Time Line

Virginia Records Selected Bibliography

About Dates

About Early Modern English

Virginia Records - Manuscript Volumes

Volumes 1 through 15 and volume 21 were among the nearly 6700 volumes Jefferson sold to Congress in 1815. Volumes 16 through 20 were acquired by the Library of Congress in 1829 from Jefferson's grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, as part of the settlement of Jefferson's estate. Volume 1 may be an original manuscript, while almost all of the remaining twenty volumes are contemporaneous seventeenth- and eighteenth-century transcriptions of originals, many of which do not survive.

The Virginia Records were digitized from microfilm and the images enhanced for increased legibility. Original volume 3, Abridgment of the Common Law, undated, is severely damaged and illegible in the original, and was not digitized. Volumes in Series 8 were renumbered. (Digitizing the Collection).

Manuscript Volume 1

Thomas Mathew. The Beginning, Progress and Conclusion of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia in the Years 1675 & 1676. 1705.


Text. Jefferson's transcription as published in installments in the Richmond Virginia Enquirer, September 1, 5, and 8, 1804.

Thomas Mathew, a contemporary observer of Nathaniel Bacon's rebellion in Virginia, wrote this account in 1705. Rufus King of New York, while ambassador to the court of St. James in London, purchased this volume and sent it to Jefferson with a December 20, 1803 letter. The volume King purchased may have been the original manuscript or a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century transcript of the original. Upon receiving the volume, Jefferson made his own exact transcription of Mathew's account of Bacon's Rebellion and arranged for its publication in the Richmond, Virginia Enquirer.

Nathaniel Bacon
Detail of [Nathaniel Bacon, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing right] created/published [between 1760 and 1800]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-91133


Manuscript Volume 2

John Mercer. Abridgement of the Public Acts. 1737.

John Mercer (1704-1768) of Marlborough, Virginia was George Washington's lawyer. His son, John Francis, studied law with Jefferson.


Manuscript Volume 3

Virginia. Opinion of Learned Counsels. 1681-1722.

Opinions of Counsel on Affairs Related to the Colony of Virginia, 1681-1721.

Opinions of Nathaniel Pigot of Middle Temple and Sir John Randolph, King's Attorney in Virginia, 1693-1722.

Jefferson acquired this and volumes 5, 10, and 21 when he purchased the library of Peyton Randolph (1721-1775) in 1776. Peyton's father, Sir John Randolph (1693-1736), was an avid collector of Virginia documents and had hoped to write a history of the colony. He left his fine library of books and manuscripts to his son Peyton.


Manuscript Volume 4

Sir John Randolph. Commonplace Book. 1680.

Sir John Randolph (1693-1736) of Henrico was Speaker of the House of Burgesses and the King's Attorney in Virginia. His son Peyton Randolph (1721-1775) also held those offices and was Thomas Jefferson's mentor in the House of Burgesses in the 1760s and '70s.

This commonplace book provided alphabetically arranged printed subject headings, under which one was supposed to enter relevant thoughts or extracts from literature or poetry. Sir John Randolph apparently did not find all of these subject headings compelling as there are numerous blank pages.


Manuscript Volume 5

Virginia. Laws and Orders Concluded on by the General Assembly. March 5, 1623/24.

Early eighteenth-century transcript. Originally owned by John Randolph, it was acquired by Jefferson when he purchased the library of Randolph's son Peyton.


Manuscript Volume 6

Charters of the Virginia Company of London; Laws; Abstracts of Rolls in the Offices of State. 1606-92.

"The Bland Manuscript."

Jefferson acquired this volume of seventeenth-century transcripts of the charters and fundamental documents in the history of the Virginia Company and colony in 1776 when he purchased the extensive library of Richard Bland (1710-1776), a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and avid collector of historical documents and books. (The Company's charters can also be found in volume 14.)


Manuscript Volume 7

Virginia Council and Assembly. Laws. March 2, 1642/43 - March 23 1661/62.

Early eighteenth-century transcript. Acquired by Jefferson in 1776 as part of the library of Richard Bland.


Manuscript Volume 8

Virginia Assembly. Laws. 1652-60.

Thomas Jefferson made this transcript from texts compiled by Virginia lawyer John Mercer of Marlborough (1704-1768). A seventeenth-century holograph index is bound in at front.


Manuscript Volume 9

Virginia. Laws. March 23, 1661/62 - August 14, 1702.

"Charles City Manuscript."

This manuscript volume originated in the clerk's office of Charles City, which by 1614 was one of several outlying settlements in Virginia. Jefferson wrote George Wythe on January 12, 1796 that he had found it in "Lorton's tavern" in Virginia, where it was being used as "waste paper." One of these waste paper uses was practicing writing and drawing. The volume pages show fancy signatures, drawings of birds and animals, and other fanciful scribbles overlaying the text of the original.


Manuscript Volume 10

Virginia. Laws. December 23, 1662 - October 21, 1697.

"The Peyton Randolph Manuscript."

Originally owned by Sir John Randolph, and then by his son Peyton, whose library Jefferson purchased in 1776. The contents of this volume are nearly identical to those of volume 9, the "Charles City Manuscript."


Manuscript Volume 11

Virginia. Laws. October 25, 1705.

"Charles City Manuscript."

Jefferson received this manuscript volume from "Mr. Debnam," Charles City clerk.


Manuscript Volume 12

Virginia General Assembly. Laws. October 25, 1705 - November 7, 1711.

"The John Page Manuscript."

Jefferson received this volume from his lifelong friend John Page of Rosewell, Virginia, whose grandfather Mathew Page was a commissioner for the revision of Virginia laws in 1705.


Manuscript Volume 13

Virginia Company of London and the Colony. Miscellaneous Papers. 1606-92.

"Instructions, Commicons letters of Advice and admonitions and Publique Speeches, Proclamations. &c."

Jefferson acquired these seventeenth-century transcripts when he purchased Richard Bland's library in 1776. This volume contains copies of the Company's charters and the colony's correspondence.


Manuscript Volume 14

John Pervis. A Complete Collection of all the Laws of Virginia now in force. March 23 1661/62 - November 10, 1682.

"Carefully Copied from the Assembly Records. To which is annexed an Alphabetical Table." Printed sometime between 1683 and 1687, this volume contains manuscript notes in the margins, possibly in a seventeenth-century hand. A manuscript continuation has been added at the end. According to Jefferson, this volume originally belonged to Colonel William Byrd, who gave it to John Wayles, Jefferson's father-in-law, "whose library came to my hands" (Jefferson to George Wythe, January 12, 1796).


Manuscript Volume 15

Virginia General Court. Cases, with Minutes. 1622-29.

The first two parts of this volume are law cases, 1622-26 and 1626-29, and the third contains Virginia Court Book minutes. Jefferson had an impressive collection of Virginia law books, of which this was one. Beginning in 1807, Jefferson made this and many other volumes available to William Waller Hening, clerk of the Chancery Court in Richmond, for his compilation The Statutes at Large; being a collection of all the laws of Virginia, from the first session of the legislature, in the year 1619 (Richmond, 1809-23).


Manuscript Volume 16

Manuscript Volume 17

Virginia Company of London. Court Book. Part A. April 28, 1619 - May 8, 1622.

Virginia Company of London. Court Book. Part B. May 20, 1622 - June 7, 1624.

These volumes are the only contemporaneous surviving copy of the Court Book of the Virginia Company of London, which established the Jamestown colony in 1607. The Court Book for the earlier period, 1606-18, does not survive in any form.

On May 9, 1623, the Crown appointed a commission to investigate the Virginia Company's financial affairs and sequestered its papers. Before the papers were turned over to the Privy Council, Company deputy Nicholas Ferrar had them copied. The Company lost its charter as a result of the investigation and by 1630 had ceased to exist. Where the original Court Book and Ferrar's copy of it went thereafter is unknown.

Jefferson believed that the Court Book ended up in the hands of the Earl of Southampton, a member of the Company and an ally of Edwin Sandys, treasurer during the period covered by the Book, and that it was then purchased from Southampton's executor in London by one of the Byrd family. It was a part of the third William Byrd's library when he died in 1777.

On October 4, 1823, Jefferson wrote Hugh P. Taylor that he had acquired the Court Book as part of his purchase of Richard Bland's library. Jefferson did not include the Court Book in the nearly 6700 volumes he sold to Congress in 1815. The Library of Congress acquired it later in 1829 from Jefferson's grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph.

In addition to the manuscript volume, a published edition of the Court Book is available in Records of the Virginia Company.

Correlating the Published Edition (volumes I & II) with the Virginia Records Manuscripts (volumes 16 & 17)


Manuscript Volume 18

Virginia Executive Council. Transactions. December 9, 1698 - May 20, 1700.


Manuscript Volume 19

Virginia. Foreign Business and Inquisitions. 1665-76.

This volume contains depositions in regard to maritime prizes and cases of escheat, in which land reverts to the Crown, state, or feudal lord upon the death of a tenant without heirs or succeeding grantees. Also included are copies of correspondence between Virginia government officers and Maryland and Georgia governors.


Manuscript Volume 20

Virginia. Miscellaneous Records. 1606-26.

The volume includes contemporaneous copies of correspondence between the Privy Council in London and the governor and Council in Virginia. It contains the Company's "A Declaration of the present State of Virginia humbly presented to the Kings most excellent Matie [Majestie] by the Company for Virginia," April 12, 1623, and other statements presented in 1624 when the Company was under investigation; laws passed and petitions received by the Virginia General Assembly; and contemporaneous copies of the Company's 1606 and 1609 charters.


Manuscript Volume 21

Virginia. Laws, Commissions, and Proclamations. October 16, 1629 - August 21, 1633.

Originally owned by Sir John Randolph and acquired by Jefferson when he purchased the library of his son Peyton.

Records of the Virginia Company - Published Edition

Records of the Virginia Company. Edited by Susan Myra Kingsbury. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, Volumes I and II, 1906; Volumes III and IV, 1933, 1935.

Published Edition Volume I

Published Edition Volume II

The Court Book. 1619-1622

The Court Book. 1622-1624

Volume I is a published edition of the manuscript volume 16, the Court Book, Part A, and volume II is of the manuscript volume 17, the Court Book, Part B.

Correlating the Published Edition (volumes I & II) with the Virginia Records Manuscripts (volumes 16 & 17)

Published Edition Volume III
Miscellaneous Records: Table of Contents | Page Images

Published Edition Volume IV
Miscellaneous Records: Table of Contents | Page Images

Volumes III and IV publish documents from manuscript volume 20, Miscellaneous Records, 1606-26, and documents from many other repositories in the United States and Great Britain. "While the Court Book of the Virginia Company, published as Volumes I and II presents minutes of the meetings of the corporation," Volumes III and IV "vivify its decisions and decrees, explain the difficulties met and overcome by that redoubtable group of adventurers, reveal the petty jealousies of the administrators, and especially record the controversy between the company and Crown that resulted in the dissolution of the corporation and the creation of the first crown colony of Great Britain" (Kingsbury, page vii).


About Dates

Volume year dates such as March 5, 1623/24 offer both the Old (Julian) Calendar year date and the New (Gregorian) Calendar year date in use today. These double-year dates occur mostly for the months of January through March. The New Calendar was adopted by Great Britain and its colonies in 1752, when eleven days were added to that year to bring the calendar in line with the solar year.

About Early Modern English

The text of Series 8 manuscript volumes and primary texts published in Records of the Virginia Company are in early modern English. Varying spelling styles, the extensive use of word abbreviations, and a sentence syntax favoring multiple dependent clauses may make this text initially daunting to modern English readers. However, after reading a few pages, one becomes accustomed to the grammar, syntax, and usage of the time, and also of particular writers. Practice and familiarity make these texts easier to read.

The preface of Records of the Virginia Company provides a list of the most commonly used abbreviations. This page is made accessible here to view or print for ready reference.