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The Jefferson Image in the American Mind

Merrill D. Peterson

BUY Paper · 560 pp. · 5 × 8 · ISBN 9780813918518 · $42.50 · Jan 1999

Since its publication in 1960, The Jefferson Image in the American Mind has become a classic of historical scholarship. In it Merrill D. Peterson charts Thomas Jefferson's influence upon American thought and imagination since his death in 1826. Peterson's focus is "not primarily with the truth or falsity of the image either as a whole or in its parts, but rather with its illuminations of the evolving culture and its shaping power. It is posterity's configuration of Jefferson. Even more, however, it is a sensitive reflector, through several generations, of America's troubled search of the image of itself."

In a new Introduction Peterson discusses the publication of his book and remarks in the directions of new scholarship. He also draws attention to the continuing interest in Jefferson as shown by recent historical fiction, motion pictures and documentaries, by the remaning of the Libarary of Congress main building and the National Gallery of Art's exhibition, The Eye of Thomas Jefferson, by President William Jefferson Clinton's preinagural pilgrimage to Monticello, and by the Sotheby's auction of a Jefferson letter that commanded the highest auction price ever paid for such a manuscript.


A brilliant, original study of Jefferson's psthumous reputation and of its influence on American political thought from the 1820s through the 1930s.

The New Yorker

A valuable book, a storehouse of information, on when and why Jefferson's reputation rose and fell, and phoenix-like rose again.

The Nation

A 'must' for all students of Thomas Jefferson.

About the Author(s): 

Merrill D. Peterson is Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Virginia. His many publications include Adams and Jefferson: A Revolutionary Dialogue; Lincoln in American Memory; The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay and Calhoun; Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation: A Biography; and Visitors to Monticello [Virginia].

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