Cyrus Adler and "The Jefferson Bible"

Cyrus Adler
Courtesy Smithsonian Archives

As a student at Johns Hopkins University in 1886, Cyrus Adler discovered in a private library two cut-up copies of the New Testament. An attached note stated that Jefferson used these volumes to create The Life and Morals of Jesus. Adler unsuccessfully attempted to find Jefferson's book. Years later, serving as the Smithsonian's librarian and curator of world religions, Adler renewed his search. In 1895 he purchased the book from Jefferson's great-granddaughter, Carolina Randolph, for $400. That year The Life and Morals was first publicly displayed under the title "Jefferson's Bible" and ever since it has been referred to as "The Jefferson Bible."


Opening in November Press Release

The Thomas Jefferson Bible goes on exhibit November 11, 2011 at the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery in the National Museum of American History

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Conservation Blog Post: Disbinding Blog Post

It is difficult to describe how one faces the prospect of taking apart a national treasure. Of course, in order to reach the level of craftsmanship required, there are years of education and practice required, but that doesn't begin to fully describe it.

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Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
"I am of a sect by myself, as far
as I know." — Thomas Jefferson, 1819


Separating pages
Removing the stubs

Purchase a Copy

The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition, is a full-color facsimile created from high-resolution digital photographs of recently conserved and rebound pages.

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