VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Sifting through boxes of donated books is something that Bob Gilson is used to. But a discovery like this is once in a lifetime.
Gilson is a member of Friends of Virginia Beach Public Library, a non-profit that sells books to the community to help fund the library and its literacy programs.
On a recent Friday, he was sorting through one of the latest lots of donated literature when something caught his eye.
“The cover was tired and dusty,” Gilson said. “But I had a feeling it was special.”
Indeed it was.
Gilson had found a first edition of “Reports of Cases Determined in the General Court of Virginia from 1730 to 1740 and from 1769 to 1772." It was printed in 1829 in Charlottesville and put together by none other than Thomas Jefferson.
Researchers estimate that 82 copies of the book are known to exist in total, mostly housed in law and university libraries.
“It was not published until 1829 by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. The first 31 cases were chosen by Jefferson from manuscript notes left by Sir John Randolph, Edward Barradall and William Hopkins, with another 11 cases where Jefferson himself acted as court reporter," said Leslie G. Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello.
"As these colonial court decisions do not survive elsewhere, this compilation by Jefferson is essentially the first such volume of court reports for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In particular, 23 of the 42 cases involve slavery in one way or another, usually in disputes over property.”
The Friends of Virginia Beach Public Library will hold a ceremony on July 22 at 11:30 a.m. at the Central Library. At that time, the book will be donated to the Jefferson Library at Monticello.