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Installing the Great Clock at Monticello

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Estimate: US$30,000 - US$50,000
Price realised:  n. a.
Lot number 102, Views: 4114

Installing the Great Clock at Monticello Thomas Jefferson 28 Janaury 1804 JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826). Autograph letter signed ("Th: Jefferson") as President to James Dinsmore Washington, 28 January 1804. One page, bifolium (255 x 202mm). Integral transmittal leaf addressed in his hand with his franking signature ("free Th: Jefferson Pr. US.") at top left (small losses at left margin not affecting text, mostly seperated at spine, but reinforced where still attached, loss from seal tear to transmittal leaf). Making room for the Great Clock at Monticello and designing a better lumber kiln. A significant letter concerning Jefferson's long-planned installation of large cannonball weights that powered the seven-day clock being installed in Monticello's front entrance hall. Here Jefferson objects to Dinsmore's suggestion to "cutting the wall, not even the cellar wall, to make a space for the descent of the clock weights..." He preferred to "have them advanced into the room so as to descend naked till they get to the floor from where they may enter a square hole & go on to the cellar floor." Still operational today, the Great Clock, has faces for both the interior and exterior of the mansion, and operates with a pair of eighteen-pound weights that descend on ropes through open holes in the floor into the cellar. Jefferson then addresses the matter of the recent fire that consumed a large quantity of lumber intended for expanding the mansion. Rather than wait another year to allow green lumber to dry, he suggests a design for an arched, brick roof for the lumber kiln to reduce the threat of more valuable building material being consumed by fire: "we must therefore purchase bricks somewhere, cost what they will, to cover the house with an arch as here represented, it will take about 1500 whole bricks, clinkers. The gable ends may be closed with stone, leaving the Southern one a smoke hole as is shewn in this drawing, so that stopping that and the firehole at the bottom of the other end, a fire may be extinguished in a moment for want of air..." At left, Jefferson sketches a cross-section of the kiln, recommending a 60 degree arch.

Informations about the auction
Auction house: Christie's
Title: The Open Book: Fine Travel, Americana, Literature and History in Print and Manuscript
Date of the auction: 18 Jun 2020
Address: Christie's
Online | 2 - 18 June

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