Saturday, December 10, 2011

   He was becoming more substantial in other ways. "My good man is so very fat that I am lean as a rail," Abigail bemoaned to her sister Mary. He acquired more and more books, books being an acknowledged extravagance he could seldom curb. (With one London bookseller he had placed a standing order for "every book and pamphlet, of reputation, upon the subjects of law and government as soon as it comes out.") "I want to see my wife and children every day," he would write while away on the court circuit. "I want to see my grass and blossoms and corn...But above all, except the wife and children, I want to see my books."

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   Paris booksellers soon found they had an American patron like no other. In the bookshops and stalls along the Seine were volumes in numbers and variety such as Jefferson had never seen, and his pleasure was boundless. To Madison he would describe the surpassing pleasure of "examining all the principal bookstores, turning over every book with my own hand and putting by everything related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable to every science." There were weeks when he was buying books every day. In his first month in Paris, he could not buy them fast enough, and ran up bills totaling nearly 800 francs. Nor was the book-buying spree to end. The grand total of books he acquired in France was about 2,000, but he also bought books by the boxful for Washington, Franklin, and James Madison.

- David McCullough
John Adams.

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