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Thomas Jefferson Describes Printing as a Way to Preserve Information

2/18/1791
<p id="firstHeading" class="firstHeading" lang="en">Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800)(cropped).</p>

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800)(cropped).

In a letter to Ebenezer Hazard written during Jefferson's tenure as Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson wrote concerning the preservation of information:

". . . let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident."

Jefferson's idea of preserving texts by distributing copies had been anticipated by exponents of the new invention of printing by movable type in the second half of the fifteenth century who believed, and rightly so, that printing an edition of a text that might survive in only one or a handful of manuscript copies was a way of safeguarding the existence of the text.

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