via press release:
JEFFERSON’S SECRET BIBLE PREMIERES PRESIDENTS DAY, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20 AT 8PM ET/PT ON SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL
After Writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson Tackled A Subject Of Biblical Proportions
New York, NY – February 2, 2012 – At the age of 77, Thomas Jefferson took a knife to the four gospels of the Bible, keeping the sections he believed were the true teachings of Jesus Christ, and leaving the miracles, angels and the resurrection behind. Living at Monticello following his two terms as President, Jefferson assembled the private text in 1820. By compiling four translations—English, French, Latin and Greek— Jefferson sought to tell a chronological and distilled version of Jesus’ life and moral teachings.
Jefferson considered his project an act of piety – and the results a moral code for the new nation.
Fearing public criticism, Jefferson kept his text, which he called “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” to himself. Discovered by a Smithsonian Institution employee in 1895, the artifact survived as a well-guarded family heirloom. The once beautiful, handcrafted book is now so fragile that it can no longer be safely opened. The Smithsonian Channel one-hour special JEFFERSON’S SECRET BIBLE, premiering Monday, February 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows conservators at the National Museum of American History as they work to preserve this national treasure, page by brittle page.
Every element of Jefferson’s Bible is carefully analyzed. Not only do the choice of material and method of construction reveal subtle clues about Jefferson himself, but the chemical composition of every ink, paper, paste and glue are critical to the conservation process. Although it was cut and pasted with his own hands, conservators determine that the only way to preserve Jefferson’s text is to first take it apart. It’s a high stakes effort. By doing, so they open a page into the past.
From 19th century Monticello to a high-tech Smithsonian Institution lab, the program traces the life of this extraordinary book, exploring Jefferson’s views on religion and providing fresh insights into the Age of Enlightenment and his enigmatic mind.
The newly conserved “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. http://americanhistory.si.edu/jeffersonbible/
Smithsonian Books has also released a full-color, reproduction facsimile, which features introductory essays by museum historians Harry Rubenstein and Barbara Clark Smith, as well as an overview of the conservation treatment by the museum’s book and paper conservator Janice Stagnitto Ellis. Visit www.smithsonianbooks.com.