Professors John O’Brien and Brad Pasanek spoke to UVA Today about their new web application for Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia. The application – developed by O’Brien and Pasanek, with the help of students and the University Library’s Scholars’ Lab – includes two versions of Jefferson’s encyclopedic volume: one of the first 1784 printings, which he gave to the Marquis de Lafayette, and a 1787 copy whose pages are full of his handwritten annotations, revisions and personal thoughts. The web app presents the third edition in a high-quality, readable, searchable form that can be used on any electronic device.
Notes is “the single most important book written by an American in the 18th century,” O’Brien said, and with this application, says Pasanek, it has the potential to reach many more people, allowing students and scholars to consider the changes Jefferson made and why. Both Pasanek and O'Brien have used or will use the app in their classrooms, and Professor Jerome McGann, an award-winning pioneer in digital humanities, is currently using it in a graduate class.