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Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

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Jefferson’s Autograph Notes Explaining Napier’s Rule on Spherical Triangles, a Branch of Geometry Crucial to Astronomy, Geodesy, Navigation, & Architecture

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Manuscript. Notes on Napier’s Theorem. [Monticello, Va.], [ca. March 18, 1814].

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John Napier, who is also credited with inventing logarithms and pioneering the use of the decimal point, first published his rule in 1614. While spherical trigonometry was the foundation for many scientific pursuits including astronomy, celestial navigation, geodesy (the measurement and mathematical representation of the Earth), architecture, and other disciplines, Napier’s Theorum remained largely unknown in America because of its complexity. Since it was so important to his own scholarly pursuits, Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, was the perfect person to school a professor friend on this important, but complicated mathematical formula.

For instance, a navigator’s distance and position can be determined by “solving” spherical triangles with latitude and longitude lines—essentially very large triangles laid out on a curved surface. Astronomers apply similar principles; stargazers imagine the sky to be a vast dome of stars, with triangles laid out on curved (in this case concave) surface. The distance of stars can be calculated by the viewer, who is considered to be standing at the center (the Earth) and looking up at stars and planets as if they were hung on the inside surface of the sphere. In architecture, spherical triangles fill the corner spaces between a dome that sits on foursquare arches—called a dome on pendentives.

Item #23358, $35,000

To Avoid Abuse from “bigots in religion...politics, or...medicine,” Thomas Jefferson Declines to Publish Benjamin Rush’s Private Correspondence

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Letter Signed, to James Mease. With conjoined franked address leaf in Jefferson’s hand. August 17, 1816. Monticello, [Charlottesville, Va.]. 1 p., 9¾ x 8 in.

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Thomas Jefferson, long since retired to private life, declines the request of Dr. James Mease for copies of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s correspondence with Jefferson. Mease had hoped to include them in a volume of Rush’s letters to be published and specifically requested letters pertaining to Rush’s personal views on religion and politics. After demurring, Jefferson discusses at length the differences between personal and official correspondence, with philosophical thoughts on public versus private expression. He closes with assurances that his decision is nothing personal, and of his great respect for Mease: “I hope, my dear Sir, you will see in my scruples only a sentiment of fidelity to a deceased friend.”

Item #23233, $75,000

Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures

BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER, Broadside, Drawn by Tyler and engraved by Peter Maverick, [Washington, D.C., 1818]. 1 p., 23⅞ x 31 in., archivally framed to approx. 32 x 40 in.

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“In Congress, July 4th 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”

Item #23683, $29,000

Rare French Facsimile of the Declaration of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving, “In Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…” Paris: Kaeppelin & Cie, 15 Quai Voltaire; engraved by F. Lepelle. [1840.] 25 x 32 in. Framed 30¾ x 38 in. 1p.

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Scarce French reproduction based on William J. Stone’s official copperplate facsimile done by order of Congress. This French edition was produced for an 1840 adaptation of Jared Sparks’s Life and Writings of Washington, appearing as plate 22 in the atlas accompanying the multi-volume work.

Item #20627.99, $20,000
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