The Bible in which President Andrew Jackson’s family recorded household births, marriages, and deaths for more than half a century now belongs to the University of Tennessee Libraries. Jackson’s family Bible was purchased with monies from University Libraries endowments and donations from members of the Library Society of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
We invite all members of the Library Society to join the University Libraries in celebrating this important acquisition. Please join us for a reception and viewing of the Jackson family Bible on Tuesday, September 16, at 5:00 p.m. at UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.* Brief remarks will be offered at 5:30. Please RSVP to Megan Venable (email@example.com or 865-974-6903).
The existence of the Jackson family Bible was known from contemporary newspaper accounts. In the summer of 1833, President Jackson took a formal tour of New England. On June 17, in Hartford, Connecticut, several visitors brought presents to Jackson in his hotel room. Among them were Silas Andrus and James Walker Judd, publishers whose prominent Hartford firm specialized in Bibles and religious books. As reported in the press, they presented Jackson with “an elegant copy of their Stereotype Edition of the quarto Bible, elegantly bound in red morocco, and gilt.” Jackson’s name was embossed on the front cover, and “Righteousness Exalteth a Nation” was emblazoned on the back. This Bible now resides in UT’s Special Collections.
Newspapers also recorded the encomiums exchanged upon presentation of the Bible. Andrus and Judd briefly addressed Jackson, invoking a divine blessing on the country and on him, and Jackson replied in kind, hoping that Americans would become “distinguished for genuine piety among the nations of the earth.” Newspapers throughout the country printed the exchange. But after this moment, the Andrus & Judd Bible vanishes from the public record. For a century and a half, no one outside the Jackson family knew what had happened to it.
“At The Papers of Andrew Jackson project here at UT, we make it our business to track down every surviving Jackson document we can,” said Dan Feller, professor of history and the editor and director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson at UT. “In our files is a thick folder labeled ‘Jackson family Bible.’ The correspondence in that folder chronicles our efforts over a span of decades to locate several Bibles that purportedly belonged to Jackson, but it makes no mention of this one.”
In recent decades, the survival of the Andrus & Judd Bible was rumored. Just a few years ago, the Bible’s owner surfaced briefly. Without ever meeting or knowing the identity of the Bible’s owner, Feller was able to verify from photographs that it was indeed the Bible presented to President Jackson at Hartford. Eventually, Feller’s contacts among antiquarian book lovers turned up the treasure. The Bible was offered for sale earlier this year, and the University Libraries secured a remarkable historical artifact.
Steven Smith, dean of libraries at UT, noted the importance of acquiring the Bible: “More than a cherished family relic…the Jackson family Bible is a treasure of national significance. It is precisely the sort of rare and unique document of our State’s history and politics that Special Collections is meant to preserve. We are thrilled to be able to return President Jackson’s family Bible to Tennessee.”
The Bible will be preserved and housed in Special Collections within the John C. Hodges Library.
Purchase of President Andrew Jackson’s family Bible was made possible by donations from the following:
Angelyn Donaldson and Richard Adolf Koella Historical Documents Endowment
McGregor Smith Library Endowment
Anonymous Library Endowment Fund
United Foods Humanities Library Endowment
Library Society Members:
Charles B. Jones, Jr.
Steven and Natalie Smith
*Parking is available on Circle Park Drive.
Our thanks to Professor Dan Feller for providing background on the Jackson family Bible.