The first volume in this series announced that outside indexers would prepare “temporary indexes” from time to time, each covering several volumes of the edition. The “permanent index” was to be a corrected, cumulated version of these. The Editors themselves did not intend to prepare any indexes until all volumes in the series had appeared. The Editors hoped that users of the periodic indexes would notify the Editors of errors and supply missing information. The result, they reasoned, would result in a better final index while allowing the Editors to focus their efforts on publishing the documents. The plan did not work.
A comprehensive cumulative index for the first twenty volumes could not have been accomplished without the foundation of the “temporary indexes.” These indicated what had already been indexed, supplied adding names and subjects that had been missed, and corrected erroneous entries. The result, after a full year’s effort, is a comprehensive guide to the vast amount of material encompassed by the first twenty volumes.
Main entries appear in alphabetical order, but subentries follow a different arrangement. References to letters to or from Thomas Jefferson come at the beginning. All other subentries are organized by volume and page number, in descending order. Brief references are grouped at the end under the general heading “mentioned.” Subentries for letters between the person named in the main entry and another individual are labeled “correspondence with.” The Editors have attempted to identify more fully those persons who appeared in the temporary indexes by last name only. In a few instances, a main entry contains so many subentries that it has proven expedient to categorize them under a few general subentries.
The Editors have made no systematic attempt to prepare new subject entries in this index. As revision of the three temporary indexes progressed, it became apparent that coverage of some subjects was uneven. In some cases unevenly covered subjects were deleted from the final index unless they seemed sufficiently important to be of use. Readers are cautioned, however, that such subject references are incomplete. One cannot look at the entry for “speech, freedom of: TJ comments on, 16: 45,” for example, and assume that the topic appears in the twenty volumes only once. The Editors retained this reference because of its potential use to someone interested in the topic; they did not attempt to locate other references, although there is little question that others exist somewhere in the volumes printed thus far. Many single entry and some multiple entry subject categories included in the old indexes were deleted completely because the subjects were covered adequately in other entries.
The three individuals who compiled the temporary indexes employed a literal approach to the documents, perhaps because they were not historians. Eighteenth-century letters often contain metaphors that must be recognized for accurate indexing. The old reference to “military school: proposed by Va. delegate to Congress” proved to be such a case. The writer was in fact referring to Boston at the outbreak of the Revolution as a good place for young men to be schooled in military skills. The Editors hope they have recognized these literal references and corrected all such occurrences.
The Editors’ presumption is that no single index can serve everyone who will want to consult The Papers of Thomas Jefferson as long as this edition survives on the shelves. The changing interests of readers, especially historians and the many other professionals who make use of this edition, suggest that sometime in the future another index will be required. As Julian P. Boyd wrote in the introduction to the first index, “we invite all of our users to report errors or to suggest improvements” so that they may be noted and used later by anyone who might want to assemble a revision to this and other indexes in the series. The computer files for each volume will remain in storage for such an eventuality.