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William Roscoe

William Roscoe View Interactive Version ]

The small porcelain bust of the historian and Liverpool resident William Roscoe was given to Jefferson in 1820 by his old friend and classmate James Maury, who was serving his country in Liverpool. He recalled that years before Jefferson had written Roscoe under Maury's care as United States Consul.

In passing a Porcelain Warehouse the other day, I was so struck with a correct likeness of Wm. Roscoe in a small Bust that I thought it would be pleasing to you to have the opportunity of giving it a place in your collection at Monticello . . .1

The bust that Maury sent was produced by the Liverpool firm of Franceys. In 1813 the young William Spence exhibited a bust of Roscoe at the Liverpool Academy that won him wide recognition and evidently served as the model for the version produced for commercial sale by Franceys.2

Once Jefferson learned that Maury planned to send the bust, he wrote Roscoe that he would receive it "with great pleasure and thankfulness, and shall arrange it in honorable file with those of some cherished characters."3

Roscoe and Jefferson exchanged several letters between 1805 and 1820. Roscoe first contacted Jefferson in 1805 when he sent him a copy of The Life and Pontificate of Leo X (1805), which Jefferson said would "stand worthily on the shelf with the Life of Lorenzo de Medici [by Roscoe] and both will contribute to mark honorably the age we live in."4 Roscoe was not only an historian, but also a banker and botanist who wrote A Catalogue of Plants in the Botanic Garden, at Liverpool (1808), which he also sent to Jefferson.

Artist/Makercopy after William Spence
Createdca. 1820
Origin/PurchaseLiverpool, England
Object TypeArt and Sculpture
Dimensions10 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.
LocationBook Room


  1. James Maury to Thomas Jefferson, 27 June 1820, American Memory Project - The Thomas Jefferson Papers.
  2. A related work in marble with similar dimensions is now in the collection of the Athenaeum Library in Liverpool, England.
  3. Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, 27 December 1820, American Memory Project - The Thomas Jefferson Papers.
  4. Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, 1 July 1806, American Memory Project - The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

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