History and Description of the Jay Papers Project


About the Project



  Participating Institutions

Technical & planning Information

The Papers of John Jay is an image database and indexing tool comprised of thousands of pages scanned from photocopies of original documents gathered by the John Jay publication project staff during the 1960s and 1970s under the direction of the late Professor Richard B. Morris.  These files were maintained as sources for items to be used in a planned four-volume letterpress series entitled The Selected Unpublished Papers of John Jay.

Only two volumes of Jay papers appeared before Morris’s death in 1989, John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, Unpublished Papers 1745-1780 (New York: Harper & Row, 1975) and John Jay: The Winning of the Peace, Unpublished Papers, 1780-1784.    When the project closed in 1996, the photocopied documents were transferred to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.   An Advisory Board, comprised of Barbara Black, George Welwood Murray Professor of Legal History at Columbia, Patricia Bonomi, Professor of History Emerita at New York University,  Barbara Oberg, then editor of the Benjamin Franklin Papers at Yale University, and Herbert Sloan, Professor of History at Barnard College, was convened by Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Richard L. Bushman, at the request of Elaine Sloan, University Librarian. 

The Advisory Board decided to continue plans for a letterpress edition with a new editor and updated editorial standards.  Funding was ultimately secured in 2004 from the National Historical Publication and Records Commission for a revised and updated selective letterpress edition planned to include seven volumes to be completed by 2012. Since this process was certain to delay access to important research materials for over a decade, however, the board decided to make the raw materials for the volumes, the photocopies collected as sources, immediately available to as many scholars as possible in electronic form. The National Endowment for the Humanities agreed with this aim.  The Papers of John Jay was made possible by funding from the organization in 2000 and by the Florence Gould Foundation in 2001.

The Jay materials may be searched by the name of the writer, name of the recipient, date of composition, name of holding institution and accession number.  Keyword searching of the abstracts, which vary in length and informational quality, is also possible.   Transcripts are not available at this point, but since the database is still in formation, we hope to be able to add these in the future, drawing both on previously published transcripts and on new work.

Please note: the quality of some of the images is not ideal.  Because we were attempting to make available as soon as possible material that had been collected forty years ago, salvaging some of the hard work that had been done by various generations of project editors and assistants, we approached the project differently than we would have had we been starting from scratch with new scans and new photography.  Although digitization has in some cases made the documents far more legible than they are in the original, we are aware that in other cases they remain hard to read.  Scans, photocopies and microfilmed images of 18th-century manuscripts under the best of circumstances are not always clear, due to deterioration of ink or paper, bleed-through, and uneven surfaces. The quality of computer monitors also varies dramatically.  To assist readers, we have provided some capacity to enlarge and enhance the images.   Better images and information about the documents themselves may be found by contacting the owning repositories, using the contact information provided.  Messages indicating that images are not available at this time may occur for a variety of reasons, including the reluctance of an owning institution to allow its property to be included.  In the few cases where we have not been able to decipher a repository name and the source is listed as “Unknown,” questions may be directed to the Columbia University Libraries by using the “Comments” field.

The Papers of John Jay Papers is designed to be a working tool for students, scholars and the interested public.  It is a work in progress.  New documents can be added, corrections to existing information made, and identifications completed by using the comments box or by writing to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia.   We look forward to collaborating with our users in making this an effective and useful resource.

Intellectual property rights to the materials on this database remain with the owning repositories. People wishing to publish or otherwise use images found on this database must contact these institutions for  information and permission.  Please consult as well the Copyright & Use statement referenced on the John Jay Papers home page.


We are grateful to the many people whose hard work and generosity have made this project possible.  Among these are James Baird (Project Editor, 2000-2002), Alison Ward, Rose Bautista, Bernard Crystal, Ellen Wurtzel, James Basker, Theodore Crackel, Janet Gertz, Beryl Abrams, Robert Wolven, Patricia Renfro, Mary-Jo Kline, Pat Moran, Kari Smith, and Matt Hampel; Columbia Libraries' Digital Program and Systems Office staff members Angela Bukowy, David Arjanik, Stephen P. Davis, Gary Bertchume and Breck Witte; and the members of the Advisory Board.   Alix Schnee, Alan Weinreb and the very loyal staff of volunteers at the John Jay Homestead in Katonah, New York have also been of great assistance.  Michael Hall, at the National Endowment for the Humanities, gave helpful advice. Financial help from the Florence Gould Foundation and the Peck Stacpoole Foundation came at crucial moments as we moved forward. Elaine Sloan, University Librarian and Vice President for Information Services, encouraged the project; her successor, James Neal, has continued to support it with energy and enthusiasm.

Without the hard work of Richard B. Morris and the many researchers and assistants who served as his staff over the years, there would have been no material to digitize. Particular credit must go to Ene Sirvet, Editor of the Jay papers until 1996, whose efforts on behalf of the Jay papers were long-lasting and heroic.

Jean Ashton
Project Coordinator, 1999-2005

Participating Institutions

Columbia University wishes to extend its warm thanks to the following institutions for allowing digital images of documents from their collections to appear as part of The Papers of John Jay, 1745-1829.

  • Albany Institute of History and Art
  • Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (N.Y.)
  • Connecticut Historical Society
  • Detroit Public Library
  • College of William and Mary
  • Duke University
  • Historical Society of Delaware
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Independence National Historical Park
  • The Library Company of Philadelphia
  • The Library of Congress (U.S.)
  • Maryland State Archives
  • Massachusetts Historical Society
  • McGill University
  • Museum of the City of New York
  • Nationaal Archief (Netherlands)
  • National Archives (U.S.)
  • National Library of Scotland
  • Naval Academy Museum (U.S.)
  • New Jersey Historical Society
  • New-York Historical Society
  • New York Public Library
  • New York State Historical Association
  • Princeton University Library
  • Public Record Office (U.K.)
  • Rensselaer County Historical Society (N.Y.)
  • Senate House State Historic Site (N.Y.)
  • Southern Illinois University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
  • University of Vermont
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