Sunday, June 21, 2009

Adams-Jefferson Conference Kickoff

The first event of the John Adams & Thomas Jefferson: Libraries, Leadership and Legacy conference was held tonight: John Carter Brown library director Ted Widmer gave a keynote address titled "People of the Book: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the Koran." Beginning with the fact that both Jefferson and Adams owned copies of the Koran (Jefferson's copy was a 1764 London edition of George Sale's translation; Adams' copy was the first American edition, printed at Springfield, MA in 1806), he discussed both the the particular aspects of their ownership of the book and the general topic of how Islam and the Koran were understood in early America.

A timely discussion, and very well researched. One of the best parts was Widmer's closing anecdote: when he visited the Library of Congress to examine Jefferson's Koran, another researcher was waiting to use it when he finished. It was a Muslim woman from Salt Lake City, who said she had read about Rep. Keith Ellison being sworn in on Jefferson's copy and wanted to see it for herself.

Tomorrow the panel discussions begin, and those promise to be interesting as well.

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