New Founding Fathers Documents Available On-Line Through NHPRC Pilot Program

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), in partnership with Documents Compass at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, this week announced 5,000 previously unpublished documents from the nation’s founders are now available online through Rotunda, the digital imprint of The University of Virginia Press.

The ROTUNDA Founders Early Access project makes available for the first time letters and other papers penned by important figures such as James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The Founders Early Access portion of the site allows users to read, search, and browse the newly transcribed documents, and is available at no cost to users.

In 2008, Congress urged the National Archives to investigate ways to make the Founders Papers more readily available. Later that year, NARA issued The Founders Online, a report which included a plan for providing online access, within a reasonable timeframe, to historians, scholars, and the general public at no cost.

As long-time funders of the print editions of the Founding Fathers documentary projects, the NHPRC worked with the editorial teams and supported a pilot demonstration project through Documents Compass, a nonprofit organization designed to assist in the digital production of historical documentary editions.

Over the past ten months, the pilot has transcribed and completed basic transcription verification for roughly 5,000 documents. These transcriptions will be fully verified, and the editorial teams will provide explanatory annotation as they proceed with their work. Each completed volume of a documentary edition contains roughly 500 documents and provides notations that identify historical figures and events to shed light on the papers’ meaning and significance.
The Founders historical documentary editions include the papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, as well as the Documentary History of the Ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first Federal Congress, and the first Supreme Court. Rotunda is publishing digital editions of some of these publications in its American Founding Era Collection.