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William Byrd II Papers(1728–1729)

  • MS 40.2
  • Microfilm: M-1553
  • Photocopy: PH/07 (selected items)
  • 4 pieces

Writings of William Byrd II (1674–1744), of Westover, Charles City County, VA, including a fragmentary rough draft, in his hand, of the November 5–22, 1728 entries in his Secret History of the Dividing Line, which he later revised as the History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina. When Thomas Jefferson sent a contemporary fair copy from Berkeley to the American Philosophical Society in 1817, the text of these pages was missing. Also included is a contemporary transcript of Byrd’s entries for October 29 through November 5, 1728, in the History of the Dividing Line.

The collection contains Byrd’s letterbook for 1728–1729, including copies of letters to Mrs. Armiger, [Mr?] Bradley [Lord Islay?], Gov. Sir William Gooch, Col. Edward Moseley, Col. [Mann] Page, Micajah Perry, Mr. Spencer, “Cousen” Taylor, and [Sir Charles Wager?]; and a synopsis of Moses’ death and Joshua’s winning of the Promised Land, in a handwriting similar to that of the History, but with interlineations that may be Byrd’s.

For the provenance of these papers, see Maude H. Woodfin, “Thomas Jefferson and William Byrd’s Manuscript Histories of the Dividing Line,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., I (1944), pp. 363–373; and Maude H. Woodfin, “The Missing Pages of William Byrd’s Secret History of the Dividing Line,” ibid., II (1945), pp. 63–70. The latter article also prints the 20–22 November section of the Secret History fragment.

The Secret History and the History are printed in their entirety in Louis B. Wright, Prose Works of William Byrd (Cambridge, Mass., 1966), but the Colonial Williamsburg fragments are incorrectly cited as being in the William Blathwayt papers.