What: “I cannot live without books,” Thomas Jefferson once said. In his will, he left a personal library of 931 titles to his beloved University of Virginia. But his estate was riddled with debt, and that library was ­scattered forever at forced ­auction in Washington in 1829.  

After curious wanderings, three titles independently made their way to Princeton: a little chemistry book by French scientist J.L. Gay-Lussac; Boston diplomat ­Alexander Everett’s large-format book on population that rebutted Malthus and hoped for a burgeoning America; and a two-volume set of Sophocles ­published in ­England in 1665.

Time has been unkind to Jefferson’s libraries. His original collection burned in a 1770 house fire. Subsequently Jefferson amassed 6,700 volumes at Monticello, then sold them to the federal government in 1815 for much-needed cash. Two-thirds perished when the Library of Congress caught fire in 1851.  

Princeton’s precious volumes appear in Jefferson’s handwritten catalog of ­his “Retirement Library,” assembled during his last years for what he called “amusement and not use” — final testament to his “canine appetite for reading.”  

Where: Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library