When Thomas Jefferson was 77, he went back to a project he had been thinking about for decades. Sitting in Monticello, using candlelight and a knife, he cut New Testament verses in four different languages from six books to create his own bible. Jefferson, saying he was selecting his own “morsels of morality,” removed verses on any miracles, as well as the Resurrection.

For more than 116 years, the Jefferson Bible, as it is known, has been one of the iconic possessions of the Smithsonian Institution . Now a group of conservators and curators has removed the 86 pages from the original binding and are examining every inch to stabilize its condition, study its words and craftsmanship, and guarantee that future generations can learn more about the artifact and the man.

Standing in the paper conservation laboratory Thursday at the National Museum of American History, the team showed pages from the small red book, put together like a scrapbook.

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