This series will focus on material I found while researching my book, America’s Forgotten Founding Father: A Novel Based on the Life of Filippo Mazzei.
While I only used a portion of my total research, there are a host of little tidbits of information on this amazing man which I wanted to share here. — Rosanne.
Two years had passed since my discovery of a mystery letter in a Florence archive, and as I studied the correspondence on the Founders Online website run by the National Archives and the University of Virginia Press, I finally began to comprehend the significance of my accidental find. The letter, dated 1812, written in Italian and, according to the archival reference sheet, directed to “?”, did indeed have a recipient, and a notable one at that. I realized that I had inadvertently stumbled upon a missing link in the extensive chain of correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and his friend Filippo Mazzei (1730-1816), Italian patriot of the American Revolution, who first arrived in Virginia as an agriculturalist in 1773. It struck me that over the course of 200 years, no one had read Mazzei’s letter of 1812 and Jefferson’s letter of the previous year side by side except for Mazzei himself. And now, me. With this realization, I found myself in the throes of my own “archive fever,” consumed by my letter and the mystery that surrounded it. I wondered if this 1812 letter had ever left Italy, and why no one had found it before I did. The clues were there, and I couldn’t resist diving headfirst into a bit of historical detective work.
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