University of Virginia: . Unbound. This four-page stampless folded letter measures 15.5” x 9.75” unfolded. The letter was sealed with a black wax family crest showing a blazon with three suns in splendor, one and two. The cover is postmarked with an oval “University / of Virga” handstamp dated June 21. A manuscript “Paid to N York 18¾” is in the upper right corner indicating the cost to mail a letter a distance of between 150 and 400 miles. A rectangular black receiving mark that reads “Ship Letter / Liverpool” is on the reverse. The front of the cover also has a manuscript British rate mark indicating 1 shilling 7 pence (19 pence) was due upon delivery (8 pence ship letter charge plus 11 pence for the delivery to London from Liverpool). The letter is in nice shape. In this letter to his friend, John Knowles, Bonnycastle expresses the longing he feels for his friends in London, discusses his planned investments (possibly the James River and Kanawha Canal Company), complements Knowles on his latest work, The Life of Fuseli (published in March, 1831), expresses admiration of his friend Peter Barlow’s latest optical inventions, and comments teaching mathematics at the University of Virginia: "My own pursuits are pretty well limited to teaching [a] young idea to shoot; & though the Universities of this country have been designated as hospitals for incurables, yet here & there a shoot thrives well. The senior class are just entering the Mécanique Celeste (Celestial Mechanics), & the juniors are learning addition, so, you see, I have a wide range." Very good. Item #008898
Bonnycastle was one of the University of Virginia’s first professors having been lured away from the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich by Thomas Jefferson in 1825. He initially was appointed as the first Chair of Natural Science, but soon transferred positions to become the university’s Professor of Mathematics. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, some of Jefferson’s correspondence suggest that Bonnycastle also assisted in designing an observatory and classrooms. He died young in 1840 and is buried in the University Cemetery. Today, one of the university’s residence halls, Bonnycastle House, and one of it streets, Bonnycastle Drive, are named in his honor. A portrait of Bonnycastle is said to hang in the university president’s office. Quite an enlightening and heartfelt personal letter from one of the original University of Virginia faculty members made all the more desirable by an exceptional strike of a very early school postmark (see ASCC). Exceptionally scarce. As of 2017, nothing similar is for sale in the trade nor listed in auction records at ABPC or Rare Book Hub. OCLC shows no similar personal Bonnycastle letters at any institution, although the University of Virginia holds photostat copies of some letters Bonnycastle sent to Knowles. Also, the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation both hold some official correspondence sent amongst Bonnycastle, Thomas Jefferson, and the university’s board and proctor.