Commonwealth Book Publishers of Virginia authors are private scholars, artists, world travelers, and good storytellers. Find out more about them by clicking on their pictures.

James C. Thompson

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. As a boy, I studied art at the Delaware Art Center, home of the famous Howard Pyle collection. While doing this, I developed an enduring appreciation for the American art of illustration. This interest inspired my forthcoming book, How America’s Illustrators Created America.

I studied Philosophy as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Virginia. The professional philosophers at Mr. Jefferson’s University did not consider him a Philosopher, and I do not recall hearing his name mentioned in one of my Philosophy classes. British Analytical Philosophy was in style then. I prepared myself to examine the philosophies of Britain’s linguistic analysts by reading Aristotle and Leibniz. G. E. Moore was topical then. Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein were centers of interest. Gottlieb Frege, A. J. Ayer and Logical Positivism all commanded attention. I once met John Wisdom in the paddock of the Montpelier Races.

When I say I am a philosopher, I mean that I have been trained to think philosophically. That is, I have been trained to investigate ideas. I want to know what they encompass, whether they are sound, and how they are used. I want to know where they come from, where they go, how they move, and what happens to them as they do. I am particularly interested in 17th and 18 Century thought. The analytical method that came into fashion in the 17th Century made the world modern. This new way of thinking made the 18th Century therefore an age of revolutions. The world changed as its old orders were destroyed. The political revolutions of the late 18th Century are, in my opinion, its most interesting and consequential events. The ideas I investigate were framed then—they are still carrying humanity forward. French reformers in the 18th century conceived the trend as a march of human progress to an ultimately perfect society. Two hundred and fifty years later it is apparent that they did not understand the dynamics of progress. I plan to write a book about this.

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Evelyn Swensson

Few people have the energy, vision, or talent that Evelyn Swensson has. This will become clear to readers of Notes – My Life with Music, which Commonwealth Book Publishers of Virginia will publish in the winter of 2014. Born in Woodstock, VA and a graduate of Hollins University, Evelyn married at age 20, raised four children, and earned a Master’s Degree in Music from West Chester University at age 40.

In this fascinating memoir she remembers her groundbreaking 40 year career as a composer and conductor for OperaDelaware and Delaware Children’s Theatre. She wrote 12 musicals in 12 years: The Enormous Egg, The Adventures of Beatrix Potter, The Jungle Book, Anne of Green Gables, The Wind in the Willows, The Homecoming, Redwall, All Through the Night, The Trumpet of the Swan, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Secret of N.I.M.H., and Billy Lee’s Washington.

Evelyn will be an inspiration to music lovers everywhere who will marvel at her ability to draw international celebrities into her innovative musical projects, including Mary Higgins Clark, Earl Hamner, Sheldon Harnick, Brian Jacques, Gian Carlo Menotti, Birgit Nilsson, Joseph Robinette, John Rutter, and Robert Shaw.

Helen Roberts Thomas

I was born in 1921 in Shanghai, China, the daughter of Episcopal missionaries. I did not take up permanent residence in the United States until after the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937. I finished by secondary schooling at Chatham Hall (Chatham, VA), after which I attended Wheelock College (Boston, MA) where I trained as a teacher. I studied art for a summer at the Art Student’s League (New York, NY). I taught grade school in Englewood, NJ for two years before enlisting in the wartime Red Cross. The Red Cross sent me to China where I encountered a number of old friend while helping our soldiers to cope with their wartime experiences. Home again, I taught in Newton, MA and worked for the Boston Herald-Traveler before marrying John Cunningham Thomas. John was a native New Yorker. After completing his graduate studies in chemistry at Yale, he joined the DuPont Company, and in 1951, we moved to Wilmington, Delaware.

I raised three children. When they reached their teens, I resumed by my teaching career as a Professor of Humanities at Delaware Technical and Community College. In 1970, I founded the Delaware chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). I helped found and was an original member of the Delaware Governor’s Council for Women, and founded the Delaware chapter of the Older Women’s League (OWL). I am an ACLU honoree and a member of the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame. My papers are in the collection of the Delaware Historical Society. After retiring in 1980, I commenced a new career as tai chi instructor at the Sun Taijiquan School in Wilmington, DE, retiring just before my 90th birthday.

I have returned to China many times since relations were normalized in the 1970’s. During my trip there in 2005, I received a silver medal in the International Martial Arts Competition in Beijing. I am a member of the Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew (SsAM) in Wilmington.

Commonwealth Book Publishers of Virginia Publications

James M. Bayne

James M. Bayne holds degrees from Univ. of Illinois and Harvard Business School. He is a veteran of the US Army, the Illinois Militia and the Illinois National Guard. During his four-decade business career, he was an architect and structural engineer with Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, Inc. in Detroit; a partner in Bayne and Lee, Architects and then became a member of NASA’s original Space Task Group where he served as Director of Design for the Manned (now Johnson) Space Center in Houston; he then became Director of Engineering for the Electronics Research Center, Cambridge, MA and concluded his government service at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

In addition to memberships in numerous professional organizations and societies, Mr. Bayne is a Mason, Knight Templar and an American Legionnaire. He also holds membership in the Jamestowne Society, First Families of America, the Order of Founders and Patriots of America, the Culpeper Minute Men Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (which he served as President), the Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (which he served as President), the War of 1812 Society and the Scottish-American Military Society. He is a Chevalier in the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, a Fellow in the Antiquaries Society of Scotland, and has served as 2nd Deputy Governor of the Virginia Chapter of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims.

Over a three-year period Mr. Bayne wrote a weekly column about the people and events of the Revolutionary War for the Culpeper Star-Exponent. Since January 2009 he has written a weekly column about current national events, which appears in the Sunday print and electronic editions of that paper.

Commonwealth Book Publishers of Virginia Publications

Terry K. Dunn

Terry K. Dunn brings her varied background and long experience as a college teacher, historical researcher and museum interpreter at Gunston Hall Plantation, and interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg as an editor for Gunston Hall’s Recollections of John Mason. Associated with Gunston Hall since 1986, her other research projects include “Upper Pantries in the Chesapeake Region” and extensive study of George Mason’s slaves.

She holds a B.S. in Zoology from Penn State and an M.A. in American History from George Mason University. Terry and her husband Keith live in Williamsburg, Virginia. Their daughter and son are married. They have one granddaughter, one beagle, and two parrots.

Commonwealth Book Publishers of Virginia Publications

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson has been identified as the “Father of the Enlightenment in America.” He tells the story of his own enlightenment in "Thomas Jefferson's Enlightenment – Paris 1785." In this revealing narrative, he recounts a series of excursions he made through Paris with Pierre Cabanis during which Cabanis acquainted him with France’s history, its social and political problems, and key members of the salon society Jefferson had come to France to join.

Jefferson remembers being introduced to the French concept of Progress and how he is befriended by the duc de la Rochofoucauld, a good man who hosts a circle of progressives at his hotel in Paris and at his chateau at La Roche-Guyon northwest of the city. Jefferson recounts how he embraces their vision of replacing France’s oppressive monarchy with a constitutional government resting on a bill of rights and the contributions he makes to this enlightened enterprise. In the process, he reveals how he became an agent of Progress.

The insights he provides in this account of this personal and political growth allow us to understand how the loner who wrote the Declaration of Independence cloistered in a Philadelphia boardinghouse became the party leader who waged and won America’s first national political campaign.

David Berndt

David Berndt was born and educated in Wilmington, Delaware. His father, Bayard T. Berndt, was the leading figure of the city’s storied art community for several decades prior to his death in 1987. After a stint in the Army, David worked with his father at Hardcastle Galleries and became its proprietor when his father retired in 1978. David’s knowledge of the Brandywine River School of Art and the Brandywine Valley artists who are carrying on the tradition established by Howard Pyle, N.C Wyeth, and Frank Schoonover are is unsurpassed.

More information about David Berndt and Bayard Taylor Berndt – Brandywine Valley Artist can be found at:

Commonwealth Book Publishers of Virginia Publications