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Special Collections

The library’s special collections is a rich resource of rare books, manuscripts, documents, and maps related to George Washington, his life, military career, presidency, and activities at Mount Vernon as well as materials related to Martha Washington, and other family members.

Highlights Include:

· George Washington, including approximately 500 letters, ledgers, farm books, and account books

· Family collections, including Martha Washington Papers, the Peter Family Archives, Bushrod Washington Family Papers, Eleanor Parke Custis Papers, and Lawrence Lewis Papers

· 6,000 historical manuscripts, documents, and maps related Washington family, friends and the larger historical context of the time period

· 103 volumes (62 titles) previously from George Washington’s library

· 2,500 rare books and limited or scarce publications, including books belonging to other family members

· 7,500 early records of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association;

To work with material in the special collections, please contact Michele Lee, Special Collection Librarian at: 703-799-6858 or

George Washington's Library

George Washington’s library represented decades of growth and change in the transatlantic exchange of ideas. By the time of his death in 1799, he had amassed a collection of over 1,200 titles varying in subject matter – politics, military history, agriculture, literature, and geography. A listing of the titles his library can be found online:

George Washington’s library passed through family members, first to his nephew, Bushrod Washington and then to his grandnephews, John Augustine Washington and George Corbin Washington. By 1848, the majority of Washington’s books were sold to Henry Stevens, a prominent Massachusetts bookseller and collector of Americana. Stevens announced that he would sell this collection to the British Museum, which outraged the local citizenry. A group of concerned people in Cambridge and Boston raised enough money to purchase the collection and donated it to the Boston Athenaeum, where it remains today.

Although much of the collection was sold during this time, approximately 350 titles remained in the family. Of these, Mount Vernon owns 62 titles (103 volumes), about 130 are in public institutions around the world, and 200 or more are either in private hands or the location is unknown.

Some of Mount Vernon’s recent acquisitions include George Washington’s copy of:

· An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature...In Eight Volumes by Oliver Goldsmith. The Second Edition. Volumes III and VII (London: Printed for J. Nourse, 1779)

· The Beauties of Swift: or, the Favorite Offspring of Wit & Genius by Jonathan Swift (London: Printed for G. Kearsley, 1782)

· The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane [by Alain-René Le Sage]…In Four Volumes. The Sixth Edition. Volumes III and IV (London: Printed for W. Strahan, J. Rivington, T. Davies, W. Johnston, T. Longman, W. Nicoll, Richardson & Urquahart, G. Robinson, T. Cadell, and R. Baldwin, [1785])

· Voyages…dans l’Amerique septentrionale dans les annees 1780, 1781, & 1782 by Chastellux. Volumes I and II (Paris: Prault, 1786)

· Discourses Relating to the Evidences of Revealed Religion, Delivered in the Church of the Universalists, at Philadelphia, 1796 by Joseph Priestley (Philadelphia: John Thompson, 1796)

· Acts passed at a Congress of the United States of America (Printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine,1789)

· Cadmus, or, A treatise on the elements of written language, by William Thornton, MD. (Philadelphia: Aitken & Son, 1793)

· Encyclopaedia; or, A dictionary of arts, sciences, and miscellaneous literature by Thomas Dobson (Philadelphia:  Printed by Thomas Dobson, 1798)

Library Virtual Tour

By popular demand, Mount Vernon is starting public tours of its new Library. See the main reading room, rare books & manuscripts room, and other signature spaces.

Tours depart from the Lobby of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. Free with general admission; space is limited.

Enter the Virtual Tour

Digital Encyclopedia

Mount Vernon’s digital encyclopedia includes entries and primary sources on Washington’s life, world and experiences, while also covering the Mount Vernon estate, its history, and preservation.

Learn More