Mount Vernon and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington acquired eight volumes recently at auction.

These books remained in the Washington family (George Washington to Bushrod Washington to John Augustine Washington to John Augustine Washington III to Lawrence Washington) until an 1876 sale where they were sold and dispersed.

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)

Goldsmith’s publication was a reference guide of sorts, which drew on the works of Buffon and Linnaeus to create a compilation of everything that was known about the earth, plants, and animals. It was heavily criticized for lack of original scholarship, but served well as a general guide. Washington ordered this title from his headquarters in Newburgh. He wrote to Lieutenant Colonel William Stephens Smith on June 20, 1783 with an order for nine books which he saw listed in a newspaper advertisement including, “Goldsmiths Natural History.” He acknowledges receiving the books on August 31, 1783.

The Beauties of Swift: or, the Favorite Offspring of Wit & Genius by Jonathan Swift

(London: Printed for G. Kearsley, 1782)

Listed as “Beauties of Swift” in the 1799 inventory taken after Washington’s death, this title was one of only a few volumes of contemporary literature found in his library. It is a significant and popular work of satire with a companion work, Beauties of Sterne.

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])

Another work of fiction, Washington owned the French imprint and this English translation. The tradition is that Washington referenced one of the episodes from this novel when someone questioned his decision not to run for another term as president. It is not known when Washington received this title, but it is listed as “Gillblass,” or “History of Gillblass” on the inventory taken after his death.

Voyages…dans l’Amerique septentrionale dans les annees 1780, 1781, & 1782 by Chastellux.

Volumes I and II (Paris: Prault, 1786)

The Marquis de Chastellux served as one of Rochambeau’s major generals during the American Revolution and was the principal liaison between Washington and the French Army. He published this travel journal detailing his movements during the war and the military leaders he met, including George Washington. On August 18, 1786, Washington acknowledged receiving these volumes from Chastellux; and, a year later he purchased the English translation.

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)

Joseph Priestley was a scientist, educator, Unitarian minister, prolific pamphleteer, and author of seven books found in George Washington’s library. In 1792, along with George Washington and several others, the National Assembly of France granted Priestley French citizenship for promoting the cause of liberty. Priestley knew Washington and visited him in 1794. It is not known when Washington received his copy, but it is listed as “Priestleys Evidences” on the inventory taken after his death.

Buy Tickets Shop
The Library Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant Donate Membership Calendar News E-Newsletter About

Open 365 Days A Year

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121