Special exhibit showing from
SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 through JANUARY 12, 2014 F.M. Kirby Foundation Gallery at Mount Vernon
As a young man, George Washington copied out 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation” from a popular English text, Youth’s Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men. The rules instruct students to practice consideration and respect towards others, by paying careful attention to body language, dress, and speech.
Youth's Behaviour, or Decency in
Conversation Amongst Men
Translated and edited by Francis Hawkins
London: S. Griffin, 1668
Courtesy Washington State University
“I have a great many instructive Books,
on many subjects, as well as amusing ones.”
– GEORGE WASHINGTON to Lawrence Lewis, August 4, 1797
Washington’s library was his go-to source when researching politics, farming, and warfare, but it also provided a rich source of entertainment, in the form of novels, plays, and poetry, as well as food for thought, in works on religious and philosophical subjects.
“I conceive a knowledge of books is the basis
upon which other knowledge is to be built.”
– GEORGE WASHINGTON to Jonathan Boucher, July 9, 1771
George Washington’s copy of The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote
By Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra,
translated by Tobias Smollett
London: W. Longman et al., 1786
A conversation at the home of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia may have inspired Washington to read the epic Spanish novel, Don Quixote. Washington purchased this English edition on September 17, 1787, the very day that the Constitutional Convention concluded.
Gift of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, 1983 [ML-267-W]
George Washington to Elizabeth Powel
January 25, 1795
“[Thomas] Jefferson’s Notes of Virginia I have the pleasure to send you,” writes Washington to Powel, a close friend, and one of the most well-read and articulate women in America. Powel may have also requested or recommended the other article mentioned: “Doctr. [Benjamin] Franklin’s strictures on the abuse of the Press.”
Purchase, 1952 [A-417.32]
George Washington’s copy of A View of the Conduct of the Executive, in the Foreign Affairs of the United States Connected with the Mission to the French Republic, During the Years 1794, 5, & 6
By James Monroe
Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin Bache, 1797
James Monroe’s critique of Washington’s foreign policy prompted the first president to respond with written comments in the margins. This book contains more notes in Washington’s hand than any of the surviving books from his library.
*AC7.Un33P.Zz1m, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Gift of Joseph Story, 1847
“Every hour misspent is lost forever...
endeavour not only to be learned but virtuous.”
– GEORGE WASHINGTON to his nephew,
George Steptoe Washington, December 5, 1790
Admission to “Take Note! George Washington the Reader”
is included in purchase of General Admission Tickets.