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Life of George Washington

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“FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE, AND FIRST IN THE HEARTS OF HIS FELLOW CITIZENS”: MARSHALL’S LIFE OF WASHINGTON, IN CONTEMPORARY TREE CALF, WITH QUARTO ATLAS VOLUME OF THE MILITARY CAMPAIGNS

MARSHALL, John. The Life of George Washington. Philadelphia: C.P. Wayne, 1805-07. Six volumes. Thick octavo, contemporary full tree calf, red morocco spine labels. Quarto atlas volume in contemporary half brown morocco rebacked, marbled boards and later paper label.

Second editions of Chief Justice John Marshall’s “indispensable” biography (issued within one year of the first edition): the life story of a great man—and the birth of a great nation—written by a man very nearly the equal of his subject, drawn chiefly from Washington’s own diaries, letters and secret archives. Accompanied by an atlas volume containing ten engraved folding maps of Revolutionary War battlefields and troop movements.

Shortly after Marshall became Chief Justice he was approached by Washington’s nephew, Bushrod, to write the first President’s official biography. Probably no man was better suited to the task. As a personal friend of Washington, Marshall had been the one to announce the President’s death in 1799, had offered the eulogy, had chaired the committee that arranged the funeral rites, and had led the commission to plan a monument in the capital city. When Marshall’s Life of Washington appeared, it was considered so authoritative that Washington scholar Jared Sparks suggested any new biographical undertaking would be “presumptuous” (Sparks, Washington I:12). This and the first edition, together with the first English edition of the same years, are “the only complete editions of this indispensable work, the ‘Colonial History’ being omitted in the later American editions” (Sabin). Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of Washington, made known to the general public through this engraved frontispiece, was produced by Philadelphia stipple-engraver David Edwin-“for upwards of 30 years, the most prolific workman in America” (Fielding, 109). Howes M317. Sabin 44788. Shaw & Shoemaker 6710. Owner signature in Volume II; evidence of bookplate removal and library blind-embossing with deaccessioning stamp to all volumes. Early owner annotations listing the history of the English throne to recto of rear free endpaper of Volume I.

Foxing to preliminary and concluding leaves. Light wear to extremities of contemporary calf. A handsome and desirable set.