Magazine article — 'A melancholy and mournful victory'
This article originally appeared in 'Discover' magazine, issue 23 (PDF) (2.1 MB; 26 pages).
Curator's choice — Dora Petherbridge
Dora Petherbridge, United States and Commonwealth Assistant Curator, tells the story of 'Official letters to the Honorable American Congress, written during the war between the United Colonies and Great Britain by His Excellency, George Washington'.
personal copy of 'Official letters to the
Honorable American Congress', with his
signature in the top corner.
[Library reference: H.S.597-598]
At the beginning of April, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, travelled to Mount Vernon, George Washington's Virginia estate on the banks of the Potomac River, to present to the library there Washington's own copy of his two-volume 'Official letters to the Honorable American Congress written during the war between the United Colonies and Great Britain by His Excellency, George Washington'.
Unique first edition
This copy of the first edition, published in London in 1795, is unique. It bears its author's signature and contains the manuscript annotations of its editor, John Carey. The First Minister's presentation prefigures a loan of 'Official letters' from the National Library of Scotland to the new Fred W Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
It was in 1936 that the books last travelled across the Atlantic. Hugh Sharp, a wealthy Dundee jute manufacturer, purchased the two volumes with the help of renowned American bookseller, Dr Abraham Rosenbach, and they joined Sharp's extensive library in Scotland. Following his death in 1937, Sharp's family made the donation of his entire collection to the Library, where it has been treasured ever since.
Letters from the War of Independence
'Official letters' comprises documents written by George Washington over the first few years of the War of Independence. It allows readers to trace the conflict through his eyes while he served as Commander in Chief of the Continental Forces. Washington writes of his soldiers having to 'wade through much blood and slaughter' before they 'can be in possession of a melancholy and mournful victory'.
The significance of this copy of 'Official letters' is in part due to the presence of John Carey's 'manuscript remarks'. As Carey indicates his editorial methods to the President, he reveals the political sensitivities of the young United States and his own fear of exciting 'uneasiness in the bosoms of the persons now living under the Federal government'.
The books that were handed over by the First Minister have a heightened interest at a time when Scotland faces a decision about independence.