This little volume kind of "has it all." For perhaps ten years prior to George Washington's death in December of 1799, the President had become friendly with Rev. Mason Locke Weems [1759-1825]. Weems was Minister at All Hallows Parish in Anne Arundel County. The two corresponded, Washington supported Weems' efforts at publishing literature calculated to increase the personal and public piety of the new Nation as a subscriber, and Weems spent time with Washington at his Mount Vernon estate. See here for a fascinating letter from Weems to Washington.
After the President's death, Weems was the first to issue a separately published biographical work dedicated to General President George Washington's life. He published it privately, first in 1800. It went through seven small, privately printed editions between 1800 and 1808. By then, it had achieved enough notoriety that publishing rights were obtained by influential printer, Matthew Carey. It was re-typeset, given new illustrations, and distributed more broadly.
The present volume has multiple points of overlapping interest:
The edition we offer was Weems' final private printing, and this according to him "greatly improved." It contains but the third appearance of the now dubious cherry tree story [Weems was the first to publish the account; it appears not until his fifth private edition]. No other example of his privately printed editions is available on the market and we trace none at recent auction.
This edition [or perhaps just this volume?] also contains a very scarce engraving of George Washington by Thomas Clarke of Boston [1760-1801]. This particular engraving seems not to be present in his earlier private editions, is not retained in the institutionally held 1808 seventh edition we were able to compare ours to, and was discarded for a more historically situated engraving by Carey for his 1809 more widely distributed edition. We have not been able to trace it in any other example. Clarke also issued a separate memorial engraving of Washington, related to but distinct from this, which has been sold separately at auction [See Swann, Bonhams examples]. Weems small, more intimate portrait of Washington present here appears rather more scarce. It's awkward presentation in the volume makes wonder whether it is perhaps completely unique either to this volume or to only parts of this edition. We find it located nowhere else.
Finally, the present copy is boldly signed on the title by Philip Gloninger, likely obtained from his father, John Gloninger [1758-1836] as the book was designed to inspire Washingtonian ethics in the young [per the subtitle of the book itself.]. It seems to be inscribed a second time by Gloninger on the ffep, but it is faded almost to the point of complete loss there.
John Gloninger was Lieutenant Colonel in command of the Second Battalion of Lancaster during the American Revolution, was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives , and a leading voice among the Federalists until his retirement in 1813. Perhaps more importantly to our present artifact, during the War, Gloninger and Washington became friends. Gloninger dined at Washington's home, and the two remained friendly over the years, apparently making sure to see each other any time Washington was near Gloninger's Lebanon, PA residence.
Philip [1785-1816] Gloninger became an influential young minister in the German Reformed Church, holding pastorates at Harrisburg, and later in Maryland. He was known for his glowing piety and excellence as a biblical scholar. He was, unfortunately, taken to the substance of his faith at just 31 years of age.
A rare private printing, the obscure Washington engraving, and a Washington war-time friend and family connection . . . it's just great.
Weems, Mason Locke. Formerly Rector of Mount Vernon Parish. The Life of George Washington; with Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honourable to Himself and Exemplary to His Young Countrymen. Seventh Edition - Greatly Improved. Philadelphia. Printed for the Author.
Original 12mo in quarter calf with marbled boards. Rubbed as shown, but all materials retained aside from minor chips and losses at board edges. Two non-conservation repairs on blank ffep at the reverse of the engraving where the plate impress has weakened the sheet; plate very awkwardly laid out to sheet [see photo]; occasional foxing and a stain as shown. Quite solid and a rather tidy little volume.