An interesting volume of Washington’s correspondence with a prominent Englishman, illustrated by the earliest published map of Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
Following his retirement from active service in 1783, Washington devoted much of his time to the maintenance and improvement of his vast estate of Mount Vernon. Soon thereafter he began an extensive correspondence with Arthur Young (1741-1820), a well-known English writer of dozens of books on agriculture, politics and political economy, and travel. Young offered Washington advice and supplied him with seeds and equipment, while Washington’s letters satisfied Young’s considerable curiosity about American agriculture and husbandry, particularly as practiced in the Middle States.
The letters are accompanied by A Map of General Washington’s Farm of Mount Vernon from a Drawing transmitted by the General (engraving and etching, 14.5″h x 20.25″w, uncolored). The map was drafted by Washington to accompany a Dec. 12, 1793 letter to Young in which he outlined his wish to rent out much of the estate. The very long letter provides a great deal of information elaborating on the map and explains Washington’s thinking:
“from my present situation, from my advanced time of life, from a wish to live free from care, and as much at my ease as possible, during the remainder of it, and from other causes, which are not necessary to detail, I have, latterly, entertained serious thoughts of letting this estate also, reserving the mansion-house farm for my own residence, occupation, and amusement in agriculture.” (pp. 160-161)
The map gives a very detailed view of the estate’s natural topography, roads and paths, dwellings and other structures, as well as the boundaries of fields and farms. It details in particular the four farms Washington sought to rent out, representing in aggregate some 3260 acres. At the upper left are several notes in a facsimile of Washington’s own handwriting.
In addition to its connection with Washington and his famed estate, this map is notable as one of the earliest large-scale maps to be published of any location in Virginia, preceded only by plans of the Yorktown battle and, arguably, the various very rare maps of the Northern Neck drawn earlier in the 18th century by William Mayo and others.
The volume is listed in Howes, U.S.-Iana, #W-138. Phillips, Maps of America does not list the 1801 printing but does mention what appears to be an 1876 edition of the map (The 1801 map is, nonetheless, held by the Library of Congress.)
Text clean, map with a bit of offset, lower margin trimmed as issued, and a mended tear at point of binding.