Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Washington Didn't Sleep Here

An embossed leather cover enclosing a lock of hair.To the best of our knowledge, George Washington never graced the plains of Hanover, but we do have a relic associated with him: a lock of his hair bound into John Marshall's The Life of George Washington (London: Printed for Richard Phillips, 1804-1807).  This particular copy was "extra illustrated" by a collector, meaning that the original book was disbound, interleaved with additional material such as illustrations from other sources or manuscript materials associated with events described in the book, then rebound.  The collector's prize, a documented lock of Washington's hair, was framed into the binding of the first volume.

This is not the only lock of hair in the collection.  Others can be found within manuscript collections and an extra-illustrated edition of Samuel Picard's Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier (Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1894) has a lock from the graying poet.

While the hair is an interesting fetish object, our collections also hold original Washington material of high scholarly value.  MS-1033 contains original correspondence, a mathematical exercise attributed to a 13-year-old Washington, as well as a copy of Washington's Valley Forge announcement to the people of Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

To see Washington's hair ask for Rare E312.M34 1804 v.1; to see the manuscripts, request MS-1033.

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