The Life of George Washington by Jared Sparks, Later Printing, 1843

Sparks, Jared. The Life of George Washington. Boston: Tappan and Dennet, 1843. Later printing. Octavo. In contemporary boards, professionally rebacked, and tooled in period style, with new archival brown cloth slipcase. 

Presented is a later 1843 edition of Jared Sparks’ esteemed biography, The Life of George Washington. First published in 1839, Sparks’ The Life of George Washington is one of the earliest and most intimate biographies of our first President. Impressively detailed, Sparks’ biography is further embellished with 14 engraved plates of portraits, views, and battle plans. 

Prior to Sparks, the earliest biographies of Washington were handicapped by the lack of access to Washington’s private papers. The greater public only had access to accounts from newspapers and various official government documents. In the early 1820s, Sparks was asked by a publisher to recommend an individual to edit and publish the writings and papers of George Washington. Sparks, who had visited Mount Vernon in 1815 after his graduation from Harvard, had long had an interest in and affection for Washington. Sparks took up this project and, after substantial negotiation, finally received permission in 1827 from Washington's nephew, Bushrod Washington, to examine the Washington manuscripts at Mount Vernon. Jared Sparks became the first biographer to be given access to Washington's many personal letters, notes, and diaries. 

After two years of extensive research at home in Boston, as well as in the libraries of London and Paris, Jared Sparks finished his first publication on Washington, The Writings of George Washington.  A monumental work, The Writings of George Washington was published in 12 volumes between 1833 and 1837. Considered his most important work to date, the success of his Writings of George Washington served as motivation to start a more concise biography of Washington. In 1839, he published his first edition of The Life of George Washington. Sparks notes in the preface to this biography that "the contents of this volume are essentially the same, as those of the volume prefixed to Washington's Writings. It being designed chiefly for readers who may not have access to that work, such additions have been made as the prescribed space would admit, and as would contribute to enhance its value in this form of a separate publication."

Sparks’ Life of George Washington covered Washington's early life, education, ascension into American politics, farming and horticulture, his marriage, and his role in military and frontier engagements. Sparks focused on battles between Indians and Washington’s troops, drew from his speeches and letters during the Revolutionary War, and included a descriptive account of the sufferings of the Army at Valley Forge and the personal relationship between Washington and Marquis de Lafayette.

Sparks was widely praised for his great effort but was sometimes criticized for his editing of Washington's spelling, grammar, and various phrases. Nevertheless, Sparks is applauded for his intimate portrayal of Washington. "Only by knowing the paucity and poverty of printed material on the American Revolution before 1830 can one realize the debt that American history owes to Jared Sparks" (ANB). 


Good condition. Octavo printing. In contemporary boards, professionally rebacked, and tooled in period style. Spine has raised bands and gilt titles. Leather boards lightly worn, interior in very good condition, save foxing to title page. All plates accounted for. Presented with a new archival brown cloth slipcase with portrait of Washington inlaid on front. 

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