Second edition of this travel guide written by the third Librarian of Congress, capturing antebellum Washington's socio-cultural atmosphere.
A PICTURE OF WASHINGTON
"It will be of great use to the stranger, by directing his attention to the principal objects of curiosity to be found in Washington, and guiding him from place to place, with a knowledge of its localities."
George Watterston was a lawyer, writer, editor, and military man who served in the defense of Washington during the War of 1812. After the War, James Madison appointed him the Librarian of Congress, where he was responsible for rebuilding the Library's collection after its destruction by the British, including purchasing the collection of Thomas Jefferson.
Watterston writes about the various attractions and government buildings of Washington with an insider's eye, highlighting familiar landmarks such as the Washington Monument (which Watterston campaigned to construct), the Capitol Building, and the White House, fairly recently rebuilt after its destruction in the War of 1812. He even describes the "party scene" of 1840s DC, though from the perspective of a visiting dignitary rather than a modern club-hopper.
Watterston, a slave holder himself, also delves into the logistics of the city as applied to people of color and people who were residents not by choice. He describes in detail the treatment of and rules pertaining to "slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, &c;" free Black people and "persons of color" were "required to exhibit satisfactory evidences of their freedom to the Register," else they may be "committed to jail as absconding slaves," among other restrictions on gathering, working, and even being out in the city at night. A famous example of the dangerous realities of these laws is the story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man who was kidnapped in Washington DC and sold into slavery in the year of this book's publication, as recounted in his memoir TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE.
Both this edition and the 1840 first are scarce in commerce.
Read more: Joseph Sabin, Dictionary of Books Relating to America, pages 506-507.
Washington: William M. Morrison, 1841. Full title: A Picture of Washington; Giving a Description of All the Public Buildings, Grounds, &c. 5.5'' x 4''. Original purple cloth. Two black-and-white fold-out diagrams, one of the House chambers and one of the Senate. , 132,  pages, with directory at the rear. Owner's name in pencil on front flyleaf. Binding with mild scuffing and light sunning, particularly to spine; slight lean. Leaves with occasional foxing and some toning to margins; a couple of small closed tears to margins of fold-outs. A sound copy.
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