BURK, John Daly (ca. 1772-1808)
The History of Virginia, from its first settlement to the present day
Petersburg, Virginia: Printed for the Author by Dickson & Pescud, 1804-1805, [and] M.W. Dunnavant, 1816, 1804-1805-1805-1816. 8vo, 4 vols. (8 1/4 x 5 1/8 inches). ii, iv, 348; 335, lxii; 469; vii, 538, xv pp. Errata leaf at end of fourth volume. Folding table in third volume listing names and locations of Native American tribes. Top of titlepage in Volume 4 torn with loss of the word "The."
Uniformly bound in full tree calf, spine flat, red morocco lettering piece on each volume.
Provenance: "S.L. Smith's 1823" (ink inscription on titlepage of volumes 1-3)
First edition of the "first comprehensive" history of Virginia: with the rare fourth volume, aided by Jefferson.
"Despite the fact that Virginia had been England's oldest colony in North America and had played a leading role in the Revolution, no comprehensive history of the Old Dominion was published for nearly 30 years after the Declaration of Independence ... It was John Daly Burk, an Irish emigré, who published during the first Jefferson administration the first comprehensive History of Virginia ... of even greater importance is the fact that it reflects the major themes, style and problems of American historical writing during the years immediately following the Revolution ... Americans were faced with the requirements of establishing a new historical identity" (Shaffer, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 77:336). Burk, well known as a dramatist, was an Irish emigrant and enthusiastic Jeffersonian. When he arrived in the United States, he settled in Boston and took up journalism but was forced to move following threatened persecution under President Adams' Alien and Sedition Act. Burk subsequently went into hiding in the town of Petersburg, Virginia, where he assumed to be safe from Federalist policies, and continued his writing career. After Burk's death in a duel in 1808, the fourth volume, which covers 1775 to 1781, was written by Skelton Jones and Louis Girardin, supposedly with the aid of Thomas Jefferson, to whom it is dedicated. Jefferson also assisted Burk in the research for the second and third volumes by lending him manuscripts, newspapers, and other materials, including "his compleat set of the printed laws of Virginia ... the only set in existence" and his "volumes of newspapers from 1741 to 1754." Among the volumes available to Burk was an assemblage of Sessions Acts, noted by Jefferson to be "the only one of which there exists probably no other collection" (Sowerby). Burk had "access to official records, many of which have been lost. In consequence, his lengthy appendices are of the highest historical importance" (Eberstadt). An important history of Virginia, here present with the very rare fourth volume. Complete sets are very scarce, considering that volume, issued years after the rest of the set, was largely destroyed by fire and only a few copies have survived.
Howes B971, "b"; Sabin 9273; Haynes 2499; Church 1298; Sowerby, Jefferson's Library 464; Eberstadt 131:686.