Philadelphia: William Young Birch and Abraham Small, 1803 and 1804. Complete five volume set from the library of notable journalist and White House speechwriter William Safire. Octavos: xvi, 506 pp.; viii, 519 pp.; viii, 516 pp.; viii, 516 pp.; xii, 476 pp., 35 pp., followed by four pages of advertisements. Illustrated with 31 plates, all present.
Bound in contemporary sheepskin leather with red morocco spine labels. Vol. 4 appears to be from a different set and has blue sprinkled edges and only one spine label as opposed to two. All dated 1803 on copyright page except for Vol. 5, which states 1804. Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 5 have a bookplate on the front attached endpaper that states: "Present to Frederick College Library By Worthington Johnson, Esq." Binding shaken but all boards attached and text-blocks secure. Corners heavily bumped and rubbed. Leather dried and chipping. Some pages toned with a handful of pages dampstained. Small section of each title page clipped where it appears a previous owner's name has been removed.
This set of encyclopedias covers a wide variety of topics including language, inventions, names of plants, a long entry on the health benefits of tobacco, medical terms, and even an illustration of the anatomy of a horse. President Thomas Jefferson was a subscriber, according to his records at the National Archives. And his invention, the mould board plow, is included in Volume 4.
Worthington Johnson (1801 - 1864) of Frederick, Md., gifted this set to a local school and lending library at Frederick College, which is no longer in operation. Johnson attended Princeton Law School but due to poor health, spent his life overseeing his "extensive estates and numerous slaves," according to the "Portrait and Biographical Record of the Sixth Congressional District, Maryland" published in 1898. While the work does not include an entry for slavery, it is notable that the publisher William Young Birch was eulogized by ardent abolitionist Henry William Furness at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.
[Heidenrich, Chris., "Frederick: Local and National Crossroads," p. 138.; National Archives, "Founders Online"; "Portrait and Biographical Record of the Sixth Congressional District, Maryland," p. 207. "A discourse, delivered on the occasion of the erection in the church of tablets : in memory of John Vaughan, Ralph Eddowes, and William Y. Birch, August 20th, 1842."].