Autograph Letter Signed ("G:o Washington"), three pages, 9 x 7½ inches, Mount Vernon, June 20, 1788. To the great American mathematician "Nicholas Pike, Esq.r" (1743-1819), thanking him for a copy of Pike's just-published "System of Arithmetic." As a former surveyor, Washington was especially appreciative of the importance of the first American arithmetic book to the progress of the arts in America. In this moving letter, he waxes both philosophical and patriotic.
In large part: "…The handsome manner in which that work is printed, and the elegant manner in which it is bound, are pleasing proofs of the progress which the arts are making in this Country. But I should do violence to my own feelings, if I suppressed an acknowledgment of the belief that the work itself is calculated to be equally useful & honorable to the United States. -
It is but right, however, to apprise you, that, diffident of my own decision, the favourable opinion I entertain of your performance is founded rather on the explicit & ample testimonies of Gentlemen confessedly possessed of great mathematical knowledge, than on the partial & incompetent attention I have been able to pay to it myself. But I must be permitted to remark that the subject, in my estimation, holds a higher rank in the literary scale than you are disposed to allow. - The science of figures to a certain degree, is not only indispensably requisite in every walk of civilized life, but the investigation of mathematical truths accustoms the mind to method and correctness in reasoning, and is an employment peculiarly worthy of rational beings. In a cloudy state of existence, where so many things appear precarious to the bewildered research it is here that the rational faculties find a firm foundation to rest upon. - From the high ground of Mathematical and Philosophical demonstration, we are insensibly led to far nobler speculations & sublime meditations.
I hope and trust that the work will ultimately prove not less profitable than reputable to yourself. - It seems to have been conceded on all hands, that such a system was much wanted. - Its merit being established by the approbation of competent judges, I flatter myself that the idea of its being an American production and the first of its kind which has appeared will induce every patriotic and liberal character to give it all the countenance & patronage in his power. - In all events, you may rest assured, that, as no person takes more interest in the encouragement of American genius, so no one will be more highly gratified with the success of your ingenious, arduous, & useful undertaking than he, who has the unfeigned pleasure to subscribe himself with esteem & regard
Your Most Obedt and
Very Hble Servant
Included with this letter are the following:
1) Nicholas Pike's personal folio mathematical workbook from 1764 to 1796, signed numerous times, 276 pages filled with all sorts of mathematical drawings (many in color), computations and arithmetical problems;
2) Pike's personal copy of his book, A New and Complete System of Arithmetick, Composed For the Use of the Citizens of the United States
, signed twice on the front page;
3) The original and possibly unique large folio broadside advertising Pike's book, printed in Newburyport, Massachusetts, March 22, 1786;
4) A family tree of the Pike family, accomplished in the round in watercolor signed by Joseph Pike in April of 1800;
5) Note of descent from one ancestor to another in 1937.
Estimated Value $60,000 - 80,000,
Descended through the family of Nicolas Pike,