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1776 Annual Register

Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation

Start of Revolutionary War: British Leave Boston, Virginia Governor Dunmore frees slaves and much more

Book Reviews of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and Edward Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

This is the volume that started our obsession with the early Annual Registers, it has it all for lovers of early printed Americana! To start with it contains the first British printing in book form of the US Declaration of Independence (See start of text above). The first edition of this publication of the Declaration came out in early 1777 when it appeared doubtful whether the disorganized thirteen colonies, the Continental Army under George Washington having been easily chased out of New York, could ever defeat the greatest military power in the world and gain real independence. This volume has more than the text of the Declaration, it has an account of the Declaration being read to the Continental Army ("every where received with loud huzzas") and "almost every other town of the united colonies," and an analysis of the event in the History of Europe section ("The fatal day at length arrived...when thirteen English colonies in America declared themselves free and independent states, abjured all allegiance to the British crown, and renounced all political connexion with this country...it contains a long catalogue of grievances, with not fewer invectives' and not more temperate in style or composition, than it is in act."). The audacity of the act and of Thomas Jefferson's draftsmanship were duly noted. See excerpts below.

The volume also contains the charter of the first government of the United States, the Articles of Confederation. Below is a page from the Annual Register that contains the end of the Declaration of Independence, with John Hancock's signature in type, and the start of the Articles of Confederation, the new a largely ineffectual government that made it so hard for George Washington and the Continental Congress to successfully prosecute the war for independence. (click on the thumbnail below to enlarge).

The volume also contains an extended description of the events of the war, including the first victory of the war for George Washington, the evacuation of the British Army from Boston after the surprise erection of wooden works on Dorchester Heights on March 5, 1776. In wonderful prose the Annual Register recounts the amazement of the British:

"Whilst the atttention of the army was occupied by the firing of house and other mischiefs incident to this new attack, the beheld, with inexpressible surprise, on the morning of the 5th, some considerable works appear upon the hieghts of Dorchester Point, which had been erected in the preceding night, and from whence a 24 pound, and a bomb battery, were soon after opened. Some of our officers have acknoledged, that the expedition with which these workkds were thrown up, with the sudden and unexpected appearace, recalled to their minds those wonderful stories of enchantment and invisible agency, which are so frequent in Eastern romances."

The insult to British pride in having to evacuate an army intended to bring to obedience the entire rebellious colonies to a "raw and decrepit militia" under Washington was noted in this classic passage from the point of view of the commanding British general:

 He commanded a force, which he knew had been considered and represented hear as sufficient to look down all oppostion in America; and which, in reality, with respect to the number of regiment, if not of men the excellency of the troops, the character of the officers, and the powerful artillery which they possessed, would have been deem acceptable in any country, and dangerous by any enemy. With such troops, to give up that town which had been the original cause of the war, and the constant object of contention since its commencement, to a raw and decrepit militia, seemed, exclusive of all other consequences, a disgrace not to be borne.

Clicking on the thumbnail below will show the page describing the British surprise at the occupation of Dorchester heights and the evacuation it necessitated.

The volume contains information on the rebellion in other colonies, including the conflict between the Virginia House of Burgesses, led by the firebrand Patrick Henry, and the British colonial Governor Lord Dunmore. The news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 combined with the local actions defying the crown made Governor Dunmore feel besieged and to defend himself and send a message to Virginia planters he took the unusual and provocative action of issuing a proclamation in November 1775 of freeing the slaves to fight against the Virginians. An excerpt from the volume reporting on this event and the possibly dangerous consequences is provided below. The action backfired, resulting in the conversion of a number of prominent Virginia loyalists to the patriot cause.

The Revolutionary War was obviously big news in England and being a British publication the Annual Register provides extensive coverage of the Parliamentary debates. And since Edmund Burke and his friends wrote and edited the Annual Register, the perspective provided is generally anti-war and anti-Administration.  Below is an excerpt describing Edmund Burke second attempt at moving resolutions designed for peace and reconciliation with the American colonies which was accompanied by a speech "for upwards of three hours with great ability."

1776 saw the publication of two books covered in the Annual Register's Account of Books for that year that are still read and respected today, Adam Smith's An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Smith's is a classic statement of the argument for capitalism and free trade and Gibbon's first volume set the standard for history writing. Edmund Burke knew and corresponded with Gibbon and Smith and provided glowing reviews of their seminal works. Exceprts are provided below. What a wonderful way to end this historic volume of the Annual Register!


We currently have two volumes of this spectacular book available, a rare 1st edition and a 4th edition. The spine and title page of both are shown below. Both are in good condition with no loose boards or pages, intact labels and unusually little foxing for these over 200 year old books. Both volumes have the expected wear to the covers and corners.  The volumes are 529 pages, plus table of contents, divided into two sections of 270 pages and 259 pages. The first edition volume published in 1777 has a full leather binding and the fourth edition published in 1788 has a half leather binding with marbled boards, with some of the marbling paper worn away on one side (click on thumbnail below to see condition).

There are none of these valuable books currently available from booksellers through the internet search engines (e.g., ABE.com or AddAll.com) in any edition, except as a part of multi-volume sets. An autograph and rare documents dealer offers a 1st edition copy for $2,000 and a book dealer offers one for $3,000

Price: SOLD

For an even earlier publication of the Declaration see the Gentleman's Magazine 1776 bound volume.

Later Editions of the 1776 Annual Register are available below.


Price:  SOLD