Monday, September 5, 2011

Remarks on the Slave Trade

Dating from May of 1789, the year the U.S. Constitution was ratified and went into effect, is a first printing of this influential broadside printed by Mathew Carey of Philadelphia, Remarks on the Slave Trade. It is being offered for sale at Swann Galleries on September 15, one of six documented first printings.

The remarkable and horrific image is a schematic of the lower deck of the slave ship Brooks, indicating how its human cargo was carried. This broadside is credited with greatly strengthening the abolitionist movement in the U.S. by publicizing the horrors of the slave trade.

Sale 2253 Lot 1
AMONG THE MOST POWERFUL EARLY AMERICAN GRAPHIC BROADSIDES (AFRICAN AMERICANS.) Remarks on the Slave Trade. Broadside with four columns of text, illustrated with a "Plan of an African Ship's Lower Deck, with Negroes in the Proportion of Not Quite One to a Ton," 10 1/2 x 17 1/4 inches; worn at edges, minor foxing, slight loss at intersection of folds, a bit of dampstaining in upper right margin. Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, 1789
Estimate $15,000-25,000
September 15, 2011:  Sold for $12,000

first american broadside printing. The image which first shocked many Americans into the abolitionist camp. This engraving of the slave ship Brooks and its human cargo was first published in the May 1789 issue of the American Museum. Here it is presented in broadside form with an introduction (presumably by Carey) in the first column, followed by four columns of description by William Elford of the Plymouth Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. As the introduction explains, "Here is presented to our view, one of the most horrid spectacles--a number of human creatures, packed, side by side, almost like herrings in a barrel, and reduced nearly to the state of being buried alive, with just air enough to preserve a degree of life sufficient to make them sensible of all the horror of their situation."
The various editions of Brooks plan are discussed at length in Marcus Rediker's recent The Slave Ship, where he calls it "among the most effective propaganda any social movement has ever created" (page 308). Although one of the most enduring images of the eighteenth century, this first American broadside printing is rarely seen. 6 copies on ESTC, and none others known at auction. Evans 21807.


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