1804. First Edition . (SLAVERY) BRANAGAN, Thomas. A Preliminary Essay, on the Oppression of the Exiled Sons of Africa. Consisting of Animadversions on the Impolicy and Barbarity of the Deleterious Commerce and Subsequent Slavery of the Human Species; To which is added, A Desultory Letter Written to Napoleon Bonaparte, Anno Domini 1801. Philadelphia: John W. Scott, 1804. Small octavo (4-1/4 by 6-1/2 inches), contemporary full brown tree sheep rebacked, redmorocco spine label. $2200.First edition of the influential first book by the one-time slave trader turned abolitionist, a seering eyewitness account of the Middle Passage and slavery in the 1700s, containing some ""of the most gruesome scenes of cruelty perpetrated,"" with Jefferson possessing a presentation copy of this edition in his library, featuring woodcut-engraved frontispiece of slave-drivers.""The works of Branagan had a tremendous influence""... Speaking as a former slave trader, from his own experience and observations, he received widespread attention"" (Dumond, 80). The Irish-born Branagan ""went to sea at 13, serving at one point on a ship carrying slaves from West Africa to the West Indies. By 1793 he had signed on a British privateer that preyed on the ships carrying French planters and their slaves from Cap Francais and Port-au-Prince to American ports. Soon afterward he accepted a job overseeing a sugar plantation in Antigua,"" and on immigrating to Philadelphia, became a devout Christian and abolitionist. This record of his firsthand experiences, interwoven with select published accounts, contains some ""of the most gruesome scenes of cruelty perpetrated under slavery"" (Nash, Forging Freedom, 178). He sent a copy to Jefferson, whose library also included an 1808 Branagan work. ""Because of the politically sensitive themes of Branagan's writings, Jefferson never replied to his letters, although in 1805 he asked George Logan to explain his silence verbally to Branagan"" (National Archives). While Branagan clearly identified with the victims of slavery in this work, later writings reveal a conflicted racism. With rear leaf of publisher's advertisement. Shaw & Shoemaker 5901. Sabin 7379. Sowerby 1394. Contemporary owner inscriptions.Text fresh with light scattered foxing, gutter-edge tear to frontispiece minimally affecting image, expert restoration to board extremities. An extremely good copy, desirable in contemporary sheep boards. (Inventory #: 106029)
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