Landmark Books in All Fields
ItemID: #113560
Cost: $1,850.00

Some Historical Account of Guinea... Also a Republication of the Sentiments of several Authors... Particularly an Extract of a Treatise written by Granville Sharp.

Anthony Benezet


(SLAVERY) BENEZET, Anthony. Some Historical Account of Guinea… With An Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of the Slave Trade, Its Nature, and lamentable Effects. Also a Republication of the Sentiments of several Authors of Note… Particularly an Extract of a Treatise written by Granville Sharp. Philadelphia: Printed 1771. London: Re-printed: W. Owen… E. and C. Dilly, 1772. Octavo, contemporary full brown sheep rebacked,raised bands; pp. (8), iv, 198 (6). $1850.

First English edition of Benezet's monumental work—"among the first accounts of the horror of the slave trade"—credited by fellow abolitionist Thomas Clarkson as "instrumental beyond any other book ever published in disseminating a proper knowledge and detestation of this trade," together in one volume as in the 1771 Philadelphia edition with Extract from Granville Sharp's "Representation of the Injustice… of Tolerating Slavery."

Benezet's Some Historical Account sparked the 18th-century struggle to end slavery. It contains one of "the first accounts of the horror of the slave trade… an unflinching presentation of the plain but brutal truth about the slave trade" (Grayling, Toward the Light of Liberty, 165). The French-born Philadelphia Quaker, educated in England, "was passionately committed to the abolition of slavery" (Blockson). "In the history of abolition Benezet… should have a place of honor. He was not only a link between the writings of the moral philosophers, such as Montesquieu and the Quakers, but also one between America and Britain." Some Historical Account, first issued in Philadelphia in 1771, was especially key for including "material taken from far outside the normal range… [and] used numerous firsthand accounts of trading slaves" (Thomas, 472-3). His "most important work, Some Historical Account… had a profound impact on Thomas Clarkson and John Wesley in Britain, and on Jacques-Bierre Brissot, Abbé Raynal, and the Marquis de Lafayette in France. Olaudah Equiano drew on Benezet's research in his autobiography" (Marshall, France and the Americas, 45).

Benezet presents a "comprehensive, complete and well-organized set of arguments to prove that seizing and keeping human beings in bondage was a universal calamity. He designed his book to be an edifice built on the firm foundation of factual reporting, informed by a benevolent passion for the worth of every human being, and energized by a sense of the urgent need for action to correct a monstrous injustice. Above all, he wanted this book to be a resource for other like-minded activists who might draw from it the rhetorical ammunition needed to fight the guns, bullets and bribes of the slave traders… The resulting volume did in fact become a kind of bible for later abolitionists in England and America… It also became the standard early-19th-century source for African history, with parts of it incorporated whole into early editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica" (Crosby, Complete Antislavery Writings, 112-13). In one of its especially chilling passages, Benezet cites the report of a Captain Philips, stating: "they took '700 slaves on board, the men being put in irons two by two shackled together… so loath to leave their own country, that they often leap out of the canoe, boat, or ship, into the sea, and keep under water till they are drowned to avoid being taken up… others starved themselves to death'" (120-21). Clarkson, in his own History of the Rise… of the African Slave Trade (1808), declares Benezet's Some Historical Account to be "instrumental beyond any other book ever published in disseminating a proper knowledge and detestation of this trade" (I:169).

Benezet's groundbreaking work is bound here, as in the Philadelphia first edition, with an Extract from Granville Sharp's 1769 work, Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery. Sharp was "of immense importance to the anti-slavery movement in Britain… Thomas Clarkson regarded him as a founder of the movement" (ODNB). Following Sharp's Extract is Extracts from the writings of several noted Authors… viz. George Wallace, Francis Hutcheson, James Foster (180-188), along with Extract From an Address in the Virginia Gazette, of March 19, 1767 (189-194), and Extract from a 1769 Sermon Preached by the Bishop of Gloucester. The Address in the Virginia Gazette is attributed to Arthur Lee of the famed Virginia family. Declaring slavery "'a violation both of justice and religion'… Lee's message, though focused on slavery's effect on white people, was still radical in 1767… and in the eyes of contemporaries the mere mention of insurrection, which they feared might encourage slaves to rebel, made the essay incendiary. The publishers of the Virginia Gazette refused to print the sequel to Lee's Address" (Wolf, Race and Liberty, 12). During the Revolution Lee, along with Franklin and Silas Deane, was appointed by the Continental Congress to negotiate an alliance with France and aid from Europe. He later was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. With half title, general title page, six-page index at rear. Continuously paginated. Sharp's Extract with separate title page containing imprint "First Printed in London. M DCC LXIX": per ESTC W32230: "evidently not issued separately." ESTC T143462. Sabin 4689. Goldsmith's 10938. Kress 6839. Blockson 10074. See ESTC W29454; Evan 11985; Hildeburn, 2633.

Text quite with a bit of marginal dampstaining, expert restoration to boards.

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