Preliminary Essay, on the Oppression

Thomas BRANAGAN

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Item#: 125220 price:$3,000.00

Preliminary Essay, on the Oppression
Preliminary Essay, on the Oppression

"NO EYE PITIES; NO HAND HELPS": FIRST EDITION OF FORMER SLAVE-TRADER BRANAGAN'S POWERFUL 1804 WORK ON THE EVILS OF SLAVERY AND THE MIDDLE PASSAGE

(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 6-5/8 inches), period-style half brown calf and marbled boards, raised bands, red calf spine labels; pp. (i-ii), (-5), 6-282, (2). $3000.

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. First edition, first printing: with engraved frontispiece, rear leaf of publisher's advertisement. Shaw & Shoemaker 5901. Sabin 7379. Sowerby 1394. Early owner signature to frontispiece verso.

Text fresh with minimal foxing, scant occasional soiling, one leaf expertly repaired minimally affecting text but not readability. A very scarce extremely good copy of this seminal early work.

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