Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown


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Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown
Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown
Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown


BROWN, John. The Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown, Known as "Old Brown of Ossawatomie," With a Full Account of the Attempted Insurrection at Harper's Ferry. Compiled from Official and Authentic Sources. New York: Robert M. De Witt, (1860). Octavo, original wrappers, later stitching, uncut; pp. 108. $4800.

First expanded edition, issued almost immediately after Brown's execution for the Harpers Ferry raid, containing accounts of his execution not present in the 1859 work that ended at his conviction, with newly added coverage of his final words in "The Execution of John Brown," "John E. Cook's Confession," Brown's "Last Letter to his Family" and his will, along with the 1859 edition's biographies, eyewitness accounts, trial transcripts, and coverage of "Negro Insurrections" including a newspaper's 1831 report of the 1831 Nat Turner rebellion, exceedingly rare with eight in-text wood-engraved plates, original wrappers with woodcut of Brown on the front wrapper.

Brown's Harpers Ferry raid "was the most spectacular event of the 1850s" (Finkelman, Slavery in the Courtroom, 188). It "sent tremors of horror throughout the South and gave secessionists a persuasive symbol of northern hostility. It hardened positions over slavery everywhere. It helped to discredit Stephen A. Douglas' compromise policy of popular sovereignty and to divide the Democratic party, thus ensuring the election of Lincoln in 1860" (ANB). While Brown was long viewed as either an "antislavery warrior" or "deranged fanatic," many historians today focus on how "he influenced the political scene, accelerated the downfall of slavery and helped pave the way for civil rights… Frederick Douglass had plenty of company among Blacks who saw Brown as one of the few whites who had successfully reached across the racial divide" and Harriet Beecher Stowe "called him, 'the man who has done more than any man yet for the honor of the American name'" (Reynolds, in Reviews in American History Vol. 41, No. 4: 660-61). W.E.B Du Bois, in John Brown (1909), declared that above all: "'John Brown was right'… his startling pronouncement thunders through American history" (Reynolds, John Brown, ix, 338, 505-6).

Brown "was indicted on October 25, a week after the invasion was put down, and was placed on trial the same day. On October 31 he was found guilty, to be executed on December 2, 1859. In addition to this rare 1860 edition's expanded and detailed coverage of Brown's final words and execution, it includes Brown's "last letter to his family" and his will, along with the confession of John Cook, the white abolitionist who was "in some ways the most important member of John Brown's band." Cook was not involved in the fighting at the arsenal, but instead "guided a party to plantations where slaves were freed and their masters were taken captive." Captured after fleeing at news of Brown's arrest, Cook included in his plea deal a confession that "permitted his lawyers to present him as an innocent victim of Browns wicked abolitionist designs. Cook's momentary apostasy infuriated the imprisoned Brown and led an antislavery attorney, George Sennott, to declare, 'It is better to die like Brown' rather than 'whine like a sneak and a scoundrel like Cook'" (Reynolds, Reviews, 662). First edition, first printing: front wrapper containing "New Edition—With Additions"; front wrapper, title page with "Execution" (instead of "Conviction"), title page with "Including Cooke's Confession, and all the Incidents of the Execution"; woodcut-engraved portrait of Brown on front wrapper; eight full-page in-text woodcut engravings; publisher's advertisements on front wrapper verso, rear wrapper. This first expanded edition, issued following Brown's execution, also includes the 1859 edition's 100-page account concluding with his trial. Howes B851. Eberstadt 137:74. Blockson 9666. See Sabin 8519. Faint owner signature above title page. Small bookseller ticket to front wrapper verso.

Interior generally fresh occasional faint soiling, light edge-wear to wrappers, expert restoration to spine.

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