"THE MOST INFLUENTIAL AFRICAN AMERICAN OF THE 19TH CENTURY": NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS, 1845 FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL CLOTH
DOUGLASS, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Boston: Published at the Anti-Slavery Office, 1845. 12mo (4-3/4 by 7 inches), original blind- and gilt-stamped dark navy cloth; pp. xvi, 125. Housed in a custom chemise and slipcase.
First edition of Douglass' powerful autobiography, published only seven years after his escape from slavery, with engraved portrait of Douglass, a splendid copy in original cloth.
"The history of African Americans cannot be told without reference to Douglass' writings" (Cambridge Companion, 2). "The most influential African American of the 19th century, Douglass… understood that the struggle for emancipation and equality demanded forceful, persistent, and unyielding agitation… Less than a month before his death, when a young black man solicited his advice to an African American just starting out in the world, he replied without hesitation: 'Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!'" Douglass wrote his Narrative (later expanded into My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855) after escaping from slavery in 1838. He spent several years lecturing for antislavery societies, a time during which he was "often subjected to verbal assaults, barrages of rotten eggs and vegetables and mob violence. And, as a fugitive slave, his growing visibility placed him in constant danger" (ANB). William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, who respectively wrote the preface and an introduction to this edition, "had advised Douglass to burn the manuscript unless he would be recaptured and enslaved again," but he chose to answer those fears with this autobiography, a volume that is "probably the best known narrative of the ante-bellum period" (Blockson, 27). Douglass' Narrative is a "masterpiece of American literary art… without peer" (Houston A. Baker, Jr). With engraved frontispiece portrait of Douglass. Sabin 20711. Blockson 9739. Work, 474. Brignano 432. With contemporary note on the front flyleaf: "Please to return this book as soon as possible after reading. F.E. Hinde, his booke. Charlestown 1845," and a note in pencil on the title page beneath Douglass' name: "Now U.S. Marshall of Dist. of Columbia (1977)." (Beginning in 1877, Douglass held the position of U.S. Marshall for the District, the first African-American to hold an office that required Senate approval. He continued in that role under three presidents.)
Front free endpaper excised, tear with loss to blank front flyleaf, tear to rear flyleaf; interior with marginal dampstaining to first and last leaves of text. Original cloth in exceptional condition with only minimal wear and soiling. A wonderful copy.