Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles


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Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles
Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles


PILLSBURY, Parker. Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles. Concord, N.H.: (Clague, Wegman, Schlicht), 1883. Octavo, original gilt-lettered green cloth, floral endpapers; pp.503.

First edition of the fearless abolitionist's memoir, a distinctive presentation copy inscribed by Pillsbury to "E. E. P. with compliments of Parker Pillsbury, March 1884," Hailed as a "fighting book," it documents the bold tactics of this notorious radical who early warned America was "hastening to… a baptism of blood" and was praised by Emerson as a "tough oak stock of a man not to be silenced or insulted or intimidated," this copy also featuring a memorable association in containing the bookplate of prominent American bibliophile and activist Miriam Holden, a splendid copy in original cloth.

Born in Massachusetts in 1809, the son of a blacksmith, Pillsbury became a Congregational minister, but was soon famed as one of the era's most radical abolitionists. Having once witnessed a slave auction, he recorded its advertisement of: "'two mules, a horse and… 27 Negroes'… Does any mortal man, or woman," he asked, "comprehend all the tremendous meaning of those words?" Infamous for his apocalyptic style and confrontational tactics, Pillsbury early declared the nation was "hastening to its baptism. It is a baptism of blood." He was resolute in denying any possible "union with slave-holders,"and also insisted "women must be given their due rights." Emerson admired him as a "tough oak stock of a man not to be silenced or insulted or intimidated by a mob, because he is more mob than they. He mobs the mob." He was, "in Susan B. Anthony's eyes, the Jeremiah of the anti-slavery movement" (Filler, Parker Pillsbury, 315, 328-37).

Fiercely anticlerical in his writings and in action, Pillsbury would dramatically interrupt "religious services… calling on audiences to 'come out' from their proslavery churches." He linked most clergy to timid politicians and cautious abolitionists, proclaiming them a "brotherhood of thieves" (Robertson, Hard, Cold, Stern Life, 189). Pillsbury's 1883 memoir, Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles, was, above all, "a fighting book." In it he writes of his esteem for his fellow white radical Stephen S. Foster and leading Black abolitionists such as David Ruggles, as well as his disdain for Lincoln; Pillsbury "never forgot that the idolized Lincoln meant to save the Union, and not necessarily to free the slaves" (Filler, 336). First edition, first printing: issued in green cloth (this copy) and in brown cloth, no priority determined. Blockson 9099. See Work, 304 (1884 edition). This presentation copy, which is inscribed: "To Emile E. Pingault," contains those words traced in ink outline by a later unknown hand over the fading initial ink. The book contains an especially notable provenance in containing a small owner bookplate stating: "Miriam Y. Holden Library." Holden, a dedicated activist for women's rights, co-authored a history of The American Woman in Colonial and Revolutionary Times (1962) and was a board member of the NY Urban League. "Long before women's studies became a burning issue, Holden had already amassed one of the country's great private libraries on the history of women" (Princeton University Library). Front free endpaper with upper corner clipped as if to remove a bookseller price.

A rare inscribed copy in fine condition.

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