WITH 16 PLATES ENGRAVED BY WILLIAM BLAKE: “ONE OF THE MOST VIVID INDICTMENTS OF SLAVERY EVER PENNED”
STEDMAN, J.G. (BLAKE, William, illustrator). Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild Coast of South America; from the years 1772, to 1777: elucidating the History of that Country, and describing its Productions, Viz. Quadrupeds, Birds, Fishes, Reptiles, Trees, Shrubs, Fruits, & Roots; with and Account of the Indians of Guiana, and Negroes of Guinea… illustrated with 80 elegant Engravings from drawings made by the Author. London: for J. Johnson and J. Edwards, 1796. Two volumes. Quarto, late 19th-century full speckled polished calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, brown morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers. $5500.
First edition of Stedman’s scarce and important Narrative, with three folding engraved maps, a folding aquatint engraving, and 77 engraved plates, including 16 engraved by William Blake. Handsomely bound in polished calf-gilt by Zaehnsdorf.
In 1771, Stedman volunteered to accompany an expedition sent out by the Dutch to suppress a revolt in the wealthy South American colony of Surinam (Dutch Guiana). "[Stedman's] narrative is a model of what such a book should be. Its rules for marching and fighting amid tropical swamps anticipate those laid down by the Ashanti expedition. The field of his curiosity embraced not only all branches of natural history, but also economical and social conditions. His description of the cruelties practised on the negroes, and of the moral deterioration resulting to their masters, forms one of the most vivid indictments of slavery that have ever been penned" (DNB). The 16 plates engraved by William Blake "have long been recognized as among the best executed and most generally interesting of all his journeyman work" (Keynes, 98). Each of Blake's arresting engravings successfully blends his own inner vision with Stedman's, and include often-reproduced slave tortures, wonderfully humanoid monkeys, the skinning of a giant anaconda, and an emblematic representation of "Europe Supported by Africa & America." Blake relied heavily on the engraving work that he did for many of Johnson's publications to sustain him at this point in his career. Keynes, Bibliography of William Blake, 111. Abbey, Travel 719. Sabin 91075. Bentley 499. Bookplate of George Goyder, important 19th-century Australian pioneer and surveyor, at one time "considered the colony's ablest public servant… 'Goyder's line' still effectively divides South Australia into agricultural and pastoral land" (ODNB).
Leaf Rr3 in Volume II with marginal paper repair. Occasional mild foxing to and offsetting from few plates, a few of which have been professionally cleaned; joints expertly repaired. A very handsomely bound copy in excellent condition.