"ONE OF THE BEST ACCOUNTS OF HOW RUNAWAY SLAVES MADE THEIR WAY TO FREEDOM": 1883 EDITION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN WILLIAM STILL'S MONUMENTAL UNDERGROUND RAIL ROAD, WITH FRONTISPIECE AND NUMEROUS ENGRAVED ILLUSTRATIONS
STILL, William. Still's Underground Rail Road Records. Revised Edition. With a Life of the Author. Narrating the Hardships, Hairbreadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in their Efforts for Freedom. Together with Sketches of Some of the Eminent Friends of Freedom… Philadelphia: William Still, 1883. Thick octavo, original gilt-stamped brown cloth. $2800.
First expanded and revised edition of Still's major history of the Underground Railroad—"the only work on that subject written by an African American"—with engraved frontispiece portrait of Still, famed as father of the Underground Railroad, featuring Boyd's "Life and Work," profusely illustrated with 23 full-page and numerous in-text engravings.
The history of the Underground Railroad "is an epic of high drama… one of the most ambitious political undertakings in American history" (Bordewich, Bound for Canan, 4). Leading African American abolitionist William Still remains "the 19th-century's foremost chronicler of the Underground Railroad" (Piloski & Williams, 1013). Known as the father of the Underground Railroad, he was born a free man to former slaves, and served for decades as chairman of Philadelphia's Vigilance Committee, where he "kept a record of the experiences of all fugitives who came through the city" (Dumond, 333). Still's monumental work, first published in 1872, "illustrates the inventiveness of runaways, the desperate struggles of enslaved families, and the network of abolitionists" stretching all the way to Canada (Sinha, Slave's Cause, 536).
Underground Railroad stands as "one of the best accounts of how runaway slaves made their way to freedom… The only work on that subject by an African American, it was also the only day-by-day record of the working of a vigilance committee. While Still gave credit to 'the grand little army of abolitionists,' he put the spotlight on the fugitives themselves, saying 'the race had no more eloquent advocates than its own self-emancipated champions.' Besides recording their courageous deeds, Still hoped that the book would demonstrate the intellectual ability of his race. Along with the records of slave escapes he included excerpts from newspapers, legal documents, correspondence of abolitionists and former slaves, and some biographical sketches" (ANB). This first revised and expanded edition features James P. Boyd's Life and Work of William Still, which includes facsimile letters from Horace Greeley, Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson. Containing engraved frontispiece with facsimile signature below Still's portrait, numerous full-page and in-text engravings (with publisher's estimate of "70" on title page including engraved figures not in the list of illustrations). With Contents plate (p. 654) bound (p. 658); as issued without in-text illustration (Contents, p. 724), no priority established. Work, 338. See Blockson 10178-10179.
Text fine with expert reinforcement to inner paper hinges, trace of soiling to bright cloth. A highly desirable about-fine copy.