"THE LARGEST SLAVE REVOLT IN U.S. HISTORY": A GREAT RARITY, FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST BOOK ACCOUNT OF THE NAT TURNER REBELLION, WARNER'S AUTHENTIC AND IMPARTIAL NARRATIVE, 1831, PUBLISHED BEFORE TURNER'S CAPTURE, COMPLETE WITH RARELY FOUND WOODCUT-ENGRAVED FOLDING FRONTISPIECE DEPICTING THE "HORRID MASSACRE IN VIRGINIA"
(SLAVERY) (TURNER, Nat) (WARNER, Samuel). Authentic and Impartial Narrative of the Tragical Scene Which Was Witnessed in Southampton County (Virginia) on Monday the 22nd of August Last, When Fifty-Five of its Inhabitants (mostly women and children) were inhumanly Massacred by the Blacks! (New York): Warner & West, 1831. Slim octavo, contemporary three-quarter brown calf and marbled boards; pp. (v) 6-38. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $16,000.
First edition of the dramatic contemporary account of the Nat Turner rebellion, the first book "to come off the press… before Turner was even captured," with author Warner describing Turner and his rebels as "blood-thirsty monsters" who left behind a "spectacle of horror," this exceptional work complete with rarely found woodcut-engraved folding frontispiece including caption descriptions such as, "A Mother intreating [sic] for the lives of her children" and "Travis, cruelly murdered by his own slaves."
"The largest slave revolt in U.S. history took place in Southampton County, Virginia. Nat Turner, an intelligent, literate slave highly motivated by religious belief and mysticism, thought it was his fate to bring enslaved blacks out of bondage. On August 22, 1831 Turner and his followers began their insurrection by murdering Turner's owner and his family and then continued killing whites throughout Southampton County'" (Finkelman, Encyclopedia, 109). "In less than two days, 70 black insurgents killed 59 white Virginians, and whites slaughtered more than 100 blacks in retaliation… They cut off their heads and fixed them on poles to serve as a deterrent… 19 rebels were tried quickly and executed. Turner himself managed to escape and eluded capture for nine weeks. Virginian militiamen apprehended him on October 30 and put him on trial in November" (Campbell, Disasters, 67-68). "Authorities hanged Turner by the neck until dead, then dismembered his body and dispersed its parts among the living as curios and relics" (French, Rebellious Slave, 278). "Southerners needed to believe that Turner went beserk, because his rampage threatened the South's myth about itself and the benignity of slavery. Turner's was not the first American slave rebellion—a large insurrection had occurred in Louisiana in 1811—but the uprising of 1831 was the deadliest" (Kennedy, Strange Nation, 270).
This exceptional contemporary account by Samuel Warner, complete with exceedingly rare woodcut-engraved folding frontispiece, was the first "to come off the press describing the massacre before Nat Turner was even captured" (American Antiquarian Society/AAS). Published within "a few weeks after the Southampton insurrection… Warner's text contains numerous graphic images" (Roth, Gender and Race, 50-51). He calls the Turner rebellion a "bloody event… unprecedented for cruelty." Describing Turner and his followers as "blood-thirsty monsters," Warner says they left behind a "spectacle of horror to behold, beyond the power of human conception." His Narrative also "includes lists of the dead; the names of the enslaved people, their owners, and the times of execution; and excerpts from newspapers; and it closes with an account of the Haitian Revolution in 1804" (AAS). "Virtually nothing seems to be known about Samuel Warner… Scholars have offered conflicting opinions about the political slant… Christian calls the Narrative an 'anti-abolitionist tract' while Cowa refers to it as 'an abolitionist tract'" (Roth, 50n). The woodcut-engraved folding frontispiece depicts scenes of the "'wanton barbarity' that Warner describes in considerable detail… The idea that all whites—no matter 'age or sex'—were considered possible victims is captured in the far left of the top pane of the 'Horrid Massacre' print, in which a black man wields a machete over a white woman holding an infant… the block from the Narrative was reused in a pamphlet published five years later describing the Seminoles' rebellion against forced removal and killings" (AAS). The caption below the woodcut's panels identifies its numbered scenes as: "Fig. 1. A Mother intreating [sic] for the lives of her children.—2. Mr. Travis, cruelly murdered by his own slaves.—3. Mr. Barrow, who bravely defended himself until his wife escapes.—4. A comp. of mounted Dragoons in pursuit of the Blacks." Sabin 101444. Howes W113. Dumond, 116-17. Aptheker, Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion, 116.
Interior generally fresh with scattered foxing, tiny bit of marginal edge-wear to boards. An extremely good copy, rarely found complete, of an important American work.