May 07, 2020 - Sale 2534

Sale 2534 - Lot 39

Estimate: $ 12,000 - $ 18,000
(SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) A rare early illustrated German-American anti-slavery broadside titled "Sclaven-Handel." Illustrated broadside, 20 3/4 x 17 1/2 inches; worn with several closed tears and small areas of loss along folds and at edges, moderate foxing and dampstaining. Philadelphia: Samuel Saur for Tobias Hirte, 1794

Additional Details

A dramatic large-format broadside from the early period of the organized anti-slavery movement in America. It was published by the German-American traveling medicine salesman Tobias Harte to bring the message to Pennsylvania's large German-speaking community, and features 12 woodcuts depicting the horrors of slavery. This was apparently the first American effort to disseminate these well-known powerful images, which remained an important part of anti-slavery iconography for decades to come. These illustrations have been compared in importance to the famous diagram of the slave ship Brooks and "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" from the same period (see Lapsansky, "Graphic Discord: Abolitionist and Antiabolitionist Images," in The Abolitionist Sisterhood, pages 203-5).
The title at the top of the broadside reads "Sclaven-Handel" (Slave Trade), with a smaller sub-caption at bottom: "Die Menschlich-keit beleidiget" (The Insult to Humanity). The large body of text bears the title "Verfahrungs-Art um Sclaven zu bekommen und ihre Behandlung in West-Indien" (How Slaves are Obtained, and their Treatment in the West Indies). An engraving at the top of the broadside is captioned "Die Art wie die Familen getrennet werden" (The Way the Family is Separated) in small text. The main text is surrounded by 11 other captioned woodcut engravings which illustrate the punishments meted out to enslaved people: whipping, constraints, and branding. The illustrations have been attributed to the Philadelphia engraver James Poupard. Both the text and most of the illustrations seem to have been adapted from a 1793 British broadside titled "Remarks on the Methods of Procuring Slaves," which in turn abstracted its text from the 1791 British report, "An Abstract of the Evidence Delivered before a Select Committee of the House of Commons." Bristol B8691; "Germantown and the Germans" exhibit catalog, #4 ("Dramatic example of early American anti-slavery propaganda. . . . This is the only known copy"). The only other known example is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; none have been traced at auction.