Mar 01, 2012 - Sale 2271

Sale 2271 - Lot 53

Price Realized: $ 9,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 3,500 - $ 5,000
ONE OF THE EARLIEST & BEST-KNOWN NARRATIVES (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) EQUIANO, OLAUDAH. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, Written by Himself. Engraved portrait frontispiece by Gainsborough, in Volume I, with a folding plate of a shipwreck on the Bahama Banks in Volume II. Two volumes. 8vo, Some occasional foxing and staining throughout, plate in volume II with some wear, but complete; re-backed in plain brown morocco, retaining the original paper-covered boards, tips quite worn. should be seen London: T. Wilkins, [1790]

Additional Details

second edition of a very scarce narrative. Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, (1745-1797) was born to the Igbo people of Nigeria. One day while their parents were away, Equiano and his sister were kidnapped by their own kinsmen and sold to native slaveholders. After changing hands several times, Equiano found himself on the coast, in the hands of European slave traders. He was then transported with 244 other enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados in the West Indies, from where he and a few others were soon transferred to the British colony of Virginia. Soon after arrival, he was bought by Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy who decided to rename him to a more understandable name, a Latinised form of the name Gustavus Vassa. Equiano writes in his narrative that slaves working inside the slaveholders' homes in Virginia were treated cruelly. They suffered punishments such as an iron muzzle ("scold's bridle"), used around the mouths to keep house slaves quiet, leaving them barely able to speak or eat. Equiano expresses the fear and amazement he experienced in his new environment. He thought that the eyes of portraits followed him wherever he went, and that a clock could tell his master about anything he might do wrong. In fact, Equiano was so shocked by this culture that he tried washing his face in an attempt to change its color. Equiano's is one of the earliest as well as one of the authentic "slave narratives." The nineteenth century gave birth to a number of "narratives," many of which were manufactured by overzealous abolitionists, or so tainted with Christian zeal as to be questionable in terms of authenticity. LEP 197: "The first and fullest account of the life of a free Negro."