Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the revolted Negroes of Surinam…. John Gabriel Stedman.

Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the revolted Negroes of Surinam…

London: J. Johnson, 1813. 2 vols. in one, 4to, [vol. I] xviii, 423, (4, index, list of plates); frontispiece, engraved title-page, 40 plates including 2 folding maps; [vol. II] iv, 419, (5, index and list of plates) pp.; with a frontispiece, engraved title-page and 39 plates. Very early marbled boards, rebacked in brown calf gilt saving the original label, marbled edges, a very good set with sufficient margins for every plate to retain the full imprint and number. The frontispiece to vol. 2 is plate 76, the “Celebrated Graman Quacy”. Second edition revised and enlarged. Although the original plates are here being printed for the third time, there is little sign of wear and the impressions are clean and clear. Sixteen of the plates were engraved by Blake after Stedman’s drawings, thirteen being signed and three attributed by Essick and others. Blake may also have engraved more of the botanical plates. This book had a substantial impact on Blake, who refers specifically to one of the illustrations that he engraved (that of a slave branded with his owner’s initials, ironically those of Stedman himself) in his Visions of the Daughters of Albion: “Stampt with my signet are the swarthy children of the sun”. As Forum noted in their catalogue 105 item 265: “Most impressive however, and very modern, are [Stedman’s] vivid descriptions of the brutal treatment of the negroes, and his enlightened reflections upon the moral perversions of the slave-owners, leading him to pronounce the strongest possible indictment against slavery ever raised… His observations gave rise to a storm of protest in liberal Europe… his unexpurgated version was only recently published.”

It is well worth noting that the influence on Blake’s own work of some of Stedman’s descriptions is striking, especially “the red tyger... the eyes prominent and sparkling like stars” and “the tyger-cat... with eyes emitting flashes like lightning”. Blake’s famous poem “The Tyger” was composed in 1793 right when he was reading and working with Stedman’s text.

Abbey, Travel, 719. Bentley 499C. Essick, William Blake’s Commercial Book Illustrations, XXXIII. Kress Library 16679. Ray, Illustrator and the Book in England, 2. Item #106965

Price: $6,750.00

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