May 1, 2024 10:00 EST

Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

 
  Lot 228
 

228

An rare original 1837 abolitionist woodblock

Estate / Collection: Property from the Rotondaro Collection

[SLAVERY]

Original woodblock, likely box- or pearwood, captioned "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" Likely New York: circa 1837. 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches (24 x 19.5 cm); assembled from approximately thirteen blocks. Several minor surface scratches to the block; the block has not been completely cleared, but is fully printable. Attractively framed with an accomplished print from the block.

In most regards, the engraving of this block is very exactly rendered as that which appears on John Greenleaf Whittier's famous anti-slavery broadside of 1837, "Our Countrymen in Chains." The shading of the kneeling figure is virtually identical, though we note that the joint between blocks vertically crossing the forearms in the published broadside is positioned differently from the present example, which must therefore be either a slightly earlier version or a successor. Given that this block was never "cleared" — i.e. had the background cut away so the figure would stand in clear relief when the block was printed—inclines us to the opinion that this is more likely to be a rejected first effort. In any case, it is American and with near certainty prepared in New York circa 1837 in Abolitionist circles. The printed broadside was sold at the Anti-Slavery Office, 144 Nassau Street.

A potent symbol of the injustice of slavery, the "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" design originated as the seal of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery in England in the 1780s, and it appears in medallions prepared by Josiah Wedgwood for the Society as early as 1787. The motto itself survived through the 20th century, appearing on the placards carried by Detroit Sanitation workers the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The present woodblock is a remarkable survival.

Estimated at $8,000 - $12,000

 

Estate / Collection: Property from the Rotondaro Collection

[SLAVERY]

Original woodblock, likely box- or pearwood, captioned "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" Likely New York: circa 1837. 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches (24 x 19.5 cm); assembled from approximately thirteen blocks. Several minor surface scratches to the block; the block has not been completely cleared, but is fully printable. Attractively framed with an accomplished print from the block.

In most regards, the engraving of this block is very exactly rendered as that which appears on John Greenleaf Whittier's famous anti-slavery broadside of 1837, "Our Countrymen in Chains." The shading of the kneeling figure is virtually identical, though we note that the joint between blocks vertically crossing the forearms in the published broadside is positioned differently from the present example, which must therefore be either a slightly earlier version or a successor. Given that this block was never "cleared" — i.e. had the background cut away so the figure would stand in clear relief when the block was printed—inclines us to the opinion that this is more likely to be a rejected first effort. In any case, it is American and with near certainty prepared in New York circa 1837 in Abolitionist circles. The printed broadside was sold at the Anti-Slavery Office, 144 Nassau Street.

A potent symbol of the injustice of slavery, the "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" design originated as the seal of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery in England in the 1780s, and it appears in medallions prepared by Josiah Wedgwood for the Society as early as 1787. The motto itself survived through the 20th century, appearing on the placards carried by Detroit Sanitation workers the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The present woodblock is a remarkable survival.

Auction: Rare Books, Autographs & Maps, May 1, 2024

  • Auction of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps on May 1, 2024 Totals $1.2 Million

  • A Medieval Manuscript Rules of St. Augustine Achieves $102k

  • Consignments Are Currently Being Accepted for Future Auctions


NEW YORK, NY -- Competitive bidding at Doyle’s May 1, 2024 auction of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps drove strong prices and a sale total that topped $1.2 million, surpassing expectations.

Featured in the sale was a fascinating selection of early manuscripts that achieved exceptional results. Highlighting the group was a 14th century manuscript of the Rules of St. Augustine from an English priory that soared over its $8,000-12,000 estimate to realize a stunning $102,100. The Rule of St. Augustine is among the earliest of all monastic rules, created about 400, and it was an influence on all that succeeded it. Other notable results included a 14th century Etymologiae of St. Isidore estimated at $5,000-8,000 that achieved $51,200 and a 15th century Prayer Book of Jehan Bernachier estimated at $10,000-15,000 that sold for $28,800.

A first edition of John James Audubon's octavo Birds of America sold for $41,600, far over its $25,000-35,000 estimate. Published in 1840-1844 in seven volumes, the first octavo edition was the final Birds of America publication overseen by Audubon in his lifetime.

The Fred Rotondaro Collection offered rare books and manuscripts on a range of subjects touching the African American experience in the United States over three centuries. A first edition copy of Frederick Douglass’ 1876 speech at the unveiling of the Freedman's Monument in Washington realized $12,800, far exceeding its $3,000-5,000 estimate. A first edition of the first issue of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin from 1852 also achieved $12,800.

Highlighting the range of offerings from the Ken Harte Collection of Natural History was a first edition Richard Bowdler Sharpe’s beautifully illustrated monograph of Kingfishers, 1868-71, that sold for $14,080, doubling its $6,000-8,000 estimate. It was accompanied by an inscribed copy of the rare unfinished chapter on the anatomy of the kingfisher by James Murie.


We Invite You to Auction!

Consignments are currently being accepted for future auctions. We invite you to contact us for a complimentary auction evaluation. Our Specialists are always available to discuss the sale of a single item or an entire collection.

For information, please contact Peter Costanzo at 212-427-4141 ext 248, Edward Ripley-Duggan at ext 234, or Noah Goldrach at ext 226, or email Books@Doyle.com

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