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A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF VENTURE, A NATIVE OF AFRICA: BUT RESIDENT ABOVE SIXTY YEARS IN THE UNITE[D STATES OF] AMERICA
New-London: Printed by C. Holt, 1798.. 32pp. Gathered signatures, unbound. Titlepage, preface leaf, and first leaf of text torn in the foredge, costing nine letters of text in the title (as noted by the brackets, above), and a few letters on the preface leaf. Two ink ownership inscriptions at head of titlepage. Some tissue repairs mending closed tears in the text. Tanning, scattered foxing. A decent copy of a rare work. In a half morocco box. A extremely rare and early American slave narrative, generally considered the earliest such printed text. It is also an uncommon account of African slavery in colonial New England. According to Smith, he was the son of an African prince, captured at age eight by enemies, and sold on board a Rhode Island ship in the mid 1730s. He was named Venture by his first owner, and he assumed the surname of Oliver Smith, his last owner, who had allowed him to purchase his freedom. Smith describes his youth in Africa, his capture and delivery to America via Barbados, arrival at Rhode Island, and experiences as a slave. Beginning at age nine he worked at carding wool, and was assigned other tasks, with the threat of beatings if he did not perform well. He also describes his marriage to a fellow slave, named Meg, his being sold to various masters, and his unsuccessful escape attempt, accompanied by an enslaved Irishman, in which they attempted to go to Mississippi. The final chapter describes Venture's life after he bought his freedom, discussing his various business attempts (including operating a clamming vessel, staffed by four black men), and his purchasing the freedom of his wife, his children, and at least one other African slave. "In the 1897 edition of the Narrative, H. M. Selden states that there is a tradition that Venture's amanuensis was Elisha Niles of Chatham, who had been a school-teacher, and also a Revolutionary soldier. According to the same authority, the following epitaph appears on Venture's headstone in a graveyard in East Haddam: 'Sacred to the Memory of Venture Smith, African. Though the son of a King, he was kidnapped and sold as a slave, but by his industry he acquired money to purchase his freedom. Who Died Sept. 19, 1805, In ye 77th Year of His Age'" - Sabin. The preface, apparently written by Elisha Niles, praises Smith, asserting that "the reader may here see a Franklin and a Washington, in a state of nature, or rather in a state of slavery. Destitute as he is of all education, and broken by hardships and infirmities of age, he still exhibits striking traces of native ingenuity and good sense." The final page of text consists of a "certificate" from five residents of Stonington, attesting to the veracity of Smith's account, and noting that he not only bought his own freedom, but that of his wife and children, eventually settling in East Haddam. ESTC gives four locations, at the American Antiquarian Society, Boston Public Library, Connecticut College, and Connecticut Historical Society. There are also two copies at Yale (one lacking the title), a copy at The New York Public Library, at the Peabody Essex Museum, and a copy in the Blockson Collection at Temple (noting only 24pp., but giving a complete collation to leaf D4). A remarkable, and rare, African-American slave narrative. EVANS 34560. ESTC W13703. TRUMBULL 2422. JOHNSON 1368. SABIN 84480. BLOCKSON, p.474. WORK, p.303. OCLC 475094095, 5393421.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2014-08-19           Check availability:      Biblio    

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