GRONNIOSAW, James Albert Ukawsaw. A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince. Related by Himself. London, Groombridge; Manchester, J. Gadsby and Glasgow, David Robertson, 1840.
8vo. Recent half-calf over marbled board; pp. 24, only light toning or spotting throughout, a good copy of a great rarity.
'One of the earliest slave narratives printed in the English language and the first published book by an African in the UK' (International Slavery Museum, online, part of Liverpool Museums). Gronniosaw's uncommon narrative was first published in Bath in 1770 and was reprinted many times, mainly not in London, including in Welsh. All editions are very rare. Gronniosaw begins his narrative by reporting that he was born arond 1705 in the city of Baurnou (Bornu in Northeastern Nigeria) where his mother was the eldest daughter of the reigning king. When he was about 15 years old he was tricked into accompanying a visiting merchant to the Gold Cost, where he was sold to a Dutch captain for two yards of check cloth. The captain took him to Barbados where he was sold for for £15 to a young man from New York. Later he is sold on for £50 to a minister named Freelandhouse (actually Theodorus Freylinghuysen) who instructs him in Christianity and sends him to school to be taught by someone named Vanosdore. Gornniosaw has a conversion experience and is freed and given £10 by Freelandhouse's will. He remains with his benefactor's widow and her four sons for another four years until the last son dies and he is left on his own. Gronniosaw then finds employment as a cook on a privateer and subsequently as a soldier in the British Army, in order to earn the money for the fare to England. There he marries Betty, a young English widow and is cheated and mistreated by some and helped by others including a group of Quakers. At the end of the narrative he descibes his situation as precarious, but his Christian devotion remains strong.
The last copy of this title to be sold at auction fetched over $11.000. It is the copy of the 1770 (or 1772) Bath printing; now at Liverpool Museums.