'one of the most vivid indictments of slavery' (dnb) - plates by william blake
STEDMAN, John Gabriel. Narrative of a Five Year's Expedition, Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild Coast of South America; from the Year 1772, to 1777: Elucidating the History of that Country, and Describing its Productions, Viz. Quadrupeds, Birds, Fishes, Reptiles, Trees, Shrubs, Fruits, & Roots; With an Account of the Indians of Guiana, & Negroes of Guinea [edited by William Thomson]. London, Luke Hansard for J. Johnson, 1813.
4to. 2 volumes. Mid-19th-century half tan morocco over red cloth, spines gilt in compartments and lettered in 2, red-speckled edges; pp. I: xviii, 423, [5 (blank and index)]; II: iv, 419, [5 (index and directions to the binder)]; engraved titles, engraved frontispieces by Francesco Bartolozzi and William Blake after Stedman, 75 engraved plates by Blake, Bartolozzi, et al. after Stedman, one aquatint and folding, 4 engraved maps by T. Conder after Stedman, 3 folding; slight rubbing and scuffing on extremities, minor discoloration on boards, slight cracking on one hinge, some light browning, spotting and offsetting, 1 plate with old repaired tear, some small marginal marks or tears, but nonetheless a good, tall set with large margins, retaining some deckles; provenance: Arthur Gilstrap Soames, Sheffield Park House (1854-1934, engraved armorial bookplates by C. Helard, dated 1899).
Second edition, second issue. In 1772 Stedman volunteered for an expedition sent out by the States-General to subdue the revolution in Surinam (or Dutch Guiana): the result of his five years in Surinam was the Narrative, "one of the most detailed descriptions ever written of an eighteenth-century slave plantation society [...] His intimate dealings with members of all social classes, from the governor and the wealthiest planters to the most oppressed slaves and maroon rebels, gave him unique opportunities to describe the full panorama of colonial life -- the mistreatment of slaves by sadistic masters, the courage of the rebels in battle, the daily lives of Indian and African slaves, and exotic flora and fauna" (ODNB). Whilst in Surinam, Stedman married Joanna (1757-1782), "a beautiful fifteen-year-old mixed-race slave" (ODNB), with whom he had a son, Johnny. The work is illustrated with plates after drawings by Stedman, which include one of Joanna, who is described by the author thus: "Rather taller than middle size, she was possessed of the most elegant shape that nature can exhibit, moving her well-formed limbs with more than common gracefulness. Her face was full of native modesty, and the most distinguished sweetness; her eyes, as black as ebony, were large and full of expression, bespeaking the goodness of her heart" (I, p. 94). Sixteen of the plates were engraved by William Blake (whose skill so impressed Stedman, that the two men became close friends), and they 'have long been recognized as among the best executed and most generally interesting of all his journeyman work' (Keynes ...) Each of Blake's arresting engravings successfully blends his own inner vision with Stedman's. The often-reproduced slave tortures (pl. 11, 35, 71) convey extraordinary power and pathos, the wonderfully humanoid monkeys and the skinning of the giant anaconda (pl. 18, 42, 19) sprightly humour, and his emblematic representation of Europe Supported by Africa & America (pl. 80) demure but unmistakable sensuality" (ODNB). The Narrative was first published in 1796, and a second, corrected edition was published in 1806, which was reissued in 1813, with the dates on the titles amended. Translations into French, German and Italian appeared soon after the first publication, and "the number of editions, abridgements, and versions which were published of this book shows the impact made at the time by Stedman's unaffected Narrative of his experiences in Guiana" (Abbey Travel 719).
Bentley, Blake Books, 499C; Sabin 91075; Wood p. 581, Essick, William Blake"s Commercial Book Illustrations, XXXIII p 71 - 75.