Solomon Northup. Twelve Years a Slave First edition, First state
First EditionSolomon Northup. Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of . . . a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington. Auburn, NY: Derby & Miller, 1853. Large duodecimo, 336 pages including 2 publisher's ad leaves, 7 illustrated plates. Publisher's original cloth. First edition, first state from the first print run. The earliest printings (like this one) also list three publishers in Auburn, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. By 27 August 1853 the publisher reported in the Commercial that "15,000 copies of this thrilling narrative sold in four weeks." Later printings have been seen headed above the title "Fifth Thousand" (1853), "Seventh thousand" etc. with the publishers given in Auburn, Buffalo, and London. The initial print run of 4,000, such as this, was also usually issued with two leaves of publisher's advertisements inserted between the front pastedown and front free endpaper included in this copy. As one might gather from this incredible print run, Twelve Years A Slave was a runaway hit. Northup, a black man who was born free in New York state, details his being tricked to go to Washington, D.C., where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South. He was in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before he was able to secretly get information to friends and family in New York, who in turn secured his release with the aid of the state. Northup's account provides extensive details on the slave markets in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, and describes at length cotton and sugar cultivation and slave treatment on major plantations in Louisiana. Northup expressed compassion in his account: "It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel," Northup writes, "so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives." Publisher's cloth worn, coming disbound, textblock lacking pages 321-322 (the final leaf before the appendix which included the sing "Roaring River"), moderate dampstaining and foxing, moderate wear generally, final leaf detached and worn; early owner's inscriptions on front pastedown. Overall in good condition and rare in the true first edition, first printing, first state.
See all items in Exceptional Pieces , First Editions and Signed Books, African American, Biography, Slavery
See all items by Solomon Northup