First EditionCRUIKSHANK, George; Greenwich Hospital, A Series of Naval Sketches. Descriptive of A Man-of-War's Man. By An Old Sailor. With Illustrations by George Cruikshank. London: James Robins and Co and Joseph Robins, Dublin, MDCCXXVI . First edition of this wonderfully illustrated color plate book on the navy, among Cruikshank's "most brilliantly comic treatments of naval life [capturing] with incomparable vivacity the frolics of tars ashore and at sea" (Johnson, p. 7). Illustrated with 12 color plates in addition to wood-engraved tailpieces. Quarto, 200 pages, marbled boards, gilt compartments to spine. Cruickshanks illustrates the nautical accounts of his friend Matthew Henry Barker, who at 16 joined an East Indiaman before enlisting with the Royal Navy. Under the pen name of "Old Sailor" Barker wrote a number of extremely popular, humorous, and lively sea tales. In addition to his own books he wrote for a number of publications, including Bentley's Mischellany, where he was edited by Charles Dickens. Though his stories are on the whole humorous tales, Barker also gives treatment to the harsh reality of his times. In one story, called "The Slave Ship," he describes participating in the slave trade in an unnamed area "near Congo": "Well sir, we began to trade, and the poor creatures were brought aboard in droves. Oh it would have melted a heart of stone to have seen them stowed away below-- many of them in irons!" He describes several of the enslaved captives on board, including a young man who faced his imprisonment "with calm dejection, mingled with a melancholy idea [...] but when [the coast] lessen to a dim speck just darkening the horizon, he burst out in all the agony of bitter despair...." and a mother whose baby died on the passage. He concludes by lamenting the evils of the slave trade: "Aren't they all flesh and blood, sir? and shan't we all have to appear together at the last great day before the same unerring tribunal?" Though the Slave Trade Act of 1807 prohibited the slave trade in the British Empire, it did not abolish slavery; it was not until 1833, with the Slavery Abolition Act, that Parliament formally abolished slavery in most British colonies, freeing more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada. Anti0slavery stories like the one found in this lively collection of naval tales did much to garner popular support for true abolition, as opposed to prohibition. Corners bumped, hinges cracked but holding, boards scuffed. New brown endpapers. Some soiling to pages but on the whole clean, textblock tight. Some offsetting from the illustrations. Overall in very good condition.