Award to Prof. William Gleason supports purchase of A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper, from American Slavery (London, 1837)

Figures • Upper: Title and price stamped in gilt on front cover. Middle: Title page with verses from William Cowper’s “The Task,” book II, lines 40-45, first published in 1785.
Bottom: Illustrated pages (19 and 51). Click on thumbnail for full-size view.

Call number for the book: (Ex) 2007-1634N

The Library has recently purchased the rare first edition of an important American slave narrative with funds provided by the President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching, At Commencement 2006, Prof. William Gleason of the Department of English received the award, which included a portion for Library purchases. He directed the book portion go toward acquiring Moses Roper’s Narrative, first published in London in 1837. Graphic and poignant, the text went through several editions before the Civil War, then was not reprinted again until 1969 when it appeared in the Rhistoric Publications (Philadelphia) Afro-American History series. The text remains in print today.

A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper, from American Slavery (1837) gave the antislavery movement in England and America exactly what it wanted—a hard-hitting tour of slavery as a visitation of hell on earth, conducted by someone who had seen and suffered it all but who had survived to tell his story in a manner likely to evoke both credence and sympathy. The British clergyman who wrote the preface to Roper’s narrative solicited curious and prurient readers by promising them a kind of pious pornography: “There is no vice too loathsome—no passion too cruel or remorseless, to be engendered by this horrid system [of slavery]. It brutalizes all who administer it, and seeks to efface the likeness of God, stamped on the brow of its victims. It makes the former class demons, and reduces the latter to the level of brutes.” The twenty-two-year-old author of the Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper delivered what his white antislavery sponsors desired. The first scene of Roper’s Narrative details in a shocking but deadpan manner how the author, born in Caswell County, North Carolina, the son of his master and one of his master’s slaves, barely escaped death at the hands of his master’s enraged wife. Light-skinned and cooperative as a boy, Moses was trained for the comparatively mild duties of a domestic slave. But when he was sold to a South Carolina cotton planter whom Roper identifies only as Mr. Gooch, teenaged Moses was put to work in the fields, where he was subjected to floggings almost daily. Roper’s portrait of Gooch as an unmitigated sadist gave American antislavery literature the first example of what would become in Stowe’s horrendous creation Simon Legree a distillation of all that black America despised in the arrogant Anglo-Saxon: brutality, violence, hypocrisy, and tyranny.” — William L. Andrews, “General Introduction” to North Carolina Slave Narratives (Chapel Hill, 2003), p.5-7.

Catalogue of the Virgil Collection: a progress report

Between July 2 and August 21, Professor Craig Kallendorf of Texas A&M University spent nearly every weekday in the Dulles Reading Room examining the Library’s collection of editions of Virgil, the core of which was donated in 1896 by Junius Spencer Morgan, Class of 1888. Morgan regularly added to the collection until his death in 1932. The Library adds to the collection to this day. Kallendorf is preparing a detailed printed catalogue of the collection, the first such since 1956. Each entry gives not only a physical description but also particulars about text and commentary as well as notes, such as details about each book’s former owners. Building on work Kallendorf started nearly eight years ago, he examined more than 700 early printed books, consisting of several dozen 15th century printings, hundreds of editions of the complete works, many finely illustrated, together with numerous translations into English, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, German, Polish, Portuguese, Czech, Greek, Romansch, and Hungarian. Kallendorf expects the manuscript of his catalogue to be ready for his publisher, Oak Knoll Press, about the middle of 2008. His research was supported in part by a grant from the Davies Project.

Junius S. Morgan

Craig Kallendorf

Strange Adventures of a German Female Robinson Crusoe (1780)

When first published in 1719, Daniel Defoe’s story of castaway Robinson Crusoe was a runaway success. Many translations and imitations of Robinson Crusoe followed. In fact, the progeny was so great that it became a genre unto itself called, in the plural, “Robinsonades.”

Princeton is the sole library listed in WorldCat, “the world’s largest network of library content,” to own a copy of a 1780 German Robinsonade featuring a heroine whose journey is a search as much for love and romance as it is for wealth. The work is entitled Merkwürdige Begebenheiten einiger deutschen Frauenzimmer, welche auf Reisen, sowohl zu Lande als zu Wasser durch Verheyratungen sehr reich und glücklich worden, und durch Ankauf ansehnlicher Güter sich in Niedersachsen niedergelassen aus eigener Erfahrung niedergeschrieben von Holston und Augusta. The actual names of the authors Holston and Augusta are unknown. At left is the frontispiece of the book. Click on it to see details of dress and scenery. For further information about the genre, see Jeannine Blackwell, “An Island of Her Own: Heroines of the German Robinsonades from 1720 to 1800” in The German Quarterly (1985), 58, 5-26.

Call number for the book: (Ex) 3459.68.363

Brayton Ives, collector

Brayton Ives (1840-1914), Civil War general, president of the New York Stock Exchange, and railroad president, formed a library on the model of those from which he obtained his books: Sunderland, Hamilton Palace, Beckford, Syston Park, and Woodhul. The auction of his collection in 1891 was said at the time to be the “greatest sale of books ever held in America.” In the sale catalogue, Ives noted that three of his books, the Gutenberg Bible, the Virgil of 1470, and the Homer of 1488, “will command forever the admiration and respect of educated people as the worthy objects of the highest form of skillful and conscientious typographical work.”

Remarkably, these three books are now at Princeton, having arrived at different times. First was the 1470 Virgil, purchased by Junius Spencer Morgan after the auction and given to the Library in 1895. Ives’s 1488 Homer was bought by Robert Hoe and then acquired by Cyrus McCormick, Class of 1879, at the Hoe sale in 1911; McCormick’s widow gave the volume to Princeton in 1948, twelve years after her husband’s death. When William H. Scheide moved his family library to Princeton in 1959, he brought with him Ives’s Gutenberg Bible.