Slave Narratives

Last week, we featured letters dealing with the transport of slaves. This week, we want to feature slave narratives.


This small, thin book is A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis, a Colored Man, written by himself at the age of 54 from 1859.




The book focuses on Rev. Davis’s faith, as well as the steps he took to free himself, wife, and children from slavery. The link above explains the narrative in more detail.

The next book is Solomon Northrup‘s Twelve Years a Slave, recently made famous again by the 2013 film of the same name.





It looks like we might have found another treasure sitting unknown on the shelves. This is a first edition and perhaps a very early printing, since it lacks the engravings. There is a little note that explains why.




3 thoughts on “Slave Narratives

  1. Is this particular edition of Twelve Years A Slave considered a London edition or an Auburn edition of 1853? The note regarding the illustrations not being ready till June 1853 was not actualized for the UK publication as it was published in June 1853 without them, then in July at Auburn with illustrations and again in London in August and this time with the illustrations. The British Library holds a London edition w/o illustrations which does not include a published notice explaining the lack of images and the title page is slightly different than this edition at Rice lacking mention of Auburn. You’re insight is appreciated.

    • I don’t have an exact answer for you. Our catalog says it is a London edition. I found another 1853 one which was an Auburn edition and it was quite different. It had the engravings. The publishing information is in a different order: “Auburn: Derby and Miller; Buffalo: Derby, Orton, and Mulligan; London: Sampson Low, Son & Company, 17 Ludgate [?]” I think this is a London edition based on the publishing order, but I can’t account for why it has a note and the one in The British Library doesn’t.

      • Typically, is the order of the publishing houses on the title page to be interpreted as the first House is the publisher and origin of this edition? Since Auburn is listed second, does this mean it was also published in Auburn at the same time or something other?

        The London edition at the British Library lists only Sampson Low, Sons and Co as pubkisher. Since TYAS was published in London prior to its being published here in the U.S. in 1853, this is how I would interpret this edition’s title page.

        However, what is interesting is the Rice U edition notates the illustrations list, yet doesn’t contain the images as they were not ready. In this instance, I would conclude this edition listing London & Auburn, May well be a July 1853 London edition. I say this because in June 1853 the illustration plates were not ready and that edition was published without them. In July 1853, Auburn published its edition with the illustrations. Then, in August 1853, London republished a new edition with the illustrations. Therefore, I can only conclude the Rice U. Edition is a potential July 1853 London edition.

        What do you concur? Please email me directly. Or provide your email.

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