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    With Fifteen Original Autograph Letters Signed by Ignatius Sancho, Several of Which Are Unpublished

    Ignatius Sancho. Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African. To Which are Prefixed, Memoirs of His Life, by Joseph Jekyll. London: William Sancho, 1803.

    Fifth edition. xvi, 310 pages. Tipped in the rear are fifteen of Sancho's original autograph autograph letters signed. Five previously unpublished; ten published in the present volume. Also tipped in are seven letters from Sancho's daughter Elizabeth. Originally owned by William Stevenson (with his name in ink to the recto of the frontispiece), a friend of Sancho who figured into many of the letters in this volume. William Stevenson's grandson, Henry Stevenson, has made notes in ink, adding pertinent information to the text, such as the identities of many correspondents left unnamed. Also bound in at the rear is a one-page hand-written index listing the letters by name of recipient. Frontispiece portrait of Sancho by Thomas Gainsborough. Bound in between the essay by Jekyll and the letters is a four-page article concerning the history of Gainsborough's painting of Sancho which references one of the original letters from Sancho's daughter accompanying this book.

    Contemporary half polished morocco over boards. Full leather chemise. Marbled endpapers. Top edge gilt. Joints slightly tender. Moderate foxing. Inked name of "W. Stevenson." Bookplate of previous owner. Very good.

    Ignatius Sancho was born in 1729 on a slave ship bound for the Spanish West Indies. His parents died soon after his birth, and, by the age of two, he was taken to England, essentially to be raised as a house-slave in Greenwich. Even though the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 ended slavery in Britain, Sancho's prospects weren't greatly changed. He led a life as a menial servant until he "attracted the attention of the Duke of Montagu who had among his diversions his interests in testing whether, by proper cultivation and a proper tuition at school and the university, an African might not be found as capable of literature as a white person" (Blockson). Sancho, who was for some time employed as Montagu's valet, eventually emerged as a figure known in British society, and he became well-acquainted with Sterne, Gainsborough, and actor David Garrick. In addition to his literary work (he published one book and two plays), Sancho was a composer and an actor. He also has the distinction of being the first black man to vote in a British parliamentary election. He eventually settled in Westminster where he ran a shop with his wife. After his death, his children carried on with the shop, and his son William edited and published his father's letters. Sancho's Letters sold quite well, and his widow lived comfortably on the royalties.

    The Stevenson family were deeply involved with Sancho and his family. The Rev. Seth Ellis Stevenson and his son William Stevenson were the recipients of over a dozen letters published in Sancho's Letters (many of those original letters accompany this volume, as well as five which were never published). William Stevenson's son, Seth William Stevenson, helped support Sancho's daughter Elizabeth until her death. In 1820 Elizabeth Sancho presented the Stevenson family with the famous portrait Gainsborough painted of her father. The original letter concerning this gift from Elizabeth is included with this volume.

    A unique and extraordinary item of considerable historical significance. From the Professor John Ralph Willis Collection of Rare Africana.

    Blockson, 101. O. R. Dathorne, The Black Mind, 77. Sabin, 76310.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
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