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MOTT, Abigail.

Biographical Sketches and Interesting Anecdotes of Persons of Colour.

Published: York: Printed and Sold by W. Alexander & Son; sold also by Harvey and Darton, W. Phillips, E. Fry, and W. Darton, London; R. Peart, Birmingham; D. F. Gardiner, Dublin, 1826

Stock code: 45085

Price: £4,500

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First English edition, which omits the poetry included in American editions. A note on the final contents leaf verso reads: “In the present edition, one or two of the narratives have been rather extended, and several pieces omitted, which appeared to possess but little interest, or to be unappropriate [sic] to the plan of the work.” Abigail Mott (1766-1851) was born into a prominent Quaker family in Westchester County, New York. An early memoir of her remarks that “She entertained a lively sympathy with the suffering class of her fellow creatures, from whatever cause those sufferings might arise … She felt tenderly for that oppressed portion of the human family, whose rights as men are torn from them, and they doomed to a state of bondage that is to be transmitted from parents to their children … The depressed condition of the people of color in the ‘Free States’ likewise attracted her attention and her commiseration. From a desire to promote their improvement, she wrote and published ‘Sketches’ of the characters of those of their own people who had most distinguished themselves, with the hope of exciting a spirit of emulation by such examples, that might tend to the elevation of their character” (Memoir of Purchase Monthly Meeting concerning Abigail Mott, New York, James Egbert, 1852). It is interesting to note that the anonymous memorialist accentuates Mott’s desire to inspire emulation among the slaves themselves, whereas in her own preface she clearly stresses “the dreadful consequences of that arbitrary power invested in the slave-holder over his fellow being … to show how it hardens the heart and petrifies the feelings … [those] being trained up in the midst of Slavery, and inured from their infancy to see the sufferings of the poor slaves, and to hear their cries, become almost insensible to the responsibility of their station, and the enormity of the evils they are committing.” On a more practical level, recent research has shown that Abigail and her sister Lydia were highly active in the Underground Railroad in the Albany area. “The Mott sisters were Quakers who regularly aided fugitives passing through the city from the late 1820s onwards and were instrumental in forming the Albany Female Antislavery Society … Lydia tutored the nine-year-old daughter of Frederick Douglass in the late 1850s” (Switala, Underground Railroad in New Jersey and New York, 2006). Blockson (Hippocrene Guide to the Underground Railroad) tells how a Massachusetts sailor, Austin Bearse, assisted the sisters in securing the escape of “a slave they had secreted just out of the city, who was in danger.” The biographies here include Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, Gustavus Vassa, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Zilpha Montjoy. Interesting to note the Quaker connection being continued, the London publication being dealt with by the very Quaker conger of Harvey and Darton, W. Phillips, E. Fry, and W. Darton.

Octavo (176 103 mm). Contemporary maroon half skiver on marbled boards, gilt double-ruled compartments to the spine. Contemporary ownership inscription of John Fletcher to the front free endpaper. Slightly rubbed, some foxing and browning, as usual, but overall very good.

Bibliography: Sabin 51111.

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