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The letters to Fondren, who may have taken over the firm of Dickenson, Hill but continued to use the business name, provide a wealth of detail on the pricing and treatment of slaves and show the dealers to be well aware of market values, as well as fond of bragging about smart deals and “swaps”. One letter, sent by an A.P. Grigsby of Centreville, Virginia, makes reference to his “Fancy” slave and the hard time that she had in giving birth to a son. “Fancies” were women that dealers kept for their own pleasure, but this writer did at least call in two physicians for his “Fancy” and reports that mother and child are now doing pretty well.

A chromolitho print of a coloured regiment of the Civil War is also seen right, but sold at $5600 (£2970) was one of only three recorded examples of letters written by black Confederate soldiers.

Abraham, a member of the 11th Artillery Battalion at Petersburg, Virginia, was obviously someone who had benefitted from an education and who enjoyed a good relationship with his “Dear Master”. After explaining that he is well, getting good rations and driving a wagon with the battalion, he writes “...offer my kindest wishes to mistress and accept the same for yourself. Please write to me and give me all the news at home. Let me know if Massa John has been home since I left”.

Sold at $11,500 (£6095) was a copy in slightly rubbed and faded original cloth of the first cookbook by an African-American, an 1881 San Francisco first of What Mrs Fisher knows about Old Southern, Cooking, Pickles, Preserves, etc. The mulatto daughter of a South Carolina slave and a Frenchman, Abby Fisher later moved with her husband and family to California, where they ran a pickle factory, but although this copy was inscribed “Mr Stout from Mr & Mrs A.C. Fisher”, Abbey herself was “without the advantages of education” and the inscription may have been accomplished either by another member of her family or by one of the sponsors of the book.

Arlington Leon and Donerkies, a charcoal and coloured pencil sketch of seven black-faced musicians, each sitting on a chair on a flowered rug, a chandelier suspended above their heads, sold for a much higher than expected $8000 (£4240). With lyrics to the song in the background, this artwork appears to have been created by a soldier from Illinois for his sweetheart and is inscribed “Drawn by George D. Brown [?] Batty J. 2nd Ills. Light Art. Home Joliet Illinois and presented to Miss Dean Feby the 28th 1865 Chattanooga Tenn’.

Also included in the sale were a number of autograph scores by Duke Ellington, all of them two, three or four-stave arrangements for the brass and horn sections of his orchestra and dated to the years 1936, when he returned to the Cotton Club at its new home, and 1939-41. One lot, featuring a short arrangement of 1939-40 for Jump for Joy plus sketches for Warm Valley, Brown Skin Gal and Chocolate Shake, was sold for $5800 (£3075).