The brutal manner in which African slaves were packed into ships for transportation is seen in a plate from the copy of Thomas Clarkson’s 1808 work on the slave trade that sold for £1900 at Dominic Winter.

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Thomas Clarkson (1760-46) devoted much of his life to fighting for the abolition of slavery and toured the country assembling evidence, interviewing some 20,000 sailors it is said, and acquiring equipment used on the slave ships.

He persuaded William Wilberforce (1759-1833) to take up the cause in Parliament and in 1807 the Slave Trade Act was passed, banning the transportation of slaves in British ships.

Eventually, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 abolished slavery in most parts of the British Empire – the bill being passed just three days before Wilberforce died.

Clarkson’s work The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African slave-trade, by the British Parliament was published in two octavo volumes in 1808 by Longman, Hurst, Rees & Orme, and illustrated with just three engraved plates. Two them were folding.

The copy sold for £1900 in an April 5 sale held by Dominic Winter (20/24% buyer’s premium) showed some scattered spotting and browning (mostly to the plates). Bound in contemporary half calf and rebacked to preserve the original morocco title and volume number labels, it bears the armorial bookplate of the Earl of Selborne.

Two for one

Other highlights in the South Cerney auction included a volume that in a now broken 18th century binding brought together 1676 copies of John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine… and The Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World. It sold for a mid-estimate £24,000.

A selection of stand-out lots from the sale is shown here.