Amsterdam: aux depens d’Etienne Roger, 1719.
Tall duodecimo: 16.4 x 10 cm. , 416 p. Collation: π1 (frontis.), A-Q12, R6, S10
Illustrated with an engraved frontispiece and 38 partly folding engraved plates. Bound in contemporary tanned sheep (lightly rubbed and with tiny losses to the leather), the spine richly tooled in gold with attractive ornaments. Both boards have an armorial blind-stamp with a crowned monogram “CM” and a lion rampant. The title page with a stamp “CM”. Contents in excellent condition with a few light damp-stains. Frontispiece with three small marginal tears mended (no loss and not affecting the image), engraving at p. 390 slightly trimmed at outer margin, just entering the engraving.
First edition of this anonymous travelogue to Africa and the West Indies, with unique accounts of several slaving voyages to the Kingdom of Whydah on Africa’s west coast, in what is now Benin, about 1702-1712. A folding plate at p. 302 shows enslaved people producing sugar on the island of Martinique. There is a great deal of information on the native cultures of West Africa, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean, and many descriptions (and numerous engravings) of flora and fauna, including a manatee, the coconut palm, parrotfishes, armadillos, pineapple, indigo, cacao, etc. Several of the plates show indigenous people harvesting or gathering fruit and plants. There is also a folding engraving of the fortified Château de la Montagne on the "Île Saint-Christophe"(St. Kitt’s), a potent symbol of French colonial power.
Regarding the purchasing of enslaved people in Africa, the author writes, “We don’t buy Negroes without checking them out first; we watch them, examine them closely; we watch their heads, we open their mouths to see if there are missing teeth, we ask them to stretch their arms to make sure they are okay, we look at their parts to make sure everything is here, and we make them take a few steps to see if they have strong legs; every defect diminishes the price of a Negro. (...) A handsome and good one is worth 200 French pounds; a little bit more than half of that for a female.”
The author describes a significant act of resistance, a slave uprising aboard ship. “It happened on a Dutch vessel. Around 5 P.M, the Negroes seized several guns, pistols, swords, iron bars and wooden sticks. They jumped on the Whites who were on board, killing a couple and wounding several others. The uprising lasted for a good hour and a half but eventually the Whites took over—and it was high time, as the ship was about to wreck on the shore since the Negroes had cut off the cables. (...) The next morning, several Negroes were hanged from the foremast where they were left for the full day to teach the other Negroes a lesson…. To avoid a similar incident, we put the largest part of our Negroes in irons, and even among the Negresses those who appeared to us the most resolute and the most dangerous [. . .] although because of their beauty they were very dear to the chief officers and sailors who had each given their names to chosen ones, there was nothing left to do but put them in chains.”
Enslaved people were purchased from various African Kings through a well-organized system of trade, and the author is matter-of-fact about this process, “The first two days (In Senegal) were perfect; and we bought around 150 slaves.” He also remarks that the bodies of those who died were thrown overboard.
Hogg, African Slave Trade and Its Suppression: A Classified and Annotated Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Articles, 702 “Includes records of several slaving voyages to Whydah about 1702-1712.” Fate, A Guide to Original Sources For Precolonial Western Africa Published In European Languages (1994), p. 64; Sabin 51677. - Palau 187004. - Alden/Landis 719/151. - Leclerc 1337