LIFE OF THE BLACK HAITIAN SLAVE TURNED REVOLUTIONARY LEADER

Histoire de Toussaint-Louverture, chef des noirs insurgés de Saint-Domingue; précédée d’un coup d’oeil politique sur cette colonie, et suivie d’anecdotes et faits particuliers concernant ce chef des noirs, et les agens directoriaux envoyés dans cette partie du Nouveau-Monde, pendant le cours de la révolution ... 

Paris, chez Pillot frères, an X – 1802. 

12mo, pp. [4], [13]-211, [1 (blank)], with engraved frontispiece portrait; bound without the introduction (pp. i-xii); a little spotting and foxing, a few repairs to backfolds of early leaves; overall very good in later nineteenth-century sheep-backed boards with vellum tips, printed waste endpapers, gilt red paper lettering-piece to spine; short splits to joints, endcaps chipped; ink inscription to blank verso of last leaf (obscured by pasting to free endpaper).

£950

Approximately:
US $1153€1123

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Histoire de Toussaint-Louverture, chef des noirs insurgés de Saint-Domingue; précédée d’un coup d’oeil politique sur cette colonie, et suivie d’anecdotes et faits particuliers concernant ce chef des noirs, et les agens directoriaux envoyés dans cette partie du Nouveau-Monde, pendant le cours de la révolution ... 

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First edition, uncommon on the market, of this biography of Toussaint Louverture (1743–1803), former slave and leader of the Haitian Revolution, complete with a famous portrait of him in military dress.  The only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state both free from slavery and ruled by non-whites and former captives, the revolution in Haiti, with Louverture at its centre, represents a defining moment in the history of the Atlantic world. 

Born into slavery in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti), Louverture was freed in his early thirties.  When a slave revolt broke out in the colony in 1791, he joined the rebels and quickly demonstrated his military acumen.  While initially allied with the Spaniards of neighbouring Santo Domingo, Louverture switched his allegiance to the French in 1794 when the new Republican government abolished slavery.  As his military and political influence grew, he worked to improve the colony’s economy and negotiated trade agreements with Britain and the United States.  In 1801 he invaded Santo Domingo and freed the enslaved population, bringing the whole of Hispaniola under his control, thereafter promulgating an autonomous constitution with himself as governor-general, against Napoleon’s wishes. 

Published the year before Louverture’s death, this Histoire is the work of Cousin d’Avallon (1769–1840), who penned numerous biographies and collections of anecdotes devoted to historical and literary figures, including Voltaire, Molière, La Fontaine, Napoleon, and Rousseau.  While clearly fascinated by his subject, and admiring of certain of his qualities, Cousin d’Avallon is no champion of Louverture, writing that: ‘all his actions are covered with a veil of hypocrisy so profound, that, though his entire life be a continuous succession of betrayals and treacheries, he is still able to deceive those who meet him as to the purity of his sentiments’ (p. 14 trans.). 

This first edition appears in two variants, one with the author’s name on the title and the other (as here) with it removed.  Our copy, curiously, has been bound without the introduction, perhaps in an attempt better to protect the author’s anonymity.  Another edition, with imprint ‘an XI – 1802’ and with 175 pages, was also published by the Pillot brothers. 

Library Hub finds only three copies in the UK (British Library, Senate House Library, and University of Manchester). 

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