Freedom! Classic piece of anti-slavery propaganda will star at Swann Galleries
In September, Swann Galleries will be presenting the Eric C Caren Collection under the grand heading How History Unfolds on Paper, Part I.

The remarkable collection features printed, manuscript and photographic documentation of great events from American history and beyond, including posters, pamphlets, books, maps, newspapers, and broadsides from the 16th through 20th centuries.

The auctioneer has described it as 'difficult to classify' in terms of their usual categories as it includes such a wide variety of collectibles. In some ways it's comparable to the Floyd E Risvold collection.

However, one of the highlights is clear, and a great example of what the collection is all about:

This is a powerful early American graphic broadside: Remarks on the Slave Trade. A broadside with four columns of text, it is illustrated with a "Plan of an African Ship's Lower Deck, with Negroes in the Proportion of Not Quite One to a Ton".

Slave Trade broadside
Shocking... The slave trade broadside

This is, as the auctioneer notes, "the image which first shocked many Americans into the abolitionist camp". This engraving of the slave ship Brooks and its human cargo was first published in the May 1789 issue of the American Museum.

Here it is presented in broadside form with an introduction (presumably by its creator Mathew Carey) in the first column, followed by four columns of description by William Elford of the Plymouth Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

As the introduction explains, "Here is presented to our view, one of the most horrid spectacles--a number of human creatures, packed, side by side, almost like herrings in a barrel, and reduced nearly to the state of being buried alive, with just air enough to preserve a degree of life sufficient to make them sensible of all the horror of their situation."

The various editions of Brooks plan are discussed at length in Marcus Rediker's recent The Slave Ship, where he calls it "among the most effective propaganda any social movement has ever created"

Despite its fame, this first American broadside printing is rarely seen with no others known at auction. It is expected to sell for $15,000-25,000 in the auction which takes place on September 15 in New York and online.


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