News

October 2, 2007

Rare Book Finds Home at Lafayette

1833 volume about slavery in America will be part of For Captive Africa exhibit opening Oct. 11

In August, while sorting through boxes of books for an upcoming sale, volunteers at the Bethlehem Area Public Library came across a rare find. It is a find that has now made its way into the Rare Book Collection at Lafayette and will be on display as part of the For Captive Africa exhibit opening Oct. 11.

An unknown donor had dropped off an unmarked leather-bound book at the public library. The book turned out to contain two volumes – a first edition of An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called African (1833), by Lydia Maria Child, and a second edition of The Slave: or Memoirs of Archy Moore (1840) by Richard Hildreth.

Child’s work is one of the first major American abolitionist texts and argued in favor of admitting African Americans into full citizenship. Hildreth’s book was one of the first anti-slavery novels published in America.

The find was so significant that dozens of national and regional media outlets, including the latimes.com, AOL.com, and FOXNews.com, ran articles and segments about the book.

“It was really interesting to hold a piece of history that was so important,” says Liza Holzinger, Special Events Manager at the public library. “Actually, it was awesome.”

While the public library had little need for such a rare text (the library’s rare book collection focuses on the history of the Lehigh Valley), numerous other institutions, some as far away as California and Paris, were very interested in the volume.

After a sealed bid auction, the book has come to rest at Lafayette and will be on display as part of the For Captive Africa exhibit, which runs Oct. 11, 2007 – Feb. 29, 2008 in the Simon Room of Skillman Library. The exhibit will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the ending of the slave trade by Great Britain and America.

According to Diane Windham Shaw, special collections librarian and College archivist, an area that special collections focuses on is anti slavery literature from the late 18th and early 19th century. Special attention is paid to female abolitionist writers since the Abolitionist Movement led directly to the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Shaw believes Child’s book was ideal for the library because of its connection to both movements and the upcoming exhibit.

“To have the book show up essentially just down the road and then to have it come here is really an amazing coincidence,” she says.

Holzinger agreed, “We’re thrilled that it stayed local. Lafayette’s collection really was just a perfect fit.”

Through resources from the library’s Rare Book Collection, the exhibit will include anti-slavery periodicals and poetry, publications by women abolitionists, works on the American Colonization Movement, and books by or about British abolitionists such as Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, and William Wilberforce.

Also part of the exhibit will be the lecture, “Lafayette and Slavery: The Ideal, the Practical,” by scholar Robert Crout at 4:10 p.m. in the Gendebien Room of Skillman Library. The talk will be followed by a short dramatic portrayal of the Marquis de Lafayette and the slave/spy James Armistead, by historical interpreters from Mount Vernon. All three events are part of the College’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Marquis’ birth.

The yearlong celebration during 2007-08 is in recognition of the life and legacy of the man for whom the College is named. Major events include the Lives of Liberty lecture series; a historical exhibit at the Williams Center for the Arts, entitled A Son and his Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington; and a birthday party, which was Sept. 6.

posted in News and Features

tagged with