Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2019 Issue

West-Indian Apocalypse, “Year Minus 1.”

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Between 1788 and 1790, Stanislas de Wimpffen resided in the French West-Indian colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti). He failed to make a fortune, but he gave an intimate description of a corrupted society based on slavery, and about to sink in a pool of blood. Actually, the island caught fire a few months after his departure! Wimpffen’s narrative, Voyage à Saint-Domingue pendant les années 1788, 1789 et 1790 (Paris, 1797), first came out in England—and this is no accident.

 

This is a typical book from the post-French Révolution (1789) period, printed on cheap paper, and bound in half low-quality leather. The title and number plates, on the backs of the two in-8 volumes, are also very cheap, and the gilding is minimalist—there’s a folding chart at the end of volume 2, but no engraving or map. We know little about the printer, R.L. Cocheris, who was “active approximately 1796—approximately 1800” (archive.org). Based in Paris, he published a few books including Bayard’s Voyages dans l'intérieur des Etats-Unis (1797), and some posthumous editions of Diderot alongside François Buisson, another bookseller from Paris.

 

According to the title page, our book was printed “Year 5 of the Republic.” In September 1792, with the intention to erase all royal symbols from the public square, the Revolutionary government decided to shift from the “old” Gregorian calendar to a Republican one. Names of months were changed, and civilization was staring all over again, not from a Christian perspective—since the Church was the natural ally of royalty—but from a Republican one! 1792 then became “Year 1”. So, whenever you come across a book printed “Year ‘something’ of the Republic”, just add ‘something’ to 1792 in order to get the actual date of printing. Thus, our book was from “1797 old style”—as specified (in brackets) on the title page. These new years were from September to September so that a book published “Year 5” might actually be from 1798—this calendar remained effective until 1806. The Republic was a sort of a new religion, and everything was going through its filter. When talking about his author in the preface, the printer calls him a “man of Court”, adding at once: “if Republicans will forgive the expression”. Then, on the last page of the second volume, we find not the regular King’s Privilege (authorization of printing), of course—but a legal statement, placing “this edition under the protection of the law and the probity of the citizens.” The printer dated it as follows: “In Paris, on Vendémiaire the 10th, Year VI of the French Republic (October 1st, 1798), which is one and indivisible.”

 

Our book is also deeply rooted in its time because it regards the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), which the author left a few months before the general rebellion broke out, in August 1791! As a matter of fact, it first came out in England (A Voyage to Santo Domingo—London, 1797), with a very political preface, in which Wimpffen describes the best way to capture the colony of Saint-Domingue. At the time, resenting the abolitionist measures of the French revolutionary government, many planters turned to the English colonists of the nearby island of Jamaica, and offered to deliver them the colony, providing they would intervene against the rebellious Negroes—the English did try to capture Saint-Domingue, but were eventually repelled by the troops of the black hero Toussaint Louverture. This preface, wisely expunged from the French edition, which came out a few months later, clearly shows on which side Wimpffen’s bread was buttered. A slave owner, who desperately tried to “make it” in the plantation business, he portrayed a society that disappeared shortly afterwards; his testimony thus became a time capsule, and we’re about to open it—let’s go back to the West-Indian Apocalypse, “Year minus 1”.

 

Alexandre Stanislas de Wimpffen (17..- 18...), was a German Baron, who had received a French education. He enjoyed writing letters to his friends while travelling. In 1788, he published Lettres d’un Voyageur (Amstedram, 1788), relating a travel that took him from England to South Africa. The same year, he embarked at Le Havre, France, on the Venus—this time, he was going to Saint-Domingue after his dreams of riches, but the awakening was a rude one. “The cracking of whips, the smothered cries, and the indistinct groans of the Negroes, who never see the day break but to curse it; who are never recalled of a feeling of their existence, but by sufferings—this is what takes place of the crowing of the early cock.” Wimpffen introduces himself as deeply opposed to “the infamous traffic we maintain on the coasts of Africa”—he means slavery. Yet, as he intended to become a planter, he had to become a slave owner. His position towards slavery appears to be ambivalent—and quite significant of the mentalities of his time. An educated man, he often sounds like an educated fool. To him, the colony was a wild world with no refinement, where “the disgusting alliance of all the absurdities of ignorance and sottishness (sic) affecting talents, with all the vices of an immorality, which cannot even allege seduction as an excuse, (...) presents the humiliating picture of humanity in the last stage of degradation.” He had heard so much about the capital Port-au-Prince, while in Europe! People there described it as “the residence of the civil and military power, the capital of the richest country on the face of the globe! the throne of luxury ! the centre of voluptuousness!” It turned out to be but “two rows of huts” and “a chaotic mass of wooden barracks.” The white women he met were just “prostitute from the hospitals*, abandoned wretches** raked up from the mud of the capital.” The freed Mulattoes “remain in a state of abjectness (...). If I visit a rich Mulatto (...) he will ask me to dinner; but if he be correct, he will not presume to sit at table with me.” He felt sorry for the slaves, although they stink “like house-leeks”; of course, when he heard about that young lady, “one of the handsomest in the island”, who had thrown her Negro cook into the oven “yet glowing with heat” because he had ruined a dish, he was outraged.

 

  • The French edition reads “from la Salpétrière”, which is a refuge for the poorest in Paris.

  • The French edition reads “salopes”, or bitches.

 

 

Slavery

 

There were 460,000 slaves in the colony at the time, and only 18,000 colonists. Wimpffen soon realized that “your colonies, such as they are, cannot exist without slavery. (...) You must then sanction slavery, or renounce the colonies.” The slaves were not all miserable, he states. There is peace of mind in slavery. What does a slave have to care about? To put it simply, “when the Negro has eaten his banana, he goes to sleep.” Obviously, this state of bliss didn’t concern bad cooks. In Saint-Domingue, Wimpffen realized that “the conquerors have assumed the manners of conquered.” The whole island resembled a giant brothel, where “the girls are a more valuable commodity than the boys, because (...) if they have the smallest pretentions to beauty, they have no great need of abilities to excite, among the unmarried whites, an emulation which assures them a price impossible to ascertain, since it is love, and what is more, self-love, which determines it.” When a female slave “wanted” to sleep with a White, she had to ask her master. She would receive money from her “lover”, so the master would collect his share, which made him—yes, a pimp. Slaves were not only sexually abused, but they were sexually exploited—a burning issue hardly discussed at the time, even by the abolitionists.

 

After three years’ time, Wimpffen’s efforts had not paid, and he grew disillusioned. “We must look forward to an epoch, which is not, perhaps, so distant as we may imagine;—that of a total cessation of the slave trade.” This world, he felt, was about to crumble. He left for the United States in 1790, regretting nothing—and no one. “The more I know the inhabitants, the more I felicitate myself on quitting it. I came hither with the noble ambition of occupying myself solely in acquiring a fortune; but destined to become a master, and consequently to possess slaves, I saw (the necessity) to know them—and I depart with much less esteem for the (Whites) than pity for the (Negroes). When a person is what the greater part of the planters are, he is made to have slaves; when he is what the greater part of slaves are, he is made to have a master: Tout le monde est ici à sa place/Everyone here is at their place.” As Voltaire’s Pangloss would say, all is well.

 

A few months later, Wimpffen left a colony that didn’t deserve him. Shortly afterwards, Saint-Domingue indeed sank in a bath of blood, only to resurface under the new name of freedom, Haiti—“Year 1 of the first black Republic ever.”

Thibault Ehrengardt

 

 

 

A Voyage to Santo Domingo,

In the Years 1788, 1789 and 1790.

By Francis Alexander Stanislas Baron de Wimpffen

London, Printed for T. Cadell Junior, and W. Davies

(successors to Mrs Cadell) in the strand; and J. Wright,

Opposite Old Bond-Street, Piccadilly, 1797.

In 1 Volume: half-title, title page, 4 pages (dedication), 12 pages (preface), 371 pages.

With a folding map of Santo Domingo and a frontispiece (portrait of the author).

 

 

Voyage à Saint-Domingue

pendant les années 1788, 1789 et 1790

Par le Baron de Wimpffen

Á Paris, Chez Cocheris, Imprimeur-Libraire, cloître Saint-Benoît, N°352, Section des Termes

An Cinquième de la République (1797, vieux style).

Vol.1 : Half-title, title page, 4 pages (Avis des éditeurs), 309 pages, 1page (errata).

Vol.2 : Half-title, title page, 265 pages, 1 page (errata). A folding chart (number of Negroes in each parish).

 

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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