Spotted and fragile, but very rare – the sheet music for a Farewell Song of Frederick Douglass… sold at Swann Auction Galleries for $30,000 (£21,430).

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Featuring a portrait by a British artist, William Behnes, of the young Douglass, the slave who became a leading abolitionist, social reformer, writer and statesman, it is a considerable rarity. In a March 29 sale of African-Americana held by Swann (25/20/12% buyer’s premium), it made $30,000 (£21,430).

The music was composed by an English abolitionist, Julia Griffiths, who later joined Douglass in the US, assisting him on his newspaper, the North Star, and publishing her own Autographs for Freedom, an anthology of anti-slavery literature, before returning to England.

The words are by Julia’s younger brother, Powis – the chorus being ‘Farewell to the land of the free / Farewell to the land of the brave/ Alas! that my country should be America, land of the slave’.

This rather worn, torn and spotted example of the sheet music was bound up with what the cataloguer, perhaps in an unintentionally unkind moment, called “16 other largely unremarkable songs”.

A signed, and rarely seen cabinet card size example of a well known photo-portrait of Douglass, dated to c.1879, made $24,000 (£17,145) in the New York sale.