Many of 153 lots in the book section of that March 23- 24 auction held by Chorley’s (22.5% buyer’s premium) were multiples, but the lot that brought the highest bid offered a single work, albeit in two volumes.
This was a 1782 first of Letters of the late Ignatius Sancho, an African.
A man who went on to achieve fame as an abolitionist, writer and composer, Sancho (c.1729-80) had been born on a slave ship and spent the first two years of his life in South America, but after his parents died his owner gifted him to three sisters who lived in England, at Greenwich.
There he remained a slave for 18 years before running away to the home of the Duke of Montagu, where he was taught to read and his interest in literature encouraged. Sancho worked as a servant but eventually left and started his own business as a shopkeeper.
Going on to write and publish various essays, plays and other works, Sancho also became one of the more enthusiastic supporters of the growing abolitionist movement and, as a male property-owner, was the first black Briton to have voted there.
He was also the first African prose writer whose work was published in England.
Edited and published two years after his death, and prefixed by a memoir of his life, this copy of the Letters… sold at a record £3500 (estimate: £200-400).
Other individual highlights at Chorley’s included Major Charles Boyd’s The Turkish Interpreter, or a New Grammar of 1842, at £850, and George Robinson’s two-volume account of Travels in Palestine and Syria of 1837 [38?] at £750. Both results would appear to be auction records.