SANCHO, Ignatius. Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African. To which are prefixed, Memoirs of his Life. The Third Edition. London: Printed by J. Nichols, 1784 Contemporary calf, Cr.8vo. xiv,393pp. frontispiece portrait of the author engraved by J. Wright.
Charles Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780) was born on board a slave ship in 1729, a few days after it had quitted the coast of Guinea bound for the Spanish West Indies. He was brought to England at an early age and was butler to the Duchess of Montagu from 1749 to 1751. He formed acquaintances with Garrick and Sterne, and owned a grocery shop in Charles Street, Westminster, where he spent the last years of his life writing letters in Sterne’s manner. His portrait was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1768. He was ‘the first African to be given an obituary in the British press’ [ODNB]. This is the second work written in English by an African, and was only preceded by Phyllis Wheatly’s poems in 1773. The first edition was published in 1782. The work was edited by Miss Frances Crewe, and Joseph Jekyll wrote the memoirs. ‘The literary quality of his Letters was frequently cited by opponents of slavery as evidence of the humanity and inherent equality of Africans, and even Thomas Jefferson felt compelled to acknowledge, albeit begrudgingly, that “we admit him to the first place [as an author] among those of his own colour”.’ [ODNB]. The side of the spine and a section of the upper board repaired, a very nice copy in a contemporary calf with a richly gilt spine.