Scarce second edition of this oratory primer, beloved by writers such as Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
THE COLUMBIAN ORATOR
"I was now about twelve years old, and the thought of being a slave for life began to bear heavily upon my heart. Just about this time, I got hold of a book entitled THE COLUMBIAN ORATOR. Every opportunity I got, I used to read this book." – Frederick Douglass
For decades, THE COLUMBIAN ORATOR was "a standard" of US American secondary education, with over 200,000 copies sold by 1832 (Ganter, 463). But while it has been "treated as a typical educational anthology for its era," this apparently humble primer had a sizeable impact on young writers "by encouraging generations of American students [...] to speak and write in a tradition of nonconformist activism" (Ganter, 463-4). With THE COLUMBIAN ORATOR, Christian radicalist and abolitionist Caleb Bingham sought to nurture the intellect of any willing learners, no matter their background.
Alongside Classical and American Revolutionary War speeches, THE COLUMBIAN ORATOR contains monologues and dialogues that emphasize the cruelty and injustice of slavery, and is "one of the few" titles of its day to advocate for Native American "tribal dignity and land rights" (Ganter, 473). Frederick Douglass fondly noted the title's "fanaticism"; in his memoir MY BONDAGE AND FREEDOM, he recalls that "[w]ith a book of this kind in my hand, my own human nature, and the facts of my experience, to help me, I was equal to a contest with religious advocates of slavery" (158-159).
This copy of the second edition of THE COLUMBIAN ORATOR is emblematic of Bingham's goals for the title. Printed on US American paper stock of varying qualities, inexpensively but attractively bound, and with various readership marks, it is clear that it was referenced and used by an aspiring orator. A terrific copy, scarce on the market in any early edition.
Read more: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and Freedom.
Boston: Printed by Manning & Loring, For the Author, 1799. Full title: The Columbian Orator: Containing a Variety of Original and Selected Pieces; Together with Rules; Calculated to Improve Youth and Others in the Ornamental and Useful Art of Eloquence. 12mo. 7'' x 4''. Contemporary polished tree sheep binding with red goatskin spine label. Speckled edges. Ornamental headpiece to introduction. 300 pages, collated complete. Binding with a couple small spots of worming to hinges, light edgewear; a bit of bowing to boards. Leaves with various mild to moderate toning and scattered soil; fragments of removed labels to pastedowns. Solid.
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