Voyages en Guinée et dans les îles Caraïbes en Amérique

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Author: Isert, Paul Erdmann (1756-1789)

Year: 1793

Publisher: Chez Maradan

Place: Paris


viii+343+[1-48] with frontispiece, folding plate, tables and index. Octavo (8 1/4" x 5 1/4") bound in original paste-paper wrappers. First French edition, first published in German 1788.

Paul Erdmann Isert was a German botanist. He was the first scientist to identify the bird Red Bishop (Euplectes orix franciscana (Isert)'. He is also known for his attempts to end the Danish-Norwegian slave trade. He was appointed Chief Surgeon to Christiansborg (Osu, Accra) in Danish Guinea, arriving there in 1783. He sought this position because of his burning desire to collect plant specimens from West Africa. Once there, realizing that the inhabitants had no written language, he felt it his duty to record – for future generations – details of all aspects of life on the Gold Coast, as he observed them, thus creating an ethnographic, as well as botanical, work. After nearly three years on the Gold Coast Isert abruptly determined to leave the country on the first possible ship back to Europe. This was due to his extreme frustration at being hindered from exploring in Ashanti. It was on this ship, a slave ship en route from Danish Guinea, on the second day at sea, that he witnessed a slave rebellion on the open sea, which almost cost him his life. The cargo of 452 blacks rose against the whites, with a resulting loss of 34 of their number and 2 of the crew wounded after a heated battle. In the West Indies, he visited Saint Croix, Saint. Thomas, Saint John, Guadeloupe and Martinique. Sickened by the horror and human misery he saw, both in the slave-processing dungeons of Christiansborg, aboard the ship, and on the sugar plantations, Isert came up with an alternative to the abhorrent practice of the transatlantic slave trade. He found it not only inhumane, cruel and immoral, but also absurdly stupid. In 1788, Isert published his famous book Reise nach Guinea und den Caribäischen Inseln in Columbia (Journey to Guinea and the Caribbean Islands in Columbia), wherein he described his experiences with, and his views on, the slave trade. Later in the summer, he sailed for Africa and established a crown plantation, Frederiksnopel, near Akropong in the fertile and cool Akwapim Hills reminiscent of the Mediterranean, purchasing the land from the Akwapim chief, Nana Obuobi Atiemo, on behalf of the King Christian VII of Denmark. Isert and Nana Obuobi Atiemo had been comrades-in-arms during a war in 1783, waged at the Volta River, and had evidently formed a lasting friendship. With the help of Nana Obuobi Atiemo, who shared Isert's enthusiasm about the plan, paid African workers and the European group that had accompanied Isert, cleared the land and planted only easily cultivated plants, for their own sustenance. Trade products, such as sugar and cotton, would be put off until later. Isert wanted to demonstrate that the establishment of working plantations on the continent of Africa could be practical and profitable. To this end, he enlisted the aid of Ernst Heinrich von Schimmelmann, who was then the Danish-Norwegian Minister of Finance. Schimmelmann, a well-known and well-off liberal, who was instrumental in the passage of the law ending the Danish-Norwegian transatlantic slave trade, agreed to finance Isert's endeavor. Convinced of the feasibility of the plantations, an edict was issued in the name of King Christian VII by his son Prince Frederick (who was then Regent because of his father's mental illness) on 16 March 1792, which came into effect on 1 January 1803. Denmark-Norway thus bears the honour of being the first established sovereign state to prohibit the transatlantic slave trade.


Slight rubbing and sunning to spine and wrappers, title written by hand to ttitle, corners bumped and rubbed through, some page corners curled, Scant spotting. Provenance: Bibliotheque de Pomme-Gorge (bookplate) else about very good.

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