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Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin

John P. Jewett & Company / Jewett, Proctor & Worthington


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First edition, first printing of arguably the most influential novel in US history, in the scarce publisher's extra gilt binding.

  • Sold as a set of 2.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe (American).
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin; Or, Life Among the Lowly.
  • Boston / Cleveland, Ohio: John P. Jewett & Company / Jewett, Proctor & Worthington, 1852.
  • x, 13-312; IV, 5-322 pages (complete; see BAL 19343).
  • Duodecimo.
  • Illustrated with six full-page plates (three in each volume).
  • Bound in original blue pictorial cloth elaborately stamped in gilt to spine and boards (BAL binding C, no priority), all edges gilt, cream endpapers.
  • Housed in custom cloth chemise and slipcase.

Well educated in a large, abolitionist family, Stowe was already involved in anti-slavery activities by her early 20s, including participation in the Underground Railroad. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the "number of kidnappings and forcible re-enslavements of black people was growing almost daily" (Hedrick, 205), and Stowe chafed at the tepid response of those around her: "You don't know how my heart burns within me at the blindness and obtuseness of good people on so very simple a point of morality as this [...] I feel as if my heart would burn itself out in grief and shame that such things are" (1 Feb 1851 letter to Henry Ward Beecher, quoted in Hedrick, 204-5). Having already written a few well-received anti-slavery pieces for The National Era, Stowe was inspired to compose an anti-slavery novel through the urging of her sister, who had told her "if I could use a pen as you can, I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is" (quoted in Hedrick, 207). The result turned Stowe into "the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war," as Abraham Lincoln allegedly quipped (alas, apocryphally).

Already deeply versed in the literature of fugitive slave narratives and armed with decades of firsthand experience assisting those who self-emancipated, Stowe composed a narrative that owed much to the actual experiences and accounts of formerly enslaved people. In A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853), published after pro-slavery advocates argued that scenes in the novel didn't happen or were exceptions, Stowe painstakingly documented sources employed in her novel, including The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave (1849); and the Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs (1850).

First serialized in 1851 in The National Era, Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in book form in March 1852. The first edition of 5000 copies immediately sold out, as did a second printing. The publisher remarked that "three power presses are working twenty-four hours per day, in printing it, and more than one hundred book-binders are incessantly plying their trade to bind them, and still it has been impossible, as yet, to supply the demand" (The National Era, 15 April 1852). It appeared in a number of different binding variants (wrappers at $1.00, regular cloth at $1.50, and extra gilt at $2.00). The typical cloth binding features substantially less gilt than this rarer deluxe version. A lovely copy of the most desirable state of this social reform classic. Hedrick, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life; "Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture" at the University of Virginia; Blanck, Bibliography of American Literature (BAL), 19343; Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1983 ed.), 332.

Condition Report

Star iconVery Good
Like New

Pencil owner name "O. Dickinson" dated May 1852 to front endpapers.

Later portrait of Stowe tipped onto front pastedown of volume I.

Minor expert restoration to head and tail of spines, which are a touch sunned; light rubbing to boards.

Careful hinge repairs, infrequent soil and foxing, primarily to margins, far less than usual.


Height: 7.5 inches / 19.05 cm
Width: 4.5 inches / 11.43 cm


First Edition




Novels, History, Americana

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