GILBERT, OR THEN AND NOW: A Thrilling Story of the Life and Achievements of a Virginia Negro.
Edition: First edition.
Philadelphia: H. D. Shaiffer, (1902). SIGNED hardcover first edition - Interesting association copy of this novel - INSCRIBED on the front endpaper "Presented to Ella Wheeler Wilcox with Compliments of H.D. Shaiffer, Publisher, 1614 Diamond St, Phila PA" Although this purports to be a factual account, it is a rather strange novel dedicated to "all those gentlemen of the Afro-American race who have labored diligently for the elevation of their brethren." Gilbert straddles two worlds: as the son of a free mother, he was also freeborn, but his father was a slave and it was a slave owner who took him in. During the War Between the States he assisted both the Federal and Confederate soldiers at various times, and was treated as a friend by almost all whom he encountered both black and white. For a while after the war, he became a prosperous businessman, until he was fleeced by unscrupulous white men. Then destitute, he encountered a man whose life he had saved many years ago, and who wrote this book as a way to raise money for his needs. It ends with the comment that he "ceaselessly prays that a sympathetic public may pity him in his unfortunate old age to the extent of the price of a copy of this work." It is probable that the publisher in this case is also the author: neither produced another book, and the fact that the publisher is known to have inscribed many copies (while I have never encountered a copy signed by the author) tends to indicate that he was more involved in it than simply as "publisher" Illustrated with six glossy plates. 309 pp.
Condition: Very good minus in original burgundy cloth with gilt lettering on spine and front cover (chip at base of spine and some rubbing to the lettering on the spine but overall a tight and sturdy copy)