Friday, September 1, 2023

Picturing Truth

Frontispiece to Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1850
Being bookish types, we are kind of obsessed with the physical manifestation of texts. What makes so many books so special is the interplay between the text and the book itself. Recently we were fortunate to acquire a first printing of the self-published Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave (Boston: The Author, 1850). It is slender work, just 144 pages, but loaded with power. Sojourner Truth had that amazing sense of righteousness, and enough experience on the stump and at religious gatherings, to really pour it on with force.

Title page to Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1850
The book does its part to help, and since she was involved in the whole enterprise, you know she must have had a say in how it looked. The cover is pretty basic mid-19th century fare. A floral embossed decorative binding with a gold-stamped title. But then you open it up and there you are, face to face with Sojourner Truth and you are immediately struck with her charisma. She owns the narrative and you are going to listen to what she has to say. Opposite is the title page, asserting her identity as "A Northern Slave" but clearly no longer enslaved. As the narrative attests, she walked away from that and became a fighter for the enslaved and for women. But your eyes can't help but go back to the image. The head wrapped in a scarf, tilted just enough to know she is evaluating YOU, giving you a stare that dares you to just try to read her story and not become a convert. 

Come be confronted by Sojourner Truth yourself by asking for Rare E185.97 .T87 1850.

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