Boston: Munroe & Francis, 1827. First edition. Contemporary tree sheep, skillfully rebacked and recornered with gilt and morocco label to spine. Tight, square, and pleasing, with minor signs of worming to text block near crown of spine, not affecting any text. Some light foxing and soiling to endpapers, with upper corner of front endpaper excised. Archival repairs to lower corners of pages 25-38 and to inner upper corners of 151-180 not affecting text; else internally clean and unmarked. Collating complete: xiv, 180. A lovely example of this groundbreaking work in American history.
The first culinary work by a Black American, The House Servant's Directory defined polite society before the Civil War. Drawing on his experience and authority "as an African American butler to some of the most prominent members of Boston's 'aristocracy,'" Robert Roberts provided a comprehensive guide to household management that included "detailed recipes for drinks, polishes, and cleaners as well as advice on how to behave...he gave advice on buying food, running a household, and even how to dress and how to wash hair" (New England Historical Society). As much as Roberts' work displays his professional acumen -- running a household during the period was roughly equivalent to managing a business -- the book also offers social commentary and seeks to improve conditions for those employed by the wealthy, white elite. An abolitionist working in an abolitionist household, Roberts knew his work would be read by those both upstairs and downstairs. Thus he urged behavior that recognized the dignity of all household members. "The labourer is worthy of his hire, and should be treated in health or in sickness with pity and feeling....let them be rated as fellow human beings and candidates for a future world."
Cagle 647. Lowenstein 107. (Item #4269)