Théophilus Conneau collection on A Slaver's Log Book
- circa 1853-1976
- Majority of material found in circa 1853-1854
- Smythe, Mabel M. (Mabel Murphy) (Editor, Person)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Extent1.5 linear feet (4 boxes)
Collection contains original manuscript for A Slaver's Log Book or 20 Year's Residence in Africa, written by Théophilus Conneau (who used the alias Theodore Canot for publication), with notes from editor and the originally attributed author, Brantz Mayer. Also with two sets of corrected proofs, correspondence, and additional printed material concerning later editions of the book, circa 1976.
Also includes press coverage, including newspaper clippings, and promotional materials for the 1854 edition as well as a single flyer regarding the 1976 edition.
Biographical / Historical
Captain Théophilus Conneau was born in Italy to French parents in 1804. He became involved with the slave trade in 1826, and for the following thirteen years, he was an agent to Cuban slave traders and a commander of vessels that smuggled captive African people into Cuba, working mostly on the coast of Guinea and Liberia. Conneau owned a fort where European goods were exchanged for enslaved people. Conneau was imprisoned by the English and French; his French sentence for his active promotion of the trade of enslaved individuals in Senegal was commuted in 1835.
In the 1850s, Conneau immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, where he reconneceted with James Hall, whom he had known in Liberia. Hall convinced Conneau to write a memoir and referred him to journalist Brantz Mayer, who worked actively with Conneau to edit the manuscript and then published it, originally under his name, entitled Captain Canot, or Twenty Years of an African Slaver. According the the dealer description that accompanied the material, Conneau and Hall, elected to use the alias Theodore Canot in order for Conneau to avoid prosecution for his illegal work in the slave trade and to avoid embarrassing his brother, chief physician to Napoleon III.
Historians of the slave trade were confused from an early date regarding Canot's identity and the authorship of the work. In the early twentieth century, it was retitled Adventures of an African Slaver and attributed to Theodore Canot. In 1976, Conneau's original 1853 manuscript was found in the back room of the Washington, D.C. bookstore, Loudermilk's, and then published that same year as A Slaver's Log Book, or 20 years' residence in Africa, attributed to Captain Theophilus Conneau, based on the original documentation and letters between Conneau and Mayer.
The corrected proofs for the 1976 edition edited by Mabel M. Smythe were part of the original purchase by Howard S. Mott of the Canot material but became separated and were not included in the sale to Between the Covers (from whom the Houghton Library purchased them). The proofs included bibliographical references and index. Smythe was not credited as the editor of this edition but is known to have been. She was the second African-American female ambassador and the first African-American female ambassador posted to Africa.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2020M-75. Purchased with funds from the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, the Herman Dunlop Smith Bequest, the Harmand Teplow Class of 1920 Book Fund, the Sidney J. Watts Fund, the Frank Brewer Bemis Bequest, and the Gore Vidal Endowment Fund for Arts and Letters, 2020 January.
2021M-12. Gift of Howard S. Mott, 2020 December 13 (one set corrected proofs).
2021M-16. Gift of Howard S. Mott, 2021 January 14 (second set corrected proofs).
- Conneau, Théophilus, 1804-1860. Théophilus Conneau collection on A Slaver's Log Book, 1853-1976 (MS Am 3352): Guide.
- Houghton Library, Harvard University.
- 2020 February 5
- Description rules
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.
- EAD ID
Part of the Houghton Library Repository
Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.
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