The link to the digitized Google eBook copy of
The History of Mary Prince
is here. The original is in the collection of the British National Library.
The Slave Narrative
Research for my PhD project "Reclaiming Histories of Enslavement in the Maritime Atlantic and a Curriculum: The History of Mary Prince" took me to the British National Library, which has a first edition copy of The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself in its collection. This copy has been digitized and is now available on Google eBooks. A link to this copy appears to the left.
Note that on the front page of this copy there is an inscription: “The Rev. Mr. Mortimer. With the Editor’s best respects.” This is Thomas Pringle’s handwriting. Pringle was the editor of the collaborative writing team that brought The History of Mary Prince to print.
Mary Prince mentioned Rev. Mr. Mortimer near the end of her story, where she acknowledged several of her London friends: “Nor must I forget, among my friends, the Rev. Mr. Mortimer, the good clergyman of the parish, under whose ministry I have now sat for upwards of twelve months” (Prince 22).
In the London photographs section of this website, there is a photograph of the Church of Saint Mark, Clerkenwell. The Rev. Mr. Mortimer was appointed Stipendiary Curate to St. Mark’s 4 January 1828.
Because Prince related her story at the conclusion of 1830 and/or January 1831, the “upwards of twelve months” she would have been “sitting” in Mortimer’s ministry, would have been in 1830. Prince would have been attending St. Mark’s, where Mortimer was curate.
The History of Mary Prince went to print three times, in 1831. At this time, and as far as I know, no second edition has been found, but third editions do exist.
The third edition, which is not available on this website, shows two additions made to the first. These are a postscript dated 22 March 1831, which is indicated by Pringle to have been included in the second edition, and an appendix dated six days later, on 28 March 1831.
The postscript is in regard to Prince’s failing eyesight, and it informs readers that any funds raised from sales of The History of Mary Prince will go to her. The added appendix is a letter authored by Pringle’s wife, Margaret, although it is additionally “certified and corroborated” by three others: Susan Brown, Martha A. Browne, and Susanna Strickland. Susan Brown was Margaret Pringle’s sister, and Martha A. Browne was a friend.
The appended letter identifies Strickland as the “lady who wrote down in this house the narratives of Mary Prince and Ashton Warner.” There was a second collaborative writing project, but with a young man, Ashton Warner, as the storyteller. Negro Slavery Described By A Negro: Being The Narrative of Ashton Warner, A Native of St. Vincent’s. With an Appendix, Containing The Testimony of Four Christian Ministers, Recently Returned From the Colonies, On the System of Slavery As It Now Exists was also published in 1831, close on the heels of Prince’s The History of Mary Prince.
The appended letter is addressed to Mrs. Townsend (Lucy Townsend), one of the secretaries of the Birmingham Ladies’ Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves. The letter describes extensive scarring on Prince’s body from past floggings. There is scarring on the back of Prince’s body, as well as on other parts of her body. The scarring corroborates stories of torture, which pepper her slave narrative.
Because only six days separate the appended letter from the postscript, it is probable that the letter was also added in the second edition, but it may, however, have been added in the third.
Perhaps, in the future, digitized copies of the second and third editions of The History of Mary Prince will be available. I know that the Library of the Society of Friends, in London, has a copy of the third edition, and that it is on microfilm. If, and when, they are made available, we will be able to download the different editions and analyze their similarities and differences.