PRESCOTT, William H. (1796-1859). History of the Conquest of Peru. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847.
4to., (9 ½ x 6 ½ inches). (Light occasional spotting). Full-page engraved map in volume one. Steel-engraved frontispiece in each volume, full-page engraved plate in volume two. Original publisher’s olive green cloth, decorated in blind and lettered in gilt (unevenly faded to tan).
Provenance: Manuscript presentation inscription to front pastedown in both volumes: “C. Plummer fr. Wm. I. Bowditch 1854”; modern ownership inscriptions dated 1973 on recto and verso of front free endpaper in both volumes.
First American edition, first issue (lacking period after “integrity” on p. 467, volume 2), published in the same year as the U.K. edition. A very attractive copy of Prescott’s important work on the Spanish conquest of Peru. Prescott is widely acknowledged as the first American scientific historian, and is well known for his impactful works on late Renaissance Spain and the early Spanish Empire.
This particular copy is a presentation copy from William Ingersoll Bowditch (1819-1909) to Caroline Plummer (1780-1854), one of the first female philanthropists in America, and a close personal friend of Bowditch. Bowditch was a Boston businessman and active abolitionist, and his home on Brookline Avenue was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Among those who sought shelter in the Bowditch House were the famous runaway slave couple William and Ellen Craft, as well as John Brown’s son after Brown’s execution as for his participation in the Harper’s Ferry raid.
Bowditch presented this book to Caroline Plummer the same year she died. A Salem, Massachusetts native, Plummer was a very generous philanthropist, supporting the Salem Athenaeum, endowing a chair at Harvard University for the teaching of Christian morals, and, most significantly, founding “a Farm School of Reform for Boys for the city of Salem” (renamed the Plummer Home for Boys in 1958) with a bequest of $26,000 upon her death. Bowditch’s brother Nathaniel, also a close friend of Caroline, said of her, “On every point of integrity and honor Caroline Plummer is as true as a needle to the pole” (American Journal of Education, vol. XIII, p. 74, 1863).
An important piece of American scholarship illustrating the relationship between two important Boston activists.