A Voyage on the River Sierra Leone

Map from John Matthews letters

A Collection of Letters by John Matthews (A Voyage to the River Sierra-Leone)

John Matthews

1788

Marbled endpapers

At first glance, this collection of letters written by John Matthews about a small river in West Africa attracts little attention. However, behind the plain cover one finds an array of colorful marbled fly leaves, maps, and engaging descriptions. Diving deeper into this collection of letters about Sierra Leone will lead one to intricate maps of the coast of Africa and an island where John Matthews presumably stayed while composing these letters, familiarizing the audience with the place which these letters expound on (Image 1). The letters themselves, however, carry the most weight about the relevance of this collection both during its publication and today. They begin by describing the culture and customs of the people of Sierra Leone and end by describing how the slave trade has adversely affected their culture and lives overall. This collection of letters, while dull on the outside, is filled with both artistic and progressive elements, and serves one purpose certainly ahead of its time— to denounce the slave trade.

 

Blake Brinster, Class of 2022

A Voyage on the River Sierra Leone