UL-Lafayette gets rare first edition of ‘Twelve Years a Slave’

A first-edition copy of “Twelve Years a Slave” was recently donated to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to be housed in the Edith Garland Dupré Library’s Special Collections Department.

The library now has a total of three copies of the memoir written by Solomon Northup.

The recently added copy is a rare, early edition published in 1853, whereas the others were published later in 1854.

The book increased in popularity when it was adapted into the 2013 movie, “Twelve Years a Slave,” which has received nine Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

“According to online dealer catalogs, the book is probably worth about $10,000,” said Bruce Turner, assistant dean of Special Collections. “Popularity of the movie has increased its market value.”

The book was donated to the library about a month ago by Elizabeth Pinkett, an education professor at UL-Lafayette.

“One of the interesting things about Northup is that he was held as a slave in Louisiana,” Turner said. “It makes it more interesting for people here to read the book.”

Northup’s memoir is also unique because he was a free man sold into slavery, which was an unusual circumstance and gives a different take on slavery, he said.

“It was a very popular book when it was first published so it ran several editions,” Turner said. “After the publication of the book, Northup went on a lecture circuit and became an (anti-slavery) advocate.”