29th Nov, 2023 10:00

Books & Works on Paper

Lot 104

America-. Cator (Joseph) Manuscript account of a journey through North America, 1764


Cator (Joseph)

Manuscript account of a journey from Jamaica to Charleston, South Carolina, then overland through North America to Boston, Massachusetts and to England, April—August 1764

Manuscript in ink on paper, 89 pages, including one blank (heavy brown staining and worming to lower portion of text with some loss, occasional other loss of text at edges), margin ruled in red throughout, a few later (20th century?) notes and marks added in pencil, contemporary limp sheep (worn), armorial bookplate of Joseph Cator, small 4to, [circa 1765]

An apparently unpublished account of a journey made in 1764 by two English gentlemen, Joseph Cator (1733-1818) and Joseph Sparkes who appear to have resided in Jamaica for a number of years. The majority of the text focuses on the four month tour through north America with descriptions of people, places and life on their travels. Joseph Cator (1733-1818) was the brother of John Cator (1728–1806) an English timber merchant who became a wealthy landowner and member of parliament, who lived at Beckenham Place, Kent. It appears that Joseph Cator left England around 1754 at the age of 21 and spent a number of years in Jamaica and embarked on this tour of north America before his return to England in 1764.

The manuscript is written in the form of a letter from Joseph Cator to Thomas [Severn?] (name obscured by staining) ‘which ought to have been sent you sometime ago […] when Capt. Dessell said which I have not complied with I am ashamed to delay it any longer […] I hope you will not permit it to be perused by any other person’ and is dated at the end 20th April 1765. The present manuscript appears to be a contemporary copy of the letter made by or for Joseph Cator and the volume bears his engraved armorial bookplate which suggests it was kept in his library. The account of the journey covers the first 81 pages and is followed a 7 pages listing the places visited in north America and the miles between each location from ‘Charles Town’ to Boston, which Cator calculated was a total of 1187 miles.

The account begins with Cator and Sparkes’ departure from Jamaica on the 3 April 1764 to Charleston in South Carolina, passing Cuba viewed through ‘a spy glass’ and along the coast of Florida. They arrived in Charleston (“Charles Town”) and then proceed overland by horse through South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and through Massachusetts, arriving in Boston on the 9th July. The account ends with the voyage back to England from Boston on the 16th July, arriving at Dover on the 22 August and then to Cator’s family home in Kent. Cator notes that he has been away from England for ten years.

In Charleston (“Charles Town”) Cator and Sparkes were received by Henry Laurens (1724-1792) a merchant, slave trader, rice planter and member of South Carolina's colonial assembly who provided them with letters of introduction. On the 8 May 1764 Laurens also wrote three letters of recommendation on behalf of Cator and Sparkes: to John Rutherford at Wilmington, North Carolina (‘another favour to request in Behalf of Joseph Sparkes, Esquire & Joseph Cator, Esquire, two Gentlemen from Jamaica on a tour thro our Southern Colonies to Boston. Be so kind to give them your countenance and aid if requisite as they pass by your door. They are warmly recommended to me & from thence as well as from the little acquaintance that I have with them in Charles Town […] if they have occasion for Cash their Bills upon me shall by duly honoured.’); to Lewis de Rosset at Wilmington; and another to William Fisher (The Papers of Henry Laurens, vol. 4, 1968). Cator writes that they had been introduced to Laurens by Messrs Meyler & Hall, these were Bristol merchants who had acquired a large plantation in Jamaica in 1760.

Cator and Sparkes travelled with a chaise & pair of horses, two black servants, Trancred and Caesar, each with a horse, plus a spare horse. Cator describes the places visited, the produce of each area (rice in South Carolina, tobacco in Virginia etc), notable buildings (court houses, residences, churches etc.), the people they met, hospitality they received and events and incidents along their travels, their concern about meeting native Americans, and challenges and accidents on the road.

Sold for £30,000

Includes Buyer's Premium


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