New York: Sheed & Ward, 1935. First American edition. Octavo, original half brown cloth, red top edge, original dust jacket. The book is nearly-fine, the rare pink dust jacket is stained, torn, and chipped on the spine and the lower front panel but whole with the illustration largely unaffected. A very good copy. Item #383
First edition, American issue, of Arnold Lunn's biography of St. Peter Claver, the Spanish Jesuit known as "the slave of the slaves." Though Arnold Lunn was perhaps better known for his promotion of the sport of skiing (he was knighted for "services to British skiing"), he was also a skilled debater in advocating agnoticism. In 1930 he proposed a debate by letter on Catholic doctrine with Monsignor Ronald Knox, himself a recent convert from the Church of England. Their lively exchange (chronicled in the book, Difficulties) captivated England and culminated with Lunn's 1934 reception into the Catholic Church—by Monsignor Knox.
Published a year after Lunn's conversion, A Saint in the Slave Trade is a discourse on the transatlantic slave trade, the strangely passive response of the Church, and the nature of sanctity. Based in the slaving port of Cartagena, Father Claver is said to have personally baptized over 300,000 newly arrived Africans. "Claver devoted his life to the slaves, and yet he never, so far as we know, criticized the institution of slavery, which he appears to have taken for granted. He was interested in individuals rather than in institutions, and moreover, so far as slavery is concerned, he would never have condemned an institution which the Church had never explicitly condemned."
The first edition is known for Jean Charlot's jarring dust jacket illustration depicting the priest embracing and kissing a naked and manacled African. The illustration incorporates an "S" and "W" (for Sheed & Ward) in the folds of the priest's cloak. Published the same year as the first edition, British issue; the American edition was printed in Britain and appears to have only had the title page altered from the British issue. The book was popular enough with readers to warrant a second edition under Sheed and Ward's Ark Library imprint (though it was notably issued without the Charlot illustration). Claver was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. Pope Francis visited Colombia in September 2017 and prayed at the tomb of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena. Dedicated by Lunn to "Her Royal Highness/The Infanta Beatrice of Spain."