An Important Association Copy of the First Volume of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, in the Rare Original Boards[Meriwether] Lewis, and [William] Clark. History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Performed during the Years 1804-5-6. By order of the Government of the United States. Prepared for the press by Paul Allen, Esquire. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Published by Bradford and Inskeep; and Abm: H. Inskeep, New York. J. Maxwell, Printer, 1814.
First edition of "the definitive account of the most important exploration of the North American continent" (Wagner-Camp). Volume I only. Octavo (9 x 5.625 inches; 228 x 143 mm.). xxviii, 470, [2, blank] pages. Without the large folding engraved map in Volume I, which was not issued in all copies, but complete with the two engraved plates called for in Volume I ("Fortification" facing page 63 and "The Falls and Portage" facing page 261).
Uncut, in the original printed boards. The authors's names have been impressed into the spine: "Lewis / and / Clark / The 3rd [?]." Rebacked at an early date with sheep stitched onto the boards. Both the boards and the sheep spine are rubbed and worn, and there are a few wormholes in the spine. Lacking the front free endpaper and flyleaf. The spine has separated from the text at the front hinge, and the first few gatherings are separating.
The text is browned and foxed, as usual, and there is some wear to the edges. Dampstaining to the upper margin into the text at the beginning (including the front pastedown), additional dampstaining to the lower corner at the end (including the rear pastedown), and several other mostly marginal dampstains throughout. Several leaves have been poorly opened at the top edge or have pieces torn from the upper margin, sometimes affecting the headline (as on pages 26 and 66) or the page numbers (as on pages 63/64).
The blank lower two-thirds of pages v/vi have been torn away. Short tear to the outer margin of the title leaf, affecting a few letters on the verso; two-and-one-half-inch tear from the lower margin into the text on leaf Cc4 (pages /200), affecting a few letters; two-inch tear from the outer margin into the text on leaf Dd1 (pages 201/202), affecting a few letters; one-and-one-half-inch tear in the text of leaf Oo3 (pages 235/236), affecting a few letters; one-and-three-quarter-inch tear in the text of leaf Oo4 (pages 237/238), affecting a few letters, with some loss. The title is creased diagonally, and a few corners folded down.
Inscribed in ink in an early hand at the foot of page 470: "Lewis the 3rd [?] / :Y:" Early ink ownership inscription on blank page  and on the verso of the rear free endpaper: "E. Bacon's Book / Newdesign Trigg-Co. Ky / May. the 3. 1836 / [flourish]." Early pencil inscription on the recto of the rear flyleaf: "E. Bacon's Book / New Design / Trigg County / Ky." Later pencil note on the rear free endpaper: "paid 50 cts."
Very scarce in the original boards: a 1970 census by Lester J. Cappon located twenty-one copies in the original printed boards, thirteen in private hands and eight institutional copies, of which several were defective or restored.
"Beyond the Missouri River there lay a vast and largely unexplored territory which bordered on the western reaches of the United States. Ceded by France to Spain in 1762 and then back to France in 1800 it was at this period visited only by some British and a few French trappers. The importance of exploring this area had been evident to Thomas Jefferson as early as 1783, when he had proposed the project to George Rogers Clark; but it was not until twenty years later that Jefferson, then President of the United States, saw the realization of his idea...The purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in December 1803 greatly increased the importance of the expedition, which finally began its long journey to the headwaters of the Missouri in May of the following year. That year they wintered in the Mandan villages in the Dakotas and in the Spring pushed on west across the Rocky Mountains and then down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. Returning by the same route nearly two-and-a-half years after they had set out they arrived back at St. Louis in September 1806 to the amazed delight of the nation which had given them up for lost. Though unsuccessful in their attempt to find a transcontinental water route, they had demonstrated the feasibility of overland travel to the western coast" (Printing and the Mind of Man).
A number of years passed between the end of the expedition and the 1814 printing of the official account. Lewis had made some arrangements for publication, but upon his suicide in 1809, Clark undertook the project, which was in disarray. "This is the great mystery of Lewis's life. There is only speculation on what kept him from preparing the journals for the publisher, but no one can know the cause for certain, any more than anyone can know for certain the cause of his suicide...When Clark arrived at Monticello [where the journals had been sent], there was apparently some talk about Jefferson's taking over the journals and doing the editing to prepare them for the printer. There was no man alive who had a greater interest in the subject, or one who had better qualifications for the job. But he was sixty-five years old and desired to spend the remaining years at Monticello as a gentleman farmer" (Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the West (New York: 1996), pages 478-480).
Jefferson, who had received thirteen copies, including one complimentary copy, from Bradford and Inskeep on 15 August 1814 (see Donald Dean Jackson, Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, with Related Documents, 1783-1854, Volume II, page 598, note 1), had supplied the prefatory "Life of Captain Lewis" (pages [vii]-xxiii).
Edmund Bacon (1785-1866) was the overseer of Thomas Jefferson's plantation at Monticello from 1806 until 1822. In 1823, Bacon and his family moved to Trigg County, Kentucky, where he farmed until his death in 1866.
Church 1309. Field 928. Graff 2477. Grolier, 100 American, 30. Howes L317 ("first authorized and complete account of the most important western exploration"). Printing and the Mind of Man 272. Sabin 40828. Streeter 1777. Wagner-Camp 13:1.
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