Description

    An Exceptionally Bright Copy in the Publisher's Original Binding Complete with Five Large Folding Maps in the Atlas Volume

    Charles Wilkes. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845.

    Third edition, and the first generally available trade edition, with the type completely reset and important corrections included. This edition was limited to 1,000 copies printed. It follows only the exceedingly rare quarto edition of 100 copies, most of which were given to foreign countries or perished in a fire, and a second quarto edition limited to 150 copies. This is the last edition which included the important atlas of five large folding maps.

    Six tall octavo volumes (11 1/8 x 7 inches), including: five volumes of text, complete with two steel-engraved frontispiece portraits, sixty-two beautifully steel- or wood-engraved plates after A. T. Agate and J. Drayton (including portraits and views, all with tissue guards) and nine double-page engraved maps, plus the atlas volume of five large folding engraved maps, the first of which is colored by hand. With 295 engraved vignettes and woodcuts in the text.

    Publisher's brown cloth decoratively blocked and lettered in gilt and blind. Pale yellow endpapers. A few minor tears to cloth and a bit of bumping and wear at some corners. Volume II has a dampstain to the bottom margin of a few leaves and three plates, not affecting the text but for just touching on one leaf, and just touching the corner of one plate. A bit of light foxing and faint offsetting to some maps. Volume V has a pressed tree leaf that has caused a small faint stain. In the atlas volume, there is a short tear to the first map where it connects to the gutter margin, and a small paper repair to the last map in the same place. Altogether, a superb, stunningly clean set in a remarkably well-preserved original publisher's binding. The set is partially unopened, with the engraved plates bright and clean. Even with the few minor flaws mentioned above, still a fine copy.

    Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) "...was appointed to command an exploring and surveying expedition in the Southern Seas, authorized by Congress in 1836. The expedition, including naturalists, botanists, a mineralogist, taxidermists, a philologist, &c., was carried by the sloops-of-war Vincennes and Peacock, the brig Porpoise, the storeship Relief and two tenders...it stopped at Madeira and Rio de Janeiro; visited Tierra del Fuego, Chile, Peru, the Paumotu group of the Low Archipelago, the Samoan islands and New South Wales; from Sydney sailed into the Antarctic Ocean in December 1839 and reported the discovery of an Antarctic continent west of the Balleny islands; visited the Fiji and the Hawaiian islands in 1840, explored the west coast of the United States, including the Columbia river, San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento river, in 1841, and returned by way of the Philippine islands, the Sulu archipelago, Borneo, Singapore, Polynesia and the Cape of Good Hope, reaching New York on the 10th of June 1842" (Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition). Several prominent American writers were influenced by the narrative of Wilkes' expedition, including Herman Melville, who owned a copy of the book and included traces of the description and narrative in Moby Dick, and James Fenimore Cooper, who used portions of the narrative in his sea novels.


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    October, 2010
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