The British Search for a North West Passage

    John Meares. Voyages Made in the Years 1788 and 1789, From China to the North West Coast of America. To Which Are Prefixed, an Introductory Narrative of a Voyage Performed in 1786, From Bengal, in the Ship Nootka; Observations on the Probable Existence of a North West Passage; and Some Account of the Trade Between the North West Coast of America and China; and the Latter Country and Great Britain. London: Printed at the Logographic Press; and sold by J. Walter, 1790.

    First edition. Large quarto. viii, [12], xcv, [1, errata], 372, [108] pp. Stipple and soft ground frontispiece portrait by C. Bestland after W. Beechey, ten maps and plans (three of which are folding) and sixteen plates. Bound with the "Views of the Land on the Philipine Islands" plate facing p. 21, usually lacking. This copy collates complete as per Sabin and Smith.

    Contemporary tree calf with sailing ship motif and lettering in gilt in six compartments between five raised bands on the spine. Edges stippled in blue. Boards with wear at the edges and a few scratches. Crazing to spine. Joints tender. Some offsetting from portraits to text. Moderate foxing to pages [1]-viii. Old paper tape repairs to first map "A Chart of the North West Pacific Ocean". A handsome volume in fine condition.

    "John Meares [1756?-1809] was sent out in 1786 from Calcutta, by a group of merchants, to enter into the fur trade of the northwest coast of America. Establishing himself at Nootka Sound...he built the first vessel to be launched in northern waters, made important discoveries, and explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The discoveries by Meares were part of the basis for the claim of Great Britain to Oregon. Competition with the Spanish almost caused war between the two countries...The Spanish seizure of his ships led to the convention by which the Spanish claims to any northern territory were finally disallowed. This important narrative gives a very full account of the Indian nations of Northwest America, describing their villages, languages, manners, and customs. It also contains a separate account of the voyage of the Iphegenia, commanded by Captain William Douglas, who visited the Sandwich Islands and Nootka Sound" (Hill). "According to the British Museum Catalogue, William Combe assisted Meares in the compilation of the work. John Walter, the printer and publisher of this book, was the founder of The Times" (Abbey). Several references cite variations with regard to the plates, Streeter noting the extra plate of the Philippines as missing in most copies. Abbey, Travel, 594. Cordier, Sinica, III, col. 2103. Cox II, p. 29. Hill I, pp. 195-196. Howes M469. Lust 344. Sabin 47260. Streeter VI, 3491. Taylor p. 197.

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