First British Edition of "The Most Important Exploration of the North American Continent"Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Travels to the Source of the Missouri River and across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean. Performed by order of the Government of the United States, in the years 1804, 1805, and 1806. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1814.
First English edition. Quarto. xxiv, 663, [1, publisher's ads] pages. Complete with half-title, one large folding engraved map, and five other engraved maps on three sheets. Text watermarked 1813.
Modern half calf over red cloth. Titles, decoration, and sailing ship motif stamped in gilt in six compartment on five raised bands on the spine. Light shelf wear mainly in the form of rubbing along the edges of the boards. One small scuff to the cloth on the front board. Top edge gilt, other edges rough trimmed. Decorative endpapers. Contents are stunningly bright and virtually without flaw. An extraordinary copy in fine condition.
"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" (PMM). Wheat states that the map is almost identical to the Philadelphia edition 'except for a few minor variations'. Although preceded by the American edition in two volumes, this first British edition is generally thought to be a much finer production, both in layout and in the materials used. Graff 2480. Howes L-317. Sabin 40829. Wagner-Camp 13; 2. Grolier, American 100, 30 (American edition).
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