Description

    "One of the Essential Books for an Americana Collection"

    Patrick Gass. A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, under the Command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke of the Army of the United States, from the Mouth of the River Missouri through the Interior Parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, during the Years 1804, 1805 & 1806. Containing an Authentic Relation of the Most Interesting Transactions during the Expedition, a Description of the Country, and an Account of Its Inhabitants, Soil, Climate, Curiosities and Vegetable and Animal Productions. By Patrick Gass, One of the Persons Employed in the Expedition. With Geographical and Explanatory Notes by the Publisher. Pittsburgh: Printed by Zadok Cramer, for David M'Keehan, Publisher and Proprietor, 1807.

    Rare first edition of the earliest published first-hand account of the Lewis and Clark expedition, preceding the official report by seven years. Twelvemo (6.3125 x 4.0625 inches; 161 x 103 mm.). viii, [1, fly-title], [1, blank], [11]-262 pp. Bound without the final blank leaf.

    Modern brown cloth with brown leather spine label ruled and lettered in gilt. Corners and spine extremities lightly rubbed. Paper slightly browned, with the usual foxing, a few upper corners creased, a few leaves closely trimmed at the outer edge, not affecting text. Two-inch closed tear to the gutter margin of the title, not affecting any text, early ink signature at head of title (with last name inked out), red ink stamp erased from title, resulting in two tiny holes, affecting a couple of letters in the copyright notice on the recto and a couple of letters on the verso. Additional red ink stamp at foot of p. 95, covered with a strip of paper. Leaves G1, G2, and G3 (pp. 73-78) creased (paper flaw), with a short tear to the outer blank margin of G2 (pp. 75/76), not affecting text. Short tear (paper flaw) to the upper blank margin of O4 (pp. 163/164). Several leaves creased after printing, sometimes partially concealing a line or two of text (most noticeable on P2 (pp. 171/172), P5 (pp. 177/178), T2 (pp. 219/220), and T5 (pp. 225/226)). Slight dampstaining to the first few leaves and to gathering P (pp. 169-180). Overall, a very good copy.

    "Born in Pennsylvania in 1771, Patrick Gass early demonstrated a determination to travel and explore the little-known portions of the West. A soldier in Illinois when Lewis and Clark arrived there, Gass circumvented his commanding officer's objections by applying personally to Lewis for a place in the Corps of Discovery. He signed on as a private but was subsequently elected sergeant by the enlisted men of the group, replacing Sergeant Floyd after his death. Although he had not learned to read and write until an adult, Gass nonetheless complied with Lewis's orders that each sergeant keep a daily journal. The Gass journal thus resulted from Jefferson's insistence on multiple and copious record-keeping by the expedition members. The original manuscript of the journal disappeared, but M'Keehan's edition based on Gass's notes presumably preserved the factual content if not the tone of the original. The published account was faulted with a 'provoking dryness' and a disappointing lack of commentary, but it has proven a useful check as to places and dates. Paul Cutright points out, in his History of the Lewis and Clark Journal, that the competent carpenter who helped build Forts Mandan and Clatsop also provided valuable details about these projects as well as the only description of the method by which certain tribes constructed their lodges. As Cutright observes, Gass became one of the best-known members of the expedition for several reasons: his key role as sergeant brought his name up frequently in the journals of Lewis and Clark; his account was the first to be published; he was the first to have a biography written about him; and finally, he outlived the other members of the Corps of Discovery by decades, dying at the age of ninety-nine in 1870" (Wagner-Camp).

    Graff 1516. Howes G77. Sabin 26741. Streeter 3120 ("one of the essential books for an Americana collection"). Wagner-Camp 6:1.


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