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    First Edition of Colnett's Second Pacific Voyage,
    including His Account of the
    "Nootka Sound Controversy"

    James Colnett. A Voyage to the South Atlantic and round Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean, for the Purpose of Extending the Spermaceti Whale Fisheries, and other Objects of Commerce, by Ascertaining the Ports, Bays, Harbours, and Anchoring Births [sic], in Certain Islands and Coasts in those Seas at which the Ships of the British Merchants Might be Refitted. Undertaken and Performed by Captain James Colnett, of the Royal Navy, in the Ship Rattler. London: Printed for the Author by W. Bennett [and] Sold by A. Arrowsmith, Stockdale, Edgerton, Elmsly, and White, 1798. First edition. Large quarto (approximately 11.5 x 9.125 inches; 292 x 233 mm.). iv, [iii]-vi, [i]-xviii, 179, [1, blank] pages. Engraved frontispiece portrait of the dedicatee, Sir Philip Stevens, Bart. M.P., by J. Collyer after W. Beechey; two engraved plates, each containing three profile coastal views; engraved plate of the "Physeter, or Spermaceti Whale Drawn by Scale, from one killed on the Coast of Mexico, August 1793. and hoisted in on Deck," by G. Allen after J. Colnett, with twenty-one lines of text; and six folding engraved charts.
    Contemporary polished calf. Covers with an elaborate gilt outer border made up of "Gothic cathedral" tools, including columns, arches, pinnacles, and hearts, with quatrefoil and heart-shaped tracery in the corners, enclosing an inner blind border of alternating palmettes and stylized flowers, within a gilt rope border and with elaborate gilt cornerpieces made up of "Gothic cathedral" tools, including crocketed pinnacles and quatrefoil tracery. Spine decoratively lettered and panelled in gilt in compartments, with four slightly raised gilt-decorated bands; board edges with gilt diagonals at corners; turn-ins decoratively tooled in gilt; edges sprinkled brown; marbled endpapers.
    Some foxing and browning; frontispiece offset onto title-page; charts offset; occasional mostly marginal dampstaining (including to frontispiece); gatherings L and M browned and creased at lower corner; a few small marginal stains. Very minor worming to lower edge of frontispiece and title. The "Physeter, or Spermaceti Whale" plate is closely trimmed at top edge (no loss) and darkened and chipped at outer edge; a few folding charts with short tears at stub or fold, some with creasing or curling at the inner edge; last chart reinforced on the verso with mauve paper. A few pencil marginalia, sometimes offset onto facing pages. A very good, well-margined copy, larger than the Streeter copy (which measured 288 x 226 mm.).

    More Information:

    "Colnett [1755-1806] undertook this voyage to open the South Pacific sperm whale fields to British commercial interests. He made two visits to the Galápagos Islands, and visited the coasts of Chile, Peru, and California. He was favorably impressed with the Galápagos Islands as a suitable Pacific base for whalers. Colnett also makes brief mention in a note (p. 96-102) of the incident from an earlier voyage for which he is best known: he arrived at Nootka Sound in 1789 and notified Esteban Jose´ Martínez, the Spanish commander in situ, that he had come 'under authority of the King of England with orders to take possession of Nootka, construct a fort, establish a factory, and plant a colony.' The Spaniards reacted strongly: Colnett was arrested and placed in the stocks, his ship and cargo were seized, and his officers and men were put in irons. Other ships belonging to John Meares and his business associates were also seized. Upon his release Colnett proceeded to England and raised an uproar about his treatment, as did John Meares about the loss of his ships, which almost precipitated a war in England and Spain. This was the celebrated Nootka Sound Controversy, one of the most famous incidents in the history of the Northwest. Colnett, who had been a midshipman on Captain Cook's second voyage, frequently discusses his former commander in the course of this narrative of his own voyage of 1793-4. The present account was actually compiled from Captain Colnett's notes by the prolific author William Combe, best remembered today for his Tour of Doctor Syntax, in Search of the Picturesque (cf. DNB)" (Hill).


    "This is an account of Colnett's second Pacific voyage in the Rattler, during which he did not stop at Hawaii. The lengthy preface, however, contains references to his first voyage when, as master of the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Princess Royal (Capt. Charles Duncan, master), en route from the Northwest coast to China with a load of furs, he made an extended stay in Hawaiian waters during the winter of 1787-1788. Colnett came to Hawaii again on the Argonaut in April 1791, but did not publish an account of the latter voyage...This narrative is particularly important for the part Colnett played in the dispute between England and Spain over claims to the Northwest Coast...On the point of American editions of Colnett, Strathern refers to Howes, who says: 'it was preceded by a 16 pp. abridged version printed at Trenton (New Jersey) in 1797, and reprinted (27 pp.) at Philadelphia, 1797.' This appears to be an error" (Forbes).


    In addition to "A Chart Shewing the Track of the Ship Rattler from Rio Janeiro Round Cape Horn, to the Coast of California, By Capt. James Colnett, of the Royal Navy, 1793-1794," engraved by T. Foot (in this copy without the small flap of extension in the right margin), the folding charts show the Pacific Coast of the Americas as far as California; "Plan of the Islands of Felix and Ambrose by Capt. James Colnett, of the Royal Navy. 1793;" "Chart of the Galapagos, Surveyed in the Merchant-Ship Rattler, and Drawn By Capt: James Colnett, of the Royal Navy. in 1793 1794," engraved by T. Foot; "Plan of the Island Cocos Surveyed and Drawn by Capt. James Colnett of the Royal Navy. 1793;" "Plan of the Anchoring Place at the Island Quibo By Capt: James Colnett. of the Royal Navy. 1794;" and "Plan of the Islands of Revillagigedo, by Capt. James Colnett, of the Royal Navy. 1793."


    Borba de Moraes I, pages 165-166; Cowan (1914), page 52; ESTC T144563; Forbes 280; Graff 812; Hill 338; Howes C604; Judd 40; Sabin 14546; Strathern 120; Streeter VI, 3494; Wagner, Northwest Coast, I, page 207; Wickersham 6549.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
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