LEWIS, Meriwether (1774-1809) and William CLARK (1770-1838). History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Performed during the years 1804-5-6. Philadelphia: [by J. Maxwell at New York for] Bradford and Inskeep, 1814.
2 volumes, 8o (211 x 132 mm). Large folding engraved "Map of Lewis and Clark's Track Across the Western Portion of North America" (720 x 310 mm) engraved by Samuel Harrison after Clark, 5 other engraved plates and maps (map with repaired tear in upper right corner, a few miniscule holes, some pale spotting, generally fine). (c4 in vol. 1 and [a]2 in vol. 2 with repaired tears crossing text, a few marginal repairs.) 20th-century green morocco, spines gilt-lettered and -ruled, green morocco doublures, watered silk linings, top edges gilt, OTHERS UNCUT AND WITH ORIGINAL FRONT AND BACK PRINTED BOARDS TO EACH VOLUME BOUND IN AT END (some light rubbing at extremities, spines darkened).
FIRST EDITION OF THE "MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL OVERLAND NARRATIVES," AND THE "DEFINITIVE ACCOUNT OF THE MOST IMPORTANT EXPLORATION OF THE NORTH AMERICAN CONTINENT" (Wagner-Camp-Becker), including a prefatory "Life of Captain Lewis" by President Jefferson. The expedition, commissioned by Jefferson and funded by Congress in early 1803 (it cost all of $2,500), was the first exploration officially sponsored by the Federal government. The acquisition of Louisiana Territory, finalized in December of the same year, increased the importance and urgency of the expedition, which set out from St. Louis in May 1804 and covered 8000 miles in the next 2½ years, crossing the Rocky Mountains and reaching the mouth of the Columbia River before returning by the same route. The extremely accurate and detailed map, based on Clark's manuscript, was termed by Wheat the "master map of the American West" (quoted in Cohen). The remarkable cartographic achievement, perhaps even more than the written account of the journey, served to impel and motivate the nation's inexorable westward expansion.
Publication of Lewis's and Clark's account of the epic expedition was delayed by the appointments of both leaders to official positions in the new Louisiana Territory (Lewis as territorial Governor and Clark as Superintendent of Indian Affairs), and later by Lewis's murder or suicide in 1809. This "most important of all overland narratives" (Grolier) was finally brought to press on 20 February 1814 but a high proportion of the copies issued in this first printing, which is replete with errors, apparently lacked the folding map or were otherwise defective. Though 2,000 copies were printed, only 1,417 perfect copies were put out for sale at that date, according to Coues. Church 1309; Coe p.22 ("must ever remain the basis of a collection of western books"); Cohen Mapping the West 7; Graff 2477; Grolier American 30; Howes L-317; Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 5a.1; PMM 272; Sabin 40828; Streeter sale III:1777; Streeter Americana Beginnings 52; Wagner-Camp-Becker 13.1; Wheat Mapping the Transmississippi West 316.