HEARNE, Samuel (1745-1792). A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay, to the Northern Ocean. Undertaken by Order of The Hudson's Bay Company, for the Discovery of Copper Mines, A North West Passage, &c. In the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, & 1772. London: Printed for A. Strahan and T. Cadell for T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1795.
4o (288 x 231 mm). Publisher's advertisement leaf at end. Five engraved folding maps and plans, and four engraved folding plates. (Some occasional pale offsetting and staining, heavier on the last few leaves and plates.) Contemporary English mottled calf gilt, red morocco lettering-piece on spine (rebacked preserving original spine, some light wear at extremities, bookplate removed from pastedown).
FIRST EDITION. A TALL COPY OF HEARNE'S WORK ON THE EXPLORATION OF THE COPPERMINE RIVER. Hearne was the first white man to cross North America north of Mexico, and the first to travel overland to the Arctic Ocean. He'd been sent by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1769 to find a northwest passage via Hudson Bay and to explore the country for copper mines which had been reported by the Indians. After two initial failures, he reached the Coppermine River in December of 1770 and followed it to its mouth on the Arctic coast. On his return he discovered Great Slave Lake. As a result of Hearne's explorations, any theory of a western exit to the Pacific was disproved, and much was learned about the natural history and Indian tribes of the region. The navigator Jean François La Pérouse, who captured Fort Albany on Hudson Bay, discovered Hearne's manuscript and negotiated with the Hudson's Bay Company for its publication. "Nothing can be more vivid than his descriptions of their savage customs, their brutal indifference to their own as well as others' sufferings, and their horrible massacres of rival tribes" (Field).
Hearne's narrative is particularly noteworthy for its candid and graphic descriptions: "When I was on my passage from Cumberland House to York Fort, two boys killed a fine buck moose in the water, by forcing a stick up its fundament; for they had neither gun, bow, nor arrows with them." Peter C. Newman writes in Empire of the Bay (2000): "That painfully honest chronicle of his epic journey -- published twenty-three years later as A Journey from Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean [sic] -- turned out to be as important a legacy as the journey itself. The perceptiveness that allowed Hearne to view each new experience without the inhibitions of his time made his diary a classic in the literature of northern discovery" (p.232). Bell H-73; Field 676; Hill 791; Lande 1220; Sabin 31181; Staton & Tremaine/TPL 445; Streeter sale VI:3652.