MEARES, John (c.1756-1809). Voyages Made in the Years 1788 and 1789, from China to the North West coast of America. London: Logographic Press, 1790. [With:] DIXON, George (1748-1795). Remarks on the voyages of John Meares. London: John Stockdale, 1790. [And:] MEARES, John. An answer to Mr. George Dixon. London: Logographic Press, 1791. [And:] DIXON, Capt. George A. Further remarks on the voyages of John Meares. London: John Stockdale and George Goulding, 1791.
The first edition of “one of the early and fundamental books on the northwest coast of America,” with the three Dixon-Meares controversy pamphlets—rarely found bound together in a contemporary binding. Meares captained the Nootka on a fur-trading mission to Russian America in 1786. A disastrous overwinter in Prince William Sound might have resulted in the loss of the expedition if not for the help of Captains Portlock and Dixon, who were also sailing in the area and provided vital aid. This work describes that voyage, along with a detailed report on American trade with China, as well as a return trading journey in 1788-89.
The publication of Meares’s report, which contains some unflattering comments about Dixon and Portlock, fueled a small controversy waged in print between the fur traders. Dixon responded with Remarks on the voyages of John Meares, in which Dixon calls out his exaggerations and mocks his navigational skills. This in turn inspired an exchange of two more insulting pamphlets. As notes in one of them: “a contention between individuals is seldom of sufficient importance to be communicated to the Public; as, generally speaking, few are entertained by, and still fewer are interested in, the concerns of private persons: the present case, however, I humbly conceive not as merely relating to Mr. Meares and myself, but of real importance to all who may hereafter be concerned in prosecuting the commerce of which it is the subject, or navigating the seas where that commerce is carried on.” Various bibliographies call for differing numbers of plates. The present copy with 28 plates conforms to the Lada-Morcarski copy and to the majority recorded at auction. Cordier Sinica 2103; Hill 1126; Howes M-469, D-364, M-467, and D-363; Lada-Mocarski 46; Sabin 47260, 20361, and 20633; Streeter sale 3491; Wickersham 6595.
Quarto (288 x 232mm). Engraved frontispiece, 27 engraved plates, some of which folding (small marginal repair to frontispiece, some spotting and offsetting; first pamphlet lacking K2 [advertisement]). Contemporary calf with elaborately gilt flat spine (light wear). Provenance: The Library of the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Granard (his sale, Sotheby's, 21 July 1993, lot 452; bookplate and inscription) – Sotheby's, 7 May 2009, lot 244.