CHARLES WILKES (1798-1877)
Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition. During the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. Philadelphia: printed by [vols. I, III-V] C.Sherman or [vol. II] T.K. & P.G. Collins, stereotyped by J. Fagan, published by Lea and Blanchard, 1845. 6 volumes (including atlas vol.), large 8° (280 x 180mm). 78 engraved plates and maps (comprising: 5 large folding engraved maps in the atlas vol. (1 handcoloured), 12 maps in the text vols. (9 double-page), 61 plates in the text vols.), numerous steel or wood-engraved illustrations. (Portrait frontispiece to vol. I loosely inserted, some plates spotted, title page to atlas volume lacking, the folding maps in the atlas volume with small tears to margins and folds.) Original dark brown cloth, blocked in gilt and blind (atlas vol. rebacked, extremities rubbed).Provenance: J.V.P. (armorial ownership stamps).
A complete set of the second edition of this important work, Haskell's unofficial issue 2B (text) and 17B (atlas), and limited to 1000 copies. 'In January and February, 1840, Charles Wilkes, commander of America's first naval exploring expedition, sighted the Antarctic continent and then followed its coastline for a distance of more than fifteen hundred miles... he was the first definitely to announce the existence of an Antarctic continent' (H.M. Lydenberg in D.C. Haskell The United States Exploring Expedition New York: 1942, p.1). The expedition had been prompted by 'the ever increasing demand [in the early 19th century] on the part of American commercial interests for better and fuller information concerning those remote and poorly charted regions [of the South Pacific]' (op.cit.). After a lengthy period of debate federal funds were alloted to the U.S. Navy, Wilkes was appointed as commander, and a number of able scientists and artists engaged to record the expedition. These included Horatio Hale (philologist), Charles Pickering and Horatio R. Peale (naturalists), J.P. Couthouy (conchologist), James D. Dana (mineralogist), William Rich (botanist), William D. Brackenridge (horticulturalist and assistant botanist) and Alfred T. Agate and Joseph Drayton (draughtsmen). 'The chief fields of operation in this expedition were the coast of the Antarctic continent, the islands of the Pacific Ocean, and the American northwest coast. In total, some 280 islands in the Pacific and adjacent waters and 800 miles of streams and coasts in the Oregon country were surveyed, and 1,600 miles of the coast of Antarctica were surveyed.' (Hill p.662). Conrad p.54; Haskell 2B & 17B; Hill(2004) 1866; Rosove 353.B1d ('Scarce'); Spence 1262; Taurus 6. (6)