GEORGE MORTIMER (fl.1790)
Observations and Remarks made during a Voyage to the islands of Teneriffe, Amsterdam, Maria's Islands near Van Diemen's Land; Otaheite, Sandwich Islands; Owhyhee, the Fox Islands on the North West Coast of America, Tinian, and from thence to Canton, in the Brig Mercury, commanded by John Henry Cox. London: the Author, 1791. 4° (303 x 240mm). 2 maps, one engraved plate, list of subscribers. (1 map slightly off-set). Modern speckled calf gilt by Bernard Middleton, boards with borders of gilt double rules, spine gilt in compartments, gilt morocco lettering-piece in one, others decorated wwith gilt fleurons.
A VERY RARE FIRST EDITION of a British-Swedish spying voyage to Russian America. Although Mortimer states in the introduction that the voyage was undertaken 'from motives of curiosity, [with] the fur trade on the North West Coast of America its ultimate object', once at sea, the brig Mercury became the Gustaf III, an armed privateer sailing under the Swedish flag. During the war between Sweden and Russia 1788-1790, Cox was given a commission in the Swedish navy to legitimize his mission to attack Russian fur-trade settlements in the Aleutians. Mortimer served as lieutenant of marines on this 16-gunner but wrote in the introduction that he 'was not altogether acquainted with Mr. Cox's motives'. As Cox died on the voyage home, it was left to Mortimer to publish the narrative. From Australia, Tahiti and Hawaii, Cox sailed for Unalaska but found only a few starving Russians there, whom he assisted. Lada-Mocarski speculates that Cox sensed he would be hunted by the Russian authorities and sailed for Canton shortly in advance of an order received in Unalaska from Russia to capture the Mercury and Cox in the Aleutians. The work is further interesting for its relation of the Russian establishment at Unalaska, and for the fresh news Cox received in Tahiti about Bligh and the Bounty mutineers. When Cox reached Tahiti he learned that the Bounty had returned to Tahiti, without Bligh, to take on board a number of people and had departed only 15 days earlier; thus, the men on board Mercury became the first Europeans to learn anything about the mutiny. Hill 1192; Lada-Mocarski 48; Forbes 213; Ferguson 110.