MACKENZIE, Alexander (1764-1820). Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence, through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans; in the Years 1789 and 1793. London: T. Cadell et al, 1801.
4o (267 x 215 mm). Half-title and errata leaf. Frontispiece portrait and three folding engraved maps. (Frontispiece and title-page foxed, some other mostly marginal foxing.) Contemporary calf gilt (rebacked to match, some light wear at extremities).
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR on a separate leaf pasted to the verso of the front free endpaper: "Sir Alexander Mackenzie presents his Compliments to Mr. Davidson with one of the Books of His Voyages & wishes that Mr. Davidson may enjoy as much pleasure in perusing them as Sir Alexander experienced difficulties in performing them. 2 July 1818." Mackenzie, a Scotch-born fur trader, emigrated to North America in 1779 and was employed by the North West Company, a rival of the Hudson's Bay Company. In what is now the province of Alberta, Mackenzie and a cousin set up a trading post, Ft. Chepewyan, on Lake Athabasca (1788). This was the starting point of his expedition of 1789. The route followed the Mackenzie River from the Great Slave Lake to the river's delta on the Arctic Ocean. Mackenzie crossed the Rocky Mountains in 1793 from Ft. Chipewyan to the Pacific coast of what is now British Columbia. These journeys together constitute the first known transcontinental crossing of America north of Mexico. The work has further importance ethnographically, as it contains vocabularies of the Knisteneaux, Algonquin, Chepewyan, Hegailer and Atnah Indian languages. After expeditiously returning to Montral after the voyage, Mackenzie sailed for England to be entertained as a colonial hero. His Voyages, written with the aid of a ghostwriter named William Combe, became an instant bestseller (see Peter C. Newman, Empire of the Bay, 200, p.329). "No writer upon the subject of Indian customs and peculiarities, has given us a more minute, careful and interesting relation of them, as indeed none were better fitted to do, by long experience among them. His investigations ... were remarkable for their accuracy; Sir John Franklin more than once expressing his surprise at being able to corroborate their correctness" (Field). Presentation copies are scarce, with none recorded in ABPC since 1975. Field 967; Lande 1317 (presentation copy to the Duke of Norfolk); Hill p.187 ("This is the first and finest edition of one of the most important of Canadian books."); NMM 810; Sabin 43414; Staton & Tremaine 658.