First edition of this notable Cook rarity – the first American account of Cook’s Third Voyage, which preceded publication of the official (London) account by more than a year – presented here in an appealing plain trade binding of the period. ‘This was not only the first American book on the Northwest coast [of America], but also probably the first American book on Hawaii’ (Streeter).
Stab holes are visible at gatherings A4-K and Forbes notes that ‘The book was first issued in parts with blue grey part wrappers as follows: Part I, pages 1-80 ; Part II, pages 81-160; Part III, pages 161-208’ and goes on to say that ‘not all copies were first issued thus in their entirety’. This copy, like virtually all others, does not have the rare map and it is now accepted that it was not generally issued; a census of copies at auction with the map, drawn up by PBA Galleries in 2008, lists only three: George Brinley (1879), William C. Braislin (1927: ‘small portion of the map’ only) and Thomas W. Streeter (1969). Another copy at auction in 2011 included ‘map corner [only]… most of map lacking’.
Connecticut-born John Ledyard (1751-1789), the self-styled ‘mad, romantic, dreaming Ledyard’ – described by historian Jared Sparks on the title page of his 1828 biography as simply ‘The American Traveller’ and characterised by Jefferson as a genius – joined Cook as a corporal of marines and ‘sailed with the expedition that left the Thames on July 12, 1776. At Nootka Sound [Vancouver Island], which was reached in March 1778, he began to picture the vast possibilities of the northwestern fur trade and resolved to enter it at the first opportunity. The return voyage, on which Cook was killed at the Hawaiian Islands, Feb. 14. 1779, brought him to London late in 1780. The American Revolution was still in progress, and refusing to serve against his countrymen, Ledyard remained in barracks for two years, and was then transferred to the North American station’ (DAB). From there he fashioned his escape home, to Hartford, and wrote his recollections of his voyage with Cook. Ledyard clearly drew on John Rickman’s ‘surreptitious and anonymous’ (Beddie) Journal of James Cook’s Last Voyage (London, E. Newbery, 1781), which ‘he relied on … for dates, distances, the courses of the vessels, and for other particulars serving to revive recollection’ (Sparks, p53) and sold the manuscript to the Hartford publisher Nathaniel Patten ‘for twenty guineas’ (ibid.).
A noted rarity in an unadorned but appealing period binding.
First edition. 8vo, 208 pp., contemporary sheep, gilt-ruled spine, some wear to extremities of binding, a few abrasions, lacks label, general light toning a little foxing, small hole to fore-margin of last leaf not touching text, a well preserved copy.
Lucas Benners (old inscription to title and pastedown).
Beddie, 1603; Forbes, 52; Hill, 991 (‘exceedingly rare’); Hocken, 21; Holmes, 45; Howes, 181; Parks Collection, 70; Sabin, 39691 (‘The author’s narrative is distinguished by its simplicity and evident authenticity’); Streeter VI, 3477.
Stock ID: 98334