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A Voyage round the World By the Way of the Great South Sea,
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SHELVOCKE, George.

A Voyage round the World By the Way of the Great South Sea,

Perform'd in the Years 1719, 20, 21, 22, in the Speedwell of London, of 24 Guns and 100 Men, (under His Majesty's Commission to cruize on the Spaniards in the late War with the Spanish Crown) till she was cast away on the Island of Juan Fernandes, in May 1720; and afterwards continu'd in the Reccvery [sic], the Jesus Maria and Sacra Familia, &c.

Published: London: For J. Senex; W. and J. Innys; and J. Osborn and T. Longman, [1726]

Stock code: 80268

Price: £4,750.00

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First edition. George Shelvocke (1675–1742) was captain of the Speedwell, the smaller ship, in an authorised expedition under the command of John Clipperton, on board the Success, to raid the town of Paita on the Peruvian coast, and to capture the treasure-ship plying between Lima and Panama. Clipperton had sailed as chief mate with William Dampier in the St George (1703–4). Shelvocke lost touch with Clipperton, and proceeded on his own into the Pacific Ocean where he raided Paita and headed for Juan Fernandez, the last point of rendezvous with Clipperton. He managed somehow to wreck the Speedwell and spent five months marooned in the area already famous as ‘the Land of Robinson Crusoes’. Shelvocke and his men built an escape pinnace out of the wreck, called her the Recovery, and put to sea in her, remarkably “his crew of forty, living on nothing but sun-dried eels” (Howgego) managed to capture a 200-ton Spanish ship, the Jesu Maria, which they renamed the Happy Return. Trading up into various Spanish prizes on the way, they proceeded to raid Spanish settlements on the pacific coast, careening at Cape San Lucas on Baja California in 1721 before heading east to Canton. There Shelvocke decided to sell the ship, divide the spoils, and made the passage back to England on an East India Company ship. This, his expanded published version of the 1724 report he had made to the lords of the Admiralty, “presciently discusses the economic possibilities of guano and whaling, as well as mentioning traces of gold on the coast of California. His narrative is best remembered for the solitary albatross shot by Simon Hatley as the Speedwell entered the Southern Ocean, an episode absent from the manuscript version but told in the book with such laconic emphasis that it found a passage to Wordsworth’s heart, and thence to Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798)” (ODNB). The double-sheet folding map depicts the world in two hemispheres, with the route of the voyage traced and with California depicted as an island, two of the plates show inhabitants of California. As usual, this privateering cruise ended in recrimination and litigation. William Betagh, who was captured by the Spanish before the Speedwell was lost, published his own version of events in 1728, in which he accuses Shelvocke of cunningly constructing a chain of seeming accidents to increase his personal gain at the expense of his colleagues, crew and the ship’s owners. There seems little reason to doubt his estimate that Shelvocke emerged from the voyage with approximately £7000, some of which he used to escape from prison and bribe himself out of further legal proceedings. Shelvocke’s Voyage was reissued in 1757 by his son George, who was then secretary to the general Post Office.

Octavo (196 × 121 mm). Contemporary panelled calf, rebacked, red morocco label, raised bands, gilt rules. Engraved title-page vignette by Pine, folding engraved double-hemisphere world map mounted as frontispiece, 4 engraved plates, 2 of them folding, numerous woodcut head- and tailpieces. A little rubbed, traces of old tape marks to the boards, hinges lined with linen, folding map with a few short splits, old neat repairs verso, two leaves with similar splits and repairs, one leaf with the corner torn away, no loss of text, professionally built up, modern collector’s plate to the front pastedown, light browning, a very good copy.

Bibliography: Cowan II, pp. 581-582; Hill I, pp. 272-273; Howgego, I. S94; Howes S383; Sabin 90158.

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