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A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty;
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BLIGH, Lieutenant William.

A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty;

and the Subsequent Voyage of Part of the Crew, in the Ship's Boat, From Tofoa, one of the Friendly Islands, To Timor, a Dutch Settlement in the East Indies.

Published: London: George Nicol, 1790

Stock code: 92505

Price: £8,500

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First edition of Bligh’s (1754-1817) personal account of “one of the most remarkable incidents in the whole of maritime history” (Hill) published two years before his full official version of the voyage and the mutiny in an effort to influence opinion in his favour, absolving him “from any blame that might be levelled against him because of the incident”. HMS Bounty left Spithead on 23 December 1787 with Bligh as captain, accompanied by a 44 men strong crew, two botanists, David Nelson and William Brown, and a diarist, James Morrison. The aim was to sail for the Pacific, collect saplings of the breadfruit tree and other plants, and transport these to the West Indies. The intention was to introduce the Pacific plants into the local fauna, allowing them to “become cheap staples for the slaves” (ODNB), and by extension making low-cost, large-scale cotton cultivation in the area possible. Bligh reached Tahiti on 26 October 1788; after more than five months, the Bounty sailed for the West Indies laden with “more than 1,000 young breadfruit plants”. On 28 April, after a few weeks at sea, Fletcher Christian, the master’s mate, led parts of the crew in mutiny and commandeered the Bounty, setting Bligh and 18 loyal crewmen adrift in a 23-foot long launch. Despite being given little in terms of navigational tools, Bligh reached Coupang on 14 June 1789, after a 3,500 mile long voyage. During this ‘hazardous journey Bligh took the opportunity to chart and name parts of the unknown north-east coast of New Holland as he passed along it — an extraordinary feat of seamanship’ (Wantrup). Despite the film-fuelled condescension of posterity, it should be remembered that Bligh’s skill as a navigator, perhaps second only to Cook of his time, and his courage as a seaman, ensured his continued employment by the Admiralty, led to his election to the Royal Society, and to his appointment as governor of New South Wales.

Quarto (288 231 mm). Contemporary full sprinkled calf, rebacked with original spine laid down, raised bands to spine, red morocco label, floral decorations to compartments gilt, double frames to boards gilt, floral rolls along edges of boards in blind. With the engraved folding plan “A Copy of the Draught from which the Bounty’s Launch was built” by Mackenzie, and 3 engraved folding charts by J. Walker after W. Harrison. Boards a bit scuffed and soiled, title page and folding plan lightly stained, occasional spotting to margins of text block. Otherwise an excellent copy.

Bibliography: Ferguson 71; Hill 132; Howgego I B107; Kroepelien 87; O'Reilly-Reitman 543; Parks 7; Sabin 5908a; Wantrup 61.

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