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BURNEY, James.

A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean.

London: by Luke Hansard, and sold by G. and W. Nicol; G. and J. Robinson; J. Robson; T. Payne; and Cadell and Davies [vol. I; later imprints vary slightly], 1803-17 Stock Code: 133007
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"The most important general history of early South Seas discoveries"

First edition of "the most important general history of early South Seas discoveries, containing practically everything of importance on the subject; collected from all sources, with the most important remarks concerning them... Many of the early voyages to California would be inaccessible were they not collected herein" (Hill). James Burney (1750-1821) had served on Cook's second and third voyages and witnessed Cook's killing. He reached the rank of captain, but his repeated acts of insubordination and openly republican political views hampered his naval career. Forced into retirement on half pay, he followed the examples of his father, the historian of music Charles Burney, and his sister, the novelist Fanny Burney, by turning to writing. His first work was as ghost writer of William Bligh's A Voyage to the South Sea in HMS Bounty (1792). The present is his major work, describing the discoveries up to but not including Cook's, published in a format to be shelved next to those eight quartos. "This work, carefully researched and clearly and concisely written, long remained the standard on its subject" (ODNB).

Provenance: discreet book labels of Charles Russell Codman; "Charles Russell" was a popular pairing of names among the Massachusetts Codmans but this may be Colonel Charles Russell Codman (1829-1918), a member of the state Senate (1874-75) and House of Representatives (1872-75); he was the recipient of a lengthy tribute in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Third Series, Vol. 52 (Oct., 1918 - June 1919).

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5 volumes, quarto (290 x 228 mm). Contemporary red half morocco-grain skiver neatly rebacked to style and corners refurbished, flat spines gilt lettered direct and divided by paired gilt rules, speckled edges, Stormont pattern marbled paper sides.


Complete as issued with 28 engraved charts (17 folding; 5 as frontispieces), 13 engraved views (one folding), 6 wood-engraved illustrations in the text.


Covers a little rubbed, gutter of last few leaves of vols. I and II browned, some offsetting from plates to text, scattered foxing. A very good set, clean and wide-margined.


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