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.

London: George Nicol, 1790 Stock Code: 121735
£7,500.00
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Bligh's personal account of "one of the most remarkable incidents in the whole of maritime history"

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 and absolving him "from any blame that might be levelled against him because of the incident" (ibid.). As he writes in his "Advertisement" : "the manner in which this expedition miscarried, with the subsequent transactions and events, are here related it appears unnecessary to delay giving as much early information as possible concerning so extraordinary an event".

HMS Bounty left Spithead on 23 December 1787 with Bligh as captain, accompanied by a 44-man 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 sections of the crew in a 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 modern day Kupang, Timor, then a Dutch East India settlement 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, Australian Rare Books 1788-1900). Despite the film-fuelled condescension of posterity, it should be remembered that Bligh's skill as a navigator, perhaps second only to Cook at the time, and his courage as a seaman, ensured his continued employment by the Admiralty, led to his election to the Royal Society and appointment as governor of New South Wales.

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Description

Quarto (288 x 222 mm). Contemporary sprinkled calf skilfully rebacked to style, red morocco label, two-line gilt border on sides.

Illustrations

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.

Condition

Brown discolouration at head of frontispiece, title page and Advertisement (apparently an old wax stain), other light staining and a few ink marks to title, ink blot at pp. 8 and 35 (affecting one word on each), some inked marginalia. A well-margined copy.

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