KEATE, George.

An Account of the Pelew Islands.

Situated in the Western Part of the Pacific Ocean. Composed from the Journals of Captain Henry Wilson, and some of his Officers, who in August 1783, were there Shipwrecked, in the Antelope, a Packet belonging to the Honourable East India Company.

London: G. Nicol, 1788 Stock Code: 118289
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First edition of Keate's "remarkable" shipwreck narrative (NMM), in a handsome provincial binding. "In 1783, the Antelope, commanded by Captain Henry Wilson, was wrecked on a reef near one of the Palau (Pelew) Islands, a previously unexplored group. The entire crew managed to get safely ashore, where they were well treated by the natives and eventually managed to build a small vessel from the wreck, in which they reached Macao. They took Prince Lee Boo, one of King Abba Thulle's sons, with them to England, where he made a very good impression. Unhappily, in spite of all precautions, he soon died of smallpox Keate's Account was extremely popular, and in 1788 and 1789 four editions were printed in London" (Hill); included is a vocabulary of the Palauan language. George Keate (1729-1797), writer and painter, whose "interests respectively in natural history and in antiquarian studies led to his being elected to fellowships of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, both in 1766... Although Keate is now remembered, if at all, as a minor artist, this seems a somewhat harsh judgement on one whose wide-ranging intellectual curiosity about literary, artistic, and scientific fields was genuine and deeply committed" (ODNB).

Two of the three portraits are by Henry Kingsbury after Arthur William Devis, son of Arthur Devis, who accompanied Wilson as draughtsman on the Antelope. The charming portrait of Lee Boo - "in European dress and hairstyle with a gentle, enquiring expression" (ODNB) - was sketched by Keate's daughter Georgiana Jane, who exhibited at the Society of Arts in 1791.

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Quarto (284 x 215 mm). Contemporary reddish-brown catspaw calf by Povey for the bookseller J. Bence, both of Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire (Povey's ticket to the front pastedown), smooth spine divided by gilt fillets, gilt ship tool in third compartment, earl's coronet in remainder, green morocco label, gilt edge roll, "Gloster pattern" marbled endpapers, green silk page-marker.


Stipple engraved portrait frontispiece of Wilson by James Heath after John Russell and 16 plates (including large folding map, 3 portraits, 4 views, 7 of artefacts, one plan), all tissue-guarded.


Mild craquelure to spine, extremities slightly rubbed, a few light scuffs to sides, part of front joint superficially cracked, inner hinges firm, mild paper disruption to margin of sig. U4, plate no. 2 closely trimmed along fore-edge, part of the frame just shaved, the image unaffected, otherwise a few trivial marks only. An excellent, crisp copy with the terminal errata leaf.


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