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PERKINS, Edward T.

Na Motu: or, Reef-Rovings in the South Seas. A Narrative of Adventures at the Hawaiian, Georgian and Society Islands.

With an appendix relating to the resources, social and political condition of Polynesia, and subjects of interest in the Pacific Ocean.

New York: Pudney & Russell, 1854 Stock Code: 121426
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One of the earliest accounts of surfing - "the art of surf-riding is not so simple as it would seem"

First edition of a key book on Hawaii - "an important and lively narrative" (Forbes) - containing one of the earliest accounts of surfing and attractively illustrated from the author's own sketches.

"Surfriding and surfrider also hold the honour of being the terms in longest continual use to describe the act of riding waves and those who ride them. The former appears for the first time apparently in Edward T. Perkins's Na Motu: or, Reef-Rovings in the South Seas (1854). Describing his experience in the waves on Maui with a group of 'about twenty girls, of various ages, and a dozen boys,' Perkins wrote: 'the art of surf-riding is not so simple as it would seem.' Because the verb 'to surf' had not yet come into usage in the sense of 'to ride waves,' Perkins wrote that he 'sported in the waves' for about fifteen minutes until he wiped out: 'a roller caught me as it broke, and wrenching the board from my hands, whirled me along in every conceivable attitude; and on recovering from the shock, I was compelled to abandon my aquatic sports for the remainder of the day.'" (Patrick Moser ed., Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writings, 2008, p. 10). Perkins's account (pp. 196-97) is most engaging.

"In 1848 Perkins sailed on the Planet, an American whaling ship, to Hawaii, where he lived for nearly two years. He later spent considerable time on Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Tahiti, in the Society Islands. Perkins gives interesting data on whaling as well as on the islands he visited. In his extensive appendices, he drops his chatty style and gives useful factual information on Polynesia in general and the Hawaiian Islands in particular, and on the missionaries, French influence in Oceania, and American whaling interests in the Pacific Ocean" (Hill).

The work is divided into three main sections, "The Whale-Ship", "Hawaiian Islands", "Georgian Tahiti and Society Islands". On p. 323 Perkins mentions Herman Melville and Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847) and in particular the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Bell; Melville describing the latter glowingly: "She had such eyes, such moss-roses in her cheeks, such a divine air in the saddle that, to my dying day, I shall never forget Mrs. Bell" (Omoo pp. 364-65).

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Octavo. Original pale brown horizontally-ribbed cloth, title gilt to spine together with pictorial device of the Tahitian boy and girl from the title page, ornamental blind panelling to sides, gilt urn device to front cover, yellow endpapers.


Tinted lithographic pictorial title page and 11 other similar plates by Snyder, Black and Sturn after Perkins, 2 maps (Hawaiian Islands and Tahitian and Society Islands).


Attractive nautical bookplate of John Husband, bookseller's ticket of Alfred W. Paine, New York City ("Books relating to salt water"). Spine and periphery of boards a little sunned, minor stain at fore-edge of front cover. A very good copy.


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