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WILKES, Charles.

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition,

during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. With numerous engravings.

London: Ingram, Cooke, and Co., 1852 Stock Code: 146410
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An early edition, the first in two volumes, of Wilkes's Narrative of his groundbreaking expedition exploring the American Pacific coasts, the islands of the South Pacific and Antarctica, marking an important step in the growth of American self-reliance. Until this date, the American navy was still using British maps.

As originally conceived in 1828, the expedition was merely intended to promote commerce and protect American investments in the whaling and sealing industries in the South Seas. By the time the expedition set off in 1836, its crew augmented with a body of scientists and draughtsmen including Titian Ramsey Peale, Horatio Hale, Joseph Drayton and Alfred Agate (but not Nathaniel Hawthorne who had applied but been turned down), it had acquired the additional desire to "extend the bounds of science, and promote the acquisition of knowledge". Among the expedition's numerous accomplishments were the first rigorous survey of Antarctica, the best map of the California coast to date, a collection of 50,000 plant and animal samples, 5,000 anthropological samples (including clothing and pottery), and one of the finest collections of coral samples in the world, now at the Smithsonian. In addition, the map of the Oregon Territory predates John Charles Fremont's first Oregon Trail pathfinder expedition led by Kit Carson during 1842. Wilkes's Narrative was first published in an official edition of 100 sets in 1844, followed by the US government's "unofficial issue" of 150 sets in 1845, and the first trade edition of 1,000 sets in 1845.

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2 volumes, octavo. Original black cloth, titles and rich floral design in gilt to spines, covers elaborately blocked in blind with publisher's National Illustrated Library design, pale yellow coated endpapers.


Frontispiece, illustrated title pages, 12 plates, and 48 vignettes in the text.


Ownership inscription in ink and pencil of James Carpenter and bookseller's blindstamp to front free endpapers. Gilt faded to spine, rubbing to extremities, slight wear to board edges, endpapers rubbed, occasional foxing to lightly toned book block; a very good copy.


Forbes 1903.


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