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WILKES, Charles.

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition,

during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 … With Illustrations and Maps. In Five Volumes.

Philadelphia : 1845 Stock Code: 30128
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Third edition overall. In smaller format than the imperial octavo edition of the same year, this edition was reprinted from stereos of that edition but without the plates or accompanying atlas and with 47 wood-engravings substituted for the steel vignettes. The text is complete, with no abridgement; the edition was 3,000 copies. Wilkes's expedition explored 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, James 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.

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5 volumes, medium octavo. Original publisher's brown vertical fine-ribbed cloth, American arms in gilt on front cover and in blind on rear cover, spines blind-stamped, lettered in gilt, and with large gilt anchor at foot.


11 maps, 10 folding, nearly 300 wood-engraved illustrations in text including numerous examples of native (principally South Seas) music and sketch maps; tables and appendices, general index at end. Contemporary ownership inscriptions on front pastedowns.


Spines a little worn at head and foot, corners bumped and one corner worn, some marking to sides, small amount of worm to lower outer corner of first few leaves of vol. 2 not affecting text, a good set in unrestored original condition.


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