ELLIS, William.

Polynesian Researches,

during a residence of nearly six years in the South Sea Islands; including descriptions of the natural history and scenery of the islands - with remarks on the history, mythology, traditions, government, art, manners, and customs of the inhabitants.

London: Fisher, Son, & Jackson, 1829 Stock Code: 146691
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First edition of Ellis's most important work, and "one of the most important books on the history and ethnology of the Society Islands, by one of the most perceptive of the missionary travelers in the Pacific" (Forbes). This copy is in the original boards, and distinctly uncommon thus.

William Ellis (1794-1872) joined the London Missionary Society in November 1814, and in early 1816 he sailed for the Society Islands. "Ellis's principal contribution to the Tahitian mission was the installation of the printing press on Moorea Island" (ODNB). In 1818 he moved to the island of Huahine where he gave his first sermon in Tahitian, becoming a skilled linguist and a chronicler of Polynesian life and natural history. Ellis's career "exemplified the main features of British Protestant missionary effort in the first half of the nineteenth century, when most agents were drawn from the artisan and labouring classes rather than from the educated élite. Beyond the frontiers of European political influence their success depended on their ability to sustain their own health, to provide for most of their own practical needs, to master unfamiliar languages, and to gain the confidence of local rulers. In all these respects Ellis was exceptionally successful" (ODNB).

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2 volumes, octavo (227 x 143 mm). Contemporary tan calf-backed blue card boards, titles to paper labels to spines. Housed in a custom blue cloth solander box.


Frontispieces, 6 plates, folding map of Polynesia, map of the Georgian and Society Islands, and 16 engravings in the text.


Loss to headcaps and spines, leather split at joints, boards held by stitching, spine labels no longer legible, wear to board edges and tips, inner hinges cracked, book blocks remaining firm, repair to gutter at final leaf of vol. II, boards soiled, foxing to plates, contents largely clean; a good copy.


Forbes 718.


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