Voyages Made in the Years 1788 and 1789, from China to the North West Coast of America.
Seller ID: 2428F
To which are prefixed, An Introductory Narrative of a Voyage performed in 1786, from Bengal, in the Ship Nootka; Observations on the probable Existence of a North West Passage; and some Account of the Trade between the North West Coast of America and China; and the latter Country and Great Britain. London: printed at the Logographic Press and sold by J. Walter, 1790. First edition (pp. frontis, title, dedication to Lord Hawkesbury, preface, list of subscribers, contents; Introductory Voyage (xcv); errata, North West Coast of America (372); tables and appendix). Possibly George Davison’s subscription copy (see list of subscribers). Davison (d. 1799), with his entrepeneur brother, was a well-connected British businessman who owned large tracts of farmland on the lower St. Lawrence and collected various licence fees from the North Shore fur trade. This copy, in any event, spent its last few years in Quebec as the bold signature of “William A. Ross/ Quebec” on a ffep attests. Large quarto (29 cm) in full contemporary calf (probably the original binding), gilt titles and decoration to spine (faded); five raised bands. Two large folding maps (one in rear pocket); copperplate aquatints of Sandwich Islanders, Nootka chiefs, various folding views, plans and sketches. Because the number and order of images seem to differ among various copies of Meares’s Voyages, here are the particulars of our copy: frontis portrait, folding map (following Errata), Prince of Atooi (plate, p. 4), four views of Philippine Islands (p. 16), Wynne of Owyhee (plate, p. 26), three island views (p. 58), five island views (p. 80), two views “Lot’s Wife” (p. 96), three views Nootka Sound (folding, p. 104), two Nootka chiefs (plate, p. 108), sketch of Ft. Cox (p. 142), entrance to Strait of John de Fuca (folding plate, p. 156), country of New Albion (folding plate, p.160), plan of Port Effingham/ Berkley’s Sound (p. 172), launch of the “North West America” at Nootka Sound (plate, p. 220), Peak of Lantao (plate, p. 286), three island views (folding, p. 304), view Otter Sound (p. 304), six coastal views (folding, p. 306), plan Sea Otter Harbour (p. 326), view of Fort Meares (p. 328), sketch of Raft Cove (p. 372), folding map in pocket [21 plates, 2 maps; 41 individual images, e.g., an island view]. A junior officer in the British merchant navy, Meares attempted to establish a lucrative fur trade based at Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The trade he had in mind linked the Pacific northwest variously with the Sandwich Islands, the Philippines, and China. To that end he voyaged north into Alaskan waters and later set up a trading station of sorts at Nootka Sound. Meares, it appears, was not exactly what you would call an honourable man. To save the expense of a trading licence, Meares contrived to sail out of Macao under the Portuguese flag. Trapped in the winter ice at Prince William Sound, his party was saved from annihilation, in any event twenty-three of his crew died there of scurvy, by the fortunate arrival of a Captain Dixon whom Meares later accused of over-charging for their rations. Many of his observations and surveys were, shall we say, imaginary and were corrected later by George Vancouver who produced accurate charts of the northwest coast. Encountering a small naval force at Nootka Sound sent to enforce Spain’s claims to the entire coast, north and south of California, Meares’ vessels were seized by the Spanish, an event which became the focus of an international dispute verging on war between Britain and Spain. His book, something of an exercise in exculpation and self-promotion, stirred the war-like spirit of popular opinion at home in Britain, and later his claims were influential in settling boundary questions in the Northwest. Another look through the subscribers suggests the book's claims were of interest to important people of the day. Hinges repaired, new pocket; scattered spots and stains (esp. p. 237), frontis portrait spotted, covers scratched and a bit worn. A very good copy.
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