Lot 320 of 522:
Wilkes Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$2,700
$5,000 - $8,000

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition. During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842

Wilkes, Charles


Lea and Blanchard



6 volumes including atlas. lx, 434; xv, [1], 476; xv, [1], 438; xvi, 539; xv, [1], 558 pp. + atlas. With 64 steel-engraved plates, with tissue guards; text illustrations engraved in steel and wood; 9 double-page copper-engraved maps; atlas with 5 large folding copper-engraved maps & charts, 1 hand-colored. (Large 8vo) 27.6x17.8 cm (10¾x6¼") original blindstamped brown cloth decorated in gilt. Third Edition.

With the illustrated bookplates of Geologist H. Stanton Hill. The official account of the first seaborne scientific expedition of the United States government. This is the third edition of Wilkes' important narrative, following on the "official" quarto edition of 100 copies (of which 63 were given to foreign nations and 25 destroyed by fire), and the "unofficial" edition of the same size limited to 150 copies. The present edition in imperial octavo is the earliest and best that is generally available, printed in slightly smaller type than the two preceding, but including the important atlas that was not issued with subsequent editions.

As Howes notes, this was "The first United States scientific expedition by sea. Wilkes sailed along and surveyed the whole Northwest coast and his exploring parties penetrated into the interior at many points..." Hill notes that Wilkes "sailed into the Antarctic Ocean and along the Antarctic Continent from 150° to 97° East, reporting land at a number of points in the region now know as Wilkesland. He visited Tonga, the Fiji group, and the Hawaiian Islands in 1840, and in 1841 explored the west coast of North America. The findings were timely, in view of the dispute with Great Britain over the Oregon Territory, and he also visited San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River...." The numerous engravings and plates include striking depictions of Pacific islands and their natives, Hawaiian volcanoes, Australia, the continent of Antarctica, an early rendition of the outpost at Astoria, an encampment on the Sacramento with Californios relaxing, mountains in the distance, Mt. Shasta, etc., and an important map of the Western half of the present U.S. The atlas volume contains five significant maps:

  • Chart of the World Shewing the Tracks of the U.S. Exploring Expedition in 1838, 39, 40, 41 & 42, 59x85.5 cm (this one hand-colored)
  • Chart of the Antarctic Continent Shewing the Icy Barrier Attached to it..., 59x87 cm
  • Chart of the Viti Group or Feejee Islands..., 59.5x86 cm
  • Map of the Oregon Territory... with inset of Columbia River from its mouth to Walla Walla, 58x86.5 cm
  • Map of Part of the Island of Hawaii, Sandwich Islands, Shewing the Craters and Eruption of May and June 1840..., 39.5x60 cm
Due to the size and/or weight of this lot extra shipping and/or handling charges may apply.

Lot Amendments

General wear to cloth with rubbing to extremities, occasional small areas of loss to cloth at spine ends and joints; early ownership signatures, light spotting to endpapers; top board of atlas volume nearly detached along with preliminary pages, maps with some toning and creasing, occasional spotting, some short closed tears at folds with no loss, a few clear tape repairs to backsides; overall text volumes are about very good; atlas volume good with maps generally very good.

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