ARCTIC COATS (WIILIAM, Captain) Remarks in Many Voyages to Hudsons Bay
Lot 60
ARCTIC - HUDSON'S BAY COATS (WILLIAM, Captain) Remarks in Many Voyages to Hudsons Bay
Sold for £44,400 (US$ 74,628) inc. premium
Lot Details
COATS (WILLIAM, Captain) Remarks in Many Voyages to Hudsons Bay, manuscript on paper, title, 119 pages, with a further ‘Appendage’ of 16 pages, together 136 pages, bound with some blanks in limp vellum [Cooke & Holland, pp. 56-68], folio, [c.1751]


  • William Coats made the voyage to Hudson’s Bay every season between 1727 and 1751, and is commemorated by a sizable island at the entrance to Hudson’s Bay (thought to have been the last outpost of the Dorset eskimo people). Except for 1749 (when he accompanied Thomas Mitchell on a Company exploring expedition), he commanded one of the three supply ships that the Hudson’s Bay Company sent out each season to Churchill, Albany, and York Factory. On his first voyage, while conveying Thomas Maclish to York Factory as the new Governor of Hudson Bay, Coats lost his ship off Cape Farewell. Everyone was saved into the Hannah, one of the consorts, commanded by Charles Middleton.

    For the next thirteen seasons Coats, Middleton and George Spurrell were the supply ship commanders, but in 1741 Middleton was engaged by the Admiralty, at the urgings of Arthur Dobbs, to search for a North-West Passage in HMS Furnace. To Dobbs’s frustration Middleton only discovered Wager Bay, and there ensued a pamphlet exchange by which Charles Middleton is remembered. The argument between the two men is referred to by Coats at the commencement of the manuscript, and Dobbs’ 1744 account "What Mr. Dobbs has thought fitt to call a description of Hudsons bay, is so erronius so superficial and so trifling in almost every circumstance. So contrary to the experience and concurrent testimony…that when it first Appeared it was matter of astonishment, to all those who be supposed to be competent Judges". Coats refers to the claims and counterclaims of Middleton and Dobbs regarding the fall of tides in Hudson's Bay in the body of the manuscript.

    In 1749, Coats was excused the supply voyage, and instead asked to accompany Thomas Mitchell who was to continue his exploring expedition under the auspices of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which in 1744 had been sent to examine the Eastmain, or eastern coast of Hudson’s Bay. The 1749 expedition found the coast just as intimidating as its predecessor, but charted the Richmond Gulf and the coast between Cape Digges and Little Whale River. The Eastmain is described in the manuscript from observations in 1749.

    That the manuscript was drawn up after the 1750 voyage is clear from the 1750 voyage being the last referred to. It is addressed to Coats’ son. The majority of the text (and all of the Appendage where the references give the year of the journal from which they were extracted) contains sailing directions, latitude and longitude, and description of the important landfalls and many capes, bays and islands from Cape Resolution into Hudson’s Bay, together with information on ice (especially its avoidance) and tides. In addition there is information on the differences between the various tribes of Indians and Inuit groups encountered by Coats, and knowledge of the hinterland of Hudson’s Bay including conjectural conclusions (eg. that a large lake or sea named ‘Winipeggon’ was said to lay to the west of Churchill, and that this could explain the extraordinary tides on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay, and the belief that this [Lake Winnipeg] connected with the Bay).

    The manuscript came into the hands of the celebrated Arctic explorer Sir Edward Parry, who passed it to Francis Beaufort to pass to the Hakluyt Society in the person of John Barrow jnr. (1808-1898), Keeper of the Records at the Admiralty, member of the Arctic Council dedicated to solving the mystery of Sir John Franklin, and founder member of the Hakluyt Society. Barrow edited the manuscript as the eleventh volume of the Hakluyt Society’s First Series under the manuscript’s sub-title The Geography of Hudson’s Bay (1852). To this was added an appendix containing extracts from the log of Capt. Middleton on his voyage for the discovery of the North-West Passage in 1741-42. The text that Barrow chose to edit out is lightly marked in pencil. We are indebted to Glyn Williams and Andrew Lambert for drawing attention to a letter in the Wellcome Library: MS 7401/14 from W.E. Parry to Francis Beaufort, 17 July 1851 saying that he is sending Coats' manuscript on Hudson Bay to him so that he can give it to the Hakluyt Society.
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