LEWIS, MERIWETHER, AND WILLIAM CLARK.
History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark to the Sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Performed during the Years 1804-5-6. By order of the Government of the United States. Philadelphia: [by James Maxwell at New York for] Bradford and Inskeep. New York: Abraham H. Inskeep, 1814.
2 volumes. xxviii, 470; ix, [1 blank], 522 pp. Edited by Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen. Folding engraved frontispiece map: A Map of Lewis and Clark's Track, Across the Western Portion of North America From the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, 302 x 694 mm (to neat line), engraved by Samuel Harrison after Clark. 5 full-page engraved maps. 8vo (211 x 126 mm). Period half calf and marbled boards, flat spines gilt-ruled and -lettered with wheel devices. Mild browning/foxing as expected, plates with light offsetting from text, large map reinserted and with tiny holes at fold intersections, about 8 ll in vol 1 with very thin marginal wormtrail, joints cracked, spine ends and corners worn, light rubbing.
FIRST EDITION OF THE DEFINITIVE ACCOUNT OF AMERICA'S MOST IMPORTANT MISSION OF DISCOVERY, WITH MAP. Nothing written in any of the bibliographies exaggerates the importance of this book. It marks the moment when Americans became westerners.
It was Lewis and Clark's intention to publish their journals soon after their return, and Lewis went so far as to issue a prospectus of the work. However publication was delayed by a number of circumstances, including Lewis's violent death in 1809, and Clark's various government appointments. Although Paul Allen is listed as the editor, the major work was actually done by Nicholas Biddle, a young Philadelphia lawyer. "An edition of 2000 copies was printed, of which 583 were in some way lost or destroyed" (Church). The text is derived chiefly from the journals of Lewis and Clark with important contributions from other members of the expedition. The extremely accurate and detailed map, iconic in its own right, is present here in fresh, unsophisticated condition. Coe p 22 ("must ever remain the basis of a collection of western books"); Church 1309; Cohen Mapping the West 7; Graff 2477; Grolier American 30; Howes L317 ("c"); PMM 272; Sabin 40828; Streeter sale 1777; Streeter Americana Beginnings 52; Wagner-Camp 13.1; Wheat Transmississippi West 316.
Provenance: early manuscript translation of the sexually explicit description of the buffalo dance which appears in print in Latin on p 150 (on lower flyleaf of vol 1); gift inscriptions from George Morton of St. Louis to Edward Peterson, dated June 1840 (on front flyleaves, 2 pp in vol 1 and 1 p in vol 2); American armorial bookplates of J. Tharp Lawrence; front endpapers with inkstamps of Robert Parker and signatures of J.D. Capel. We cannot trace this copy in the auction records.
Acquisition: purchased from William Reese Company, 1999, $72,500.