'One of the most important exploring voyages to the Pacific' goes up for sale

Today, PBA Galleries is holding another of their rare book-based auctions, titled Fine Americana: The Northwest Library of John M McClelland, Jr (with additions).

The headline lot is a copy of A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World by George Vancouver.

Consisting of 3 volumes and an Atlas, this first edition is illustrated with 17 copper-engraved plates & 1 copper-engraved chart; atlas with 10 folding copper-engraved charts & 6 copper-engraved plates with profile & coastal views.

Very rare as a first edition, especially including the atlas, this is one of the great accounts of Pacific exploration, rivalling the works of Cook and La Perouse.

Streeter writes that "This narrative is one of the most important accounts of the exploration of the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand, and valuable source information about Tahiti and the Hawaiian Islands in the last decade of the eighteenth century.

Cowan considered the account to be superior to any of its kind and the chief authority on the areas explored during this period. Vancouver (1758-1798) was an extraordinarily capable explorer, having sailed with Cook on the second and third voyages (1772-4, 1776-80) and served under Rodney and Alan Gardner.

It was Gardner who recommended him for a voyage in search for a northwest passage to the Great Lakes. The present narrative is the complete account of that voyage, accompanied by an atlas of maps and views of the areas explored.

Vancouver Voyage of Discovery first edition
Vancouver Voyage of Discovery first edition

Vancouver died on May 10, 1798, his brother John completing the task of preparing and editing the narrative. Among the important features of the narrative are the engraved views in Volume II of the Mission of San Carlos and the Presidio of Monterey, probably the first published views of California.

 It is possible that the artist sailing with La Perouse, who visited Monterey in 1786, drew a sketch of the Mission, but no views of California scenery appear in the La Perouse atlas.

Howes is of the opinion that "of all modern exploring voyages to the Pacific those of Cook, La Perouse and Vancouver were the most important," Hill holds out that "This voyage became one of the most important ever made in the interests of geographical knowledge," and Lada-Mocarski states emphatically that "this is one of the most important voyages for the history and the cartography of the northwest coast in general and of Alaska in particular."

The book, which would be very valuable as an investment, goes under the hammer in California and online at 1pm local time.


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