BARTRAM, John (1699-1777). Observations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals... in his travels from Pensilvania to Onondago, Oswego and the lake Ontario, in Canada. London: J. Whiston and B. White, 1751.

$ 15,000.00

8vo., (7 2/8 x 4 4/8 inches). Fine folding engraved frontispiece of the town of Oswego (with early closed tear, a bit spotted). 19th-century tan calf, gilt (rebacked preserving the original spine).

Provenance: with an early bookplate partially removed from the front free endpaper; with the bookplate of Cowen Bonawit on the front paste-down.


The frontispiece depicts a plan of the Long House, a structure specific to these tribes. "This is a very reliable work by two of the most eminent observers and naturalists of their day. Bartram made this trip in 1743 with Conrad Weiser, an agent of Pennsylvania, sent to hold a friendly conference with the Iroquois. His principal object in making the trip was to study the flora of the country. He was an expert botanist, and acquired such a reputation that he attracted the attention of Linnæus. His book throws considerable light upon the manners and thoughts of the people with whom he came in contact" (Church).

Church further notes that the inclusion of Kalm's account gives us the first scientific description in English of Niagara Falls. There are some early marginalia of interest, including an endorsement of Bartram's character on the preface leaf. Supported by Peter Collinson, an English Quaker, and a successful merchant and member of the Royal Society with an interest in introducing foreign plants into England, who not only "provided financial support for Bartram's botanical explorations but also saw that other English naturalists learned of his skills as a collector of specimens and seeds and even edited and submitted some of Bartram's letters for publication in the "Philosophical Transactions" of the Royal Society. In 1735 Bartram's description of his dissection of a rattlesnake appeared in the "Letter Book" of the Royal Society; this was his first publication. Collinson distributed the American plants he received from Bartram to Lord Petre, Sir Hans Sloane, the dukes of Argyll, Bedford, Norfolk, and Richmond, and other prominent English horticulturists and naturalists. The funds that Bartram received from these specimens allowed him to supplement his farm income and begin to plan more distant collecting trips. In 1736 Collinson developed a circle of English naturalists who agreed to support through annual subscription Bartram's collecting endeavors.... While the initial focus was on botanical specimens, his patrons in England, and later those on the Continent, began to expand his collecting goals into most areas of American flora and fauna. For five guineas a box, Bartram diligently collected and shipped fossils, reptiles, insects, birds, and mammals to his subscribers.... In 1743 he accompanied Conrad Weiser and Lewis Evans on an expedition to Onondaga in New York with an additional natural history reconnaissance to Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario. Impressed by the details of this trip and the meticulous care with which he recorded what he observed, Collinson published Bartram's journal of this expedition in 1751" (Phillip Drennon Thomas for ADNB).