BARTRAM, William (1729-1823). Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida... Philadelphia: James & Johnson, 1791.

$ 45,000.00

8vo., (7 6/8 x 4 5/8 inches). Dedication leaf to Thomas Mifflin. Engraved frontispiece portrait of Mico Chlucco King of the Seminoles, folding map of "...the Coast of East Florida from the River St. John Southward near to Cape Canaveral" (some minor offsetting as usual) and 7 engraved engraved plates (only some light browning). Contemporary sheep, the smooth spine gilt-ruled in five compartments, red morocco lettering-piece in one (some minor scuffing); modern cloth clamshell box).

Provenance: with the contemporary ownership inscription of Mary Marshall on the front free endpaper, and minor annotations to the Contents leaves.

"Bartram's account of the remote frontier, of the plantations, trading posts, and Indian villages at the end of the eighteenth century is unrivaled" (Streeter)

First edition, and AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND ATTRACTIVE COPY. The plates include: 'Anona Pygmea', 'Anona Grandiflora', 'Ixea Caelestina', 'Plate IV' the image of the head of the Great Soft-Shelled Tortoise, the Great Soft-Shelled Tortoise, and the folding plate of the 'Hydrangea Quercifolia'.

William Bartram, son of a Pennsylvania Quaker and naturalist, embarked on a journey of exploration throughout the American Southeast in 1773 and traveled in the modern states of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida recording the flora, fauna and Indian tribes he found there. Bartram made discoveries and sketches of over 200 new botanical specimens, including the Venus Fly Trap and a now extinct tree named for his great friend Benjamin Franklin, calling it the Franklin tree or Franklinia alatamatha. In addition to his scientific writings, Bartram was one of the earliest authors to document the customs of the Cherokee and Creek Indian tribes who were so prevalent throughout the Southeast at that time. The book has been called "a valuable original authority on the Southern Indians during the Revolutionary war." - Stevens.

Bartram also "traveled inland, across present-day Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, eventually reaching as far west as Point Coupee, north of Baton Rouge on the Mississippi River. On the way there along the Gulf Coast, he contracted a near-fatal illness that left him severely weakened and partially blind. Elsewhere on his journey he faced alligator attacks, hostile Indians, and many other dangers. In his published and unpublished accounts of the trip, however, Bartram tended to stress the glories of his experience and the wonders of nature rather than his misfortunes.

"When Bartram left on his trip, Fothergill urged him to keep a diary to help him remember the locations and growing conditions of the plant specimens he collected. Bartram apparently did not intend to publish this, but eventually, at the urging of friends, he reworked his diaries to create the account for which he is best known today. A Philadelphia firm, James and Johnson, eventually published the book in 1791; it was the first serious work on American natural history published in postrevolutionary America. Issued under the full title Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians, Bartram's book met with critical acclaim but only limited sales in the United States, where it was not reprinted until 1928. In Europe, however, it received enthusiastic critical and popular response. A 1792 London edition was quickly followed by a second edition there, and by editions in Dublin, Berlin, and Vienna in 1793, in the Netherlands in 1794 and 1797, and in Paris in 1799 and 1801.

"Despite the many European and American visitors who flocked to his door, the reclusive naturalist, who never strayed far from his own garden in the years following his southern trip, was probably not aware of the full extent of his fame and influence. Bartram was one of the most widely-read American authors in Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His book directly influenced Coleridge, Wordsworth, Carlyle, and Chateaubriand--and in the United States, Emerson, Thoreau, John Muir, and many others... Through his writings and friendships Bartram encouraged the next generation of American naturalists associated with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (founded in 1812), to which he was elected in its first year. His most notable protégés were his great-nephew, Thomas Say, an entomologist and conchologist, and Alexander Wilson, a Scottish-born ornithologist who lived in Bartram's house while writing and illustrating his classic American Ornithology" (Robert McCracken Peck for ANB).

Obviously a key book from the period of early settlement of the American Southeast, Streeter calls Bartrams volume: "The classic of southern natural history and exploration, with much on the southern Indian tribes. Bartram's account of the remote frontier, of the plantations, trading posts, and Indian villages at the end of the eighteenth century is unrivaled." Stevens Catalogue of Rare Books Relating to America 1617; Howes B223; Sabin 3870; Streeter sale 2:1088; Field 94.