LEWIS, Meriwether (1774-1809) and William CLARK (1770-1838). Travels to the Source of the Missouri River and across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean, performed by order of the Government of the United States, in the years 1804, 1805, and 1806. By Captains Lewis and Clarke. Published from the Official Report, and Illustrated by a Map of the Route, and other Maps. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1814.
4to., (10 5/8 x 8 3/8 inches). Publisher's advertisement on verso of final leaf (without half-title). Large folding engraved map "A Map of Lewis and Clark's Track Across the Western Portion of North America, from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean,...", 5 further maps on three sheets. Half green calf, marbled paper boards, the smooth spine decorated in six compartments, with dark green morocco lettering-piece in one (a bit rubbed).
Provenance: with the 20th-century bookplate of William H. Claflin dated 1922 on the front paste-down.
First English edition of Lewis and Clark's official account of the expedition, first published in Philadelphia by J. Maxwell at New York for Bradford and Inskeep, 1814.
Funded by Congress, this was in effect the first exploration officially sponsored by the Federal government of the United States. Setting out from St. Louis in May 1804, crossing the continent and covering 8000 miles over two and a half years, Lewis and Clark established a route to the mouth of the Columbia River across the Rocky Mountains. The celebrated large folding map "Map of Lewis and Clark's Track Across the Western Portion of North America" is an accurate copy of Clark's manuscript, and "the best cartographic representation of the entire northwestern quadrant of what is now the United States" (Cohen). It accurately depicted for the first time the Rocky Mountains as a complex series of mountains and hills, rather a simple, single ridge; and "showed a broad intermontane zone separating the westernmost ranges of the Rockies (the Bitteroots) from the Cascade Range, through which the Columbia River flowed in its spectacular gorge" (Cohen). The inclusion of the Pacific coastal region near Columbia's mouth gave reality to the dream of Westward expansion.
However it would be nearly ten years before publication of an official account of the expedition by Lewis and Clark appeared. "History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark..." was pre-empted by unofficial accounts and beset by setbacks, not the least of which was their respective appointments to official positions in the new Louisiana Territory as territorial Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs; the inefficiency of Benjamin Smith Barton in collating the specimens collected by the Corps of Discovery, and Frederick Pursh's in compiling the information; the tragic death in 1809 of Lewis by murder or suicide; and the financial troubles and eventual bankruptcy of the intended publisher C. and A. Conrad and Co. In 1810 Nicholas Biddle was commissioned to "work with [Clark's] journals and field notes to craft a narrative of exploration and travel" and at last a flowing narrative began to emerge. Beckham "The Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition" pp. 148-154). Cohen "Mapping the West" 7; Field 929; Graff 2480; Hill 1018; Howes L-317; Lowndes p. 1354; Sabin 40829; Wagner-Camp 13; Wheat "Mapping the Transmississippi West" 316.