DARBY, William (1775-1854). A Tour from the City of New-York, to Detroit, in the Michigan Territory, made between the 2d of May and the 22d of September, 1818. New-York: For the Author by Kirk & Mercein, 1819.
8vo., (9 ¼ x 6 inches). Partially unopened, untrimmed (a bit spotted throughout). Fine folding engraved frontispiece map with original handcoloring in outline (one or two spots); 2 folding engraved maps (a bit browned). Contemporary half crushed morocco, green cloth, the spine in six compartments, with five raised bands, gilt-lettered in two; gilt monogram stamped on front cover; top edge gilt (a bit rubbed).
First edition. Including three maps, showing routes from the Northeast to Detroit; the “Straits of Niagara”; and “Environs of Detroit.” “William Darby, born 1775, grew up on the western Pennsylvania frontier, migrated to Natchez in 1799, wandered on to Louisiana in 1805, returned to the east in 1815, and made his living as a writer, lecturer, and government clerk until his death in 1854. During his lifetime a nation was born; half a continent was subdued. Cities sprang up where Indian war-cries once echoed, and railroads replaced the hunters’ paths. The frontier moved west, and as it moved, civilized Americans began to discover its romance and to unravel its often bloody history. A child of that frontier, William Darby helped to move it, map it, and finally to memorialize it in the literature of the new nation.
“As a Mississippi planter, young Darby was a failure, but in Louisiana he built a successful career as a surveyor in the western reaches of the state. By dint of grueling labor and painstaking application he elevated himself to the status of geographer, and in 1816 he published an important ‘Description of Louisiana,’ which was followed by an ‘Emigrant’s Guide to the Western and Southwestern States and Territories’ and an extensive ‘View of the United States.’ The maps that accompanied these volumes were generally excellent, and Darby’s descriptions of the country possessed both topographic exactitude and considerable literary merit.
“Having turned east in order to pursue the publication of his geographical findings, Darby soon found employment as a surveyor along the Canadian border. By 1819, when he published ‘A Tour from the City of New-York, to Detroit,’ his earlier straightforward prose style had taken on the colors of romantic literature, so moved was the ‘astonished traveler’ when he viewed such natural wonders as Niagara Falls” (Robert R. Rea for Florida Historical Quarterly).