2 volumes, 8vo., (8 ¾ x 5 ½ inches). (Volume two lacking the first few leaves including title page; browned and spotted throughout as usual). 5 fine engraved full-page maps (torn, affecting the images; spotting). Contemporary full brown sheep, black sheep lettering pieces gilt on spines (hinges weakened, generally a bit worn).
Provenance: Contemporary manuscript inscription “Williamstown Library” in each volume.
First edition. This copy without the folding map. Including a “Life of Captain Lewis” by President Jefferson, who commissioned the expedition. Funded by Congress, this was in effect the first exploration officially sponsored by the Federal government. 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.
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). Church 1309; Coe p. 22 (“must ever remain the basis of a collection of western books”); Cohen “Mapping the West” 7; Graff 2477; Grolier “American” 30; Howes L-317; “PMM” 272; Sabin 40828; Streeter sale III:1777; Streeter “Americana Beginnings” 52; Wagner-Camp-Becker 13.1; Wheat “Mapping the Transmississippi West” 316.