PIKE, Zebulon Montgomery (1779-1813). An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi, and through the Western Parts of Louisiana, to...the Arkansaw, Kans, La Platte, and Pierre Jaun, Rivers… Philadelphia: C. & A. Conrad, & Co., 1810.
2 volumes. 4to., (8 ¾ x 5 ½ inches). (Evenly browned throughout, occasional spotting). 5 fine folding engraved maps, one full-page map, 3 folding plans (a bit spotted); engraved frontispiece (offsetting to title-page). Modern quarter morocco, the smooth spine in six compartments, gilt ruled, with black morocco lettering piece in one, marbled boards.
Provenance: Contemporary manuscript ownership inscription of Jacob Hauer to title page.
First edition. The folding maps and plans bound separately. This edition contains the first appearance in print of the first maps of the Southwest to be based on firsthand exploration. The Louisiana Purchase was one of Thomas Jefferson's crowning achievements, and in the following four years he commissioned a number of expeditions to explore the largely unknown territory. In 1804 Lewis and Clark ventured westward from St. Louis; Sibley, Dunbar and Freeman explored the Spanish border region in Texas; and in 1806 Pike went to explore the southernmost border region north of New Spain. His orders were to explore the Arkansas and Red Rivers, but by February of 1807 he had reached the upper reaches of the Rio Grande having missed the Red River entirely: “Spanish authorities learned of his presence and sent a force to arrest him and his men. They were taken to Santa Fe and then sent on to Chihuahua. Pike’s maps and papers were confiscated, but he managed to retain his diary and journals by secreting them in the gun barrels of his men. Apparently he was able to convince the Spaniards that he had entered New Spain by accident, as he was escorted by armed guard through Texas via San Antonio to the Sabine, where he was released. He arrived at Natchioches in June, 1807, having thus had the opportunity to examine New Mexico and Texas in some detail, at the expense of the Spanish government” (Jenkins).
“In the hierarchy of significant westward expeditions, that of Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779-1813) ranks right below that of Lewis and Clark. While his was not the first official reconnaissance of the west, he provided ‘the earliest official geographical image of the trans-Mississippi West,’ Pike’s map and journal provided the first authentic information about the Upper Mississippi. On the Conejos River, an effluent of the Rio Grande, well into Spanish territory, Pike boldly constructed a fort. It was at this fort that he was arrested and taken first to Santa Fe and then to Chihuahua for a meeting with Don Nemesio Salcedo, the governor of New Spain. The authorities confiscated, among other documents, a manuscript map of the Santa Fe Trail. While in custody of the Spanish, Pike learned ‘just how many and what kind of troops the Spanish had on hand to defend the northern provinces,’ according to William Goetzmann, ‘and he was well informed on the character and personalities of all the Spanish military leaders. No more successful espionage operation has ever been conducted in recorded American history.’ Pike returned from captivity without his sketch maps, making the creation of his own map more difficult. He had managed to smuggle traverse tables in the rifle barrels that he and his men were allowed to take with them after being released. These tables enabled him to reconstruct parts of the upper Arkansas, and to his credit, his map is the first to accurately delineate the Arkansas and its tributaries. Nevertheless, large sections of ‘A Chart of the Internal Part of Louisiana’ (1810), were based on Alexander von Humboldt’s map. It is paradoxical that Pike, who had actually explored the internal part of Louisiana, relied on the cartography of Humboldt, who had never been there” (Cohen).