VANCOUVER, George (1757-1798). A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World; in which the coast of north-west America has been carefully examined and accurately surveyed. Undertaken by His Majesty's Command, principally with a view to ascertain the existence of any navigable communication between the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans; and performed in the years 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, and 1795, in the Discovery Sloop of War, and Armed Tender Chatham, under the Command of Captain George Vancouver. London: G.G. and J. Robinson, and J. Edwards, 1798.
4 volumes, comprising 3 text-volumes and one atlas volume. Text volumes: 4to., (11 4/8 x 9 inches). Half-titles. Volume one with 7 engraved plates, volume II with 4 plates and one sea chart, volume III with 6 plates after W. Alexander by J. Landseer, J. Fittler and others (all quite spotted). Contemporary half red morocco, marbled paper boards, gilt (extremities a bit scuffed, endpapers stained). Atlas volume. Folio (22 x 17 inches). 10 folding engraved charts and 6 coastal profiles (some spotting, last folding chart with a few spots and short clean tear at fold). 19th-century half maroon morocco, cloth (extremities rubbed, endpapers stained).
Provenance: with the engraved bookplate of the Earls of Lambton, Lambton Castle on the front paste-down of each text volume; with the 19th-century engraved armorial bookplate of an Earl with initials ‘DC’ of the front paste-down of the atlas volume; with the blind library stamp of the South Sea Library of Alvin and Ethel Seale on the front free endpaper of each text volume, and the rear paste-down of the atlas volume, dated 1936.
"This voyage became one of the most important ever made in the interests of geographical knowledge" (Hill).
First edition. Vancouver had served on Captain Cook's second and third voyages and "was made commander of a large-scale expedition to reestablish British rights, resulting from the Nootka Convention, at Nootka Sound; to thoroughly examine the coast south of 60 degrees in order to find a possible passage to the Atlantic; and to learn what other establishments had been founded by other powers. This voyage became one of the most important ever made in the interests of geographical knowledge. Vancouver sailed by way of the Cape of Good Hope to Australia, where he discovered King George's Sound and Cape Hood, then to New Zealand, Hawaii, and the northwest coast of America. Vancouver surveyed the coast of California; visited San Francisco, San Diego. and other Spanish settlements in Alta California. investigated the Strait of Juan de Fuca, discovered the Strait of Georgia; circumnavigated Vancouver Island; and disproved the existence of any passage between the Pacific and Hudson Bay" (Hill).
"This is one of the most important voyages for the history and the cartography of the northwest coast in general and of Alaska in particular" (Lada-Mocarski).
On 15 December 1790 the Discovery was commissioned with Vancouver as commander in command, with the brig Chatham as consort. "Vancouver's instructions, dated 8 March 1791, were diplomatic as well as exploratory. First he was to proceed to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) where he was to spend the winter surveying them. He was then to proceed to the north-west coast of America, which he was to explore from 30° to 60° N looking for ‘any water-communication which may tend, in any considerable degree, to facilitate an intercourse for the purposes of commerce, between the north-west coast, and the country upon the opposite side of the continent’ (Vancouver, 1.284), paying particular attention to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, just south of present-day Vancouver Island and then thought to be the entrance to a great inland sea. As convenient he was to visit Nootka Sound to receive back from the Spaniards the properties they had seized in 1789.
"Vancouver sailed from Falmouth on 1 April 1791, proceeding to the north-west coast via the Cape of Good Hope. This enabled him to examine the south-west coast of Australia, where he became the European discoverer of King George Sound. He next visited Dusky Sound in New Zealand, where he spent three weeks wooding and watering his ship and making minor additions to Cook's survey. On his chart Cook had marked ‘Nobody knows what’ where he had been unable to complete the survey of a minor inlet. Vancouver completed the survey of this inlet and substituted on his chart ‘Somebody knows what’. En route for Tahiti the two ships became separated and Broughton became the European discoverer of Chatham Island, east of New Zealand. After refitting his two ships in Tahiti, Vancouver next spent thirteen days in the Hawaiian Islands, visiting several of the islands hoping to find the store ship Daedalus, which he had expected to meet there.
"On 16 April 1792 the north-west coast of America was sighted about 115 miles north of San Francisco Bay. Vancouver now began the first of three survey seasons on the north-west coast...On his arrival in Nootka Sound, Vancouver... was warmly greeted by Bodega y Quadra, but their negotiations, extending over three weeks, soon ran into difficulties. Vancouver expected to receive back the whole of Nootka Sound, whereas Bodega y Quadra was prepared to deliver only a small area where Meares had built a hut in 1788. Having reached an impasse the two negotiators agreed to refer the matter back to their respective governments and await further instructions.
"From Nootka Sound, Vancouver sailed for San Francisco and Monterey,... [where] Vancouver was greeted once more by Bodega y Quadra, but with no fresh instructions for either party Broughton was sent back to London, via Mexico City and Spain, to obtain them... Vancouver spent the following winter in the Hawaiian Islands; in May 1793 he was back on the north-west coast to continue his survey and by September he had charted the coast to 56° N. At the end of the 1793 season Vancouver again called at Monterey and afterwards at San Diego before tracing the coast to 30° N and sailing for the Hawaiian Islands to spend the winter there.
"During his third and last visit to the Hawaiian Islands, Vancouver completed their survey, but also involved himself in the islands' affairs, encouraging their unification under Kamehameha, the principal chief of the island of Hawaii. At the same time he persuaded Kamehameha to cede the islands to Great Britain, but the act of cession was not ratified in London.
"Vancouver began his 1794 season in Cook inlet, the northern limit of his survey, working his way south to join up with his previous season's work, his final anchorage being in a bay on the south-eastern side of Baranof Island which Vancouver appropriately named Port Conclusion. By happy coincidence he was promoted to post captain on 28 August 1794, six days after completing his survey.
"Considering the difficulties facing him, Vancouver's survey is remarkably accurate and for the greater part of the nineteenth century his atlas was the only reliable authority for navigating the remoter parts of British Columbia and Alaska.
"On the voyage home calls were made at Monterey, Valparaíso, and St Helena, from where the Discovery sailed in convoy, anchoring off the mouth of the River Shannon on 13 September 1795. From here Vancouver travelled directly to London to report to the Admiralty, rejoining his ship when she arrived in the Thames on 20 October after a voyage lasting for over four and a half years...
"Almost all the names given by Vancouver on the north-west coast of America have survived, most notably Vancouver Island, originally named Quadra and Vancouver's Island by Vancouver at his friend Bodega y Quadra's request that he should name some port or island after them both. When in 1884 the Canadian Pacific Railway was nearing completion, Vancouver was the name chosen for the city-to-be on Burrard inlet that was to be its western terminus" (Andrew C. F. David for DNB). Hill 1753; Howes V23; Lada-Mocarski 55; Lande 1495; NMM 142; Sabin 98443; Staton & Tremaine/TPL 688; Streeter sale VI:3497 (this copy); Wagner I, pp.239-50. Catalogued by Kate Hunter