WILKES, Charles (1798-1877). Synopsis of the Cruise of the U. S. Exploring Expedition, during the years 1838, ’39, ’40, ’41, & ’42; delivered before the National Institute… Washington: Printed by Peter Force, 1842.

$ 4,800.00

8vo., (9 ¼ x 5 ¾ inches). (A bit spotted throughout). Fine folding “Chart of the World, Showing the Tracks of the U.S. Exploring Expedition in 1838, ’39, ’40, ’41, & ’42” (two short tears near mount, short separation at fold). Original publisher’s printed blue paper wrappers (one or two creases, very slight fraying at edges), preserved in a 20th-century slipcase, drab paper boards (a bit browned).

Provenance: Contemporary manuscript ownership inscription of “Hon. J. D. Jones” on front wrapper.

First edition. Wilkes’s “Synopsis,” a speech delivered before the National Institute on June 20, 1842, three years before the publication of the official Narrative (1845). It was prepared by Wilkes immediately upon his return, with a view of “dissipating the prejudices which prevail” concerning the Expedition, which, he states, was regarded, previous to his connection with it, as a laughing stock. As would be expected, little of this material found its way into the popular narrative published by the Government. As such it contains some information not included in the finished work, as well as a “List of Officers and Scientific Corps Attached to the U.S. Exploring Expedition,” and the large folding map.

Wilkes’s celebrated circumnavigation explored extensively the coast of South America, the South Seas, Antarctica, California and the Northwest. Departing in August 1838, Wilkes rounded Cape Horn; crossed the Pacific surveying, charting, and exploring the Tuamotus, Tahiti, and Samoa; and reached Sydney, Australia, in November 1839. His ships probed Antarctic waters, cruising 1,500 miles along an unbroken ice shelf; then sailed via New Zealand and Tonga, reaching Fiji in May 1840. In September 1840 Wilkes reached Hawaii, and arrived off the Oregon coast in April 1841, “Wilkes found the mouth of the Columbia a difficult and dangerous harbor. He recommended emphatically in his reports that Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca be retained in the ongoing border negotiations between the United States and Britain. In California, describing the potential for a large commercial harbor in San Francisco Bay, he emphasized the lack of Mexican government control of the area. The expedition left San Francisco on 1 November 1841, crossing the Pacific again via Hawaii, Manila, and Singapore to Cape Town. Charting, surveying, and scientific studies were conducted along the route. The voyage ended in New York in June 1842” (Roberta A. Sprague for ANB). Haskell 275. Howes W-415. Smith W81 (“American Travellers Abroad: A Bibliography of Accounts Published Before 1900”).

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