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First Edition, Subscriber’s Issue, Original Binding
“This compilation has long occupied a distinguished position as a masterpiece of descriptive travel. Anson’s voyage appears to have been the most popular book of maritime adventure of the eighteenth century”—Hill
6. ANSON, George (Lord Anson), Richard Walter (compiler) & Benjamin Robins (attributed editor). Voyage Round the World, in the Years MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV. By George Anson, Esq; Commander in Chief of a Squadron of His Majesty’s Ships, Sent upon an Expedition to the South-Seas. Compiled from Papers and Other Materials of the Right Honourable George Lord Anson, and Published under his Direction, By Richard Walter, M.A. Chaplain of His Majesty’s Ship the Centurion, in that Expedition. Illustrated with Forty-two Copper-Plates. London: Printed for Author by John and Paul Knapton, 1748. ,  2-417 [1, blank],  pp. (p. 319 misnumbered 219), 13 copper-engraved maps, 12 of which are folded, including one relating to the Pacific: A Chart of the Pacific Ocean from the Equinoctial to the Latitude of 39-1/2d. No. | [below neat line at right] R.W. Seale Sculp. Border to border: 27.8 x 88.1 cm; 29 folded plates (scenes, views, fauna, plans, boats, naval battles). Total: 42 copper-engraved plates and maps. 4to (26.7 x 21.8 cm), full contemporary mottled calf with gilt ruling, original gilt-lettered terracotta calf spine label, raised bands, original marbled endpapers. Chafed at joints and light shelf wear, light uniform browning and some offsetting, some plates with a few small tears and browning at edges or folds (but generally dark strong impressions and very clean), overall a fine, crisp set in a handsome binding in original condition. Subscriber Rev. John Linton’s copy, with his ink signature on title (John Wright Linton). Directions to binder not present, as is frequently the case. Preserved in a grey linen case with yellow printed paper label, matching chemise.
First edition, subscribers’ issue(p. 319 misnumbered 219; plates unnumbered) of which 350 copies were printed. Barrett, Baja California 2592. Borba de Moraes, p. 38. Cox I, p. 49 (citing 2 issues, one for the author and the genuine first, with p. 319 misnumbered). Hill I(1), pp. 317-318; II:1718. Kroepelien 1086. National Maritime Museum I:109. Palau 12865. Sabin 1625. Wagner, Northwest Coast 558, 559.
Unlike the exploring and scientific voyages that would follow, Anson’s voyage was strictly military, intended to disrupt Spanish commerce in the Pacific. Leaving England with six ships manned by about nine hundred mostly green or decrepit crew members, the expedition nearly ended in disaster before it even reached the Pacific. By the time Anson’s scattered fleet arrived at Juan Fernandez Island, from which his fellow captain Woodes Rogers had rescued Alexander Selkirk just a few decades before, Anson’s force was reduced by more than half. After raiding along the coast and futilely waiting for the departure of the Acapulco ship, Anson turned west for home with only the Centurion and about two hundred crew members remaining. On the way, however, they captured the Manila Galleon, the cargo of which proved to be worth £500,000 sterling, thereby assuring that all the remaining crew would become rich men on their return to England. “Anson’s voyage is remembered as a classic tale of endurance and leadership in the face of fearful disasters, but to the British public of 1744 it was the treasure of the galleon, triumphantly paraded through the streets of London, which did something to restore national self-esteem battered by an unsuccessful war” (N.A.M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815, New York: W.W. Norton, 2005, p. 239).
As was often the case during voyages of the time, scurvy was a far more dangerous enemy than any weapon. Anson’s devastating losses prompted James Lind, about the only physician at the time with practical seafaring experience, to bolster his theories, to write his influential 1753 A Treatise of the Scurvy, which he dedicated to Anson (see Garrison-Morton V:3713).
This work was phenomenally popular, went through many editions in English, was translated into numerous foreign languages (including Russian), and has been republished so many times in so many languages that probably nobody knows how many editions of it have appeared. Four editions came out the first year of publication with sixteen editions by 1781. Anson’s voyage laid the groundwork for British voyages in the Pacific for the rest of the century. The work exercised wide influence in many quarters. One of those was apparently in the Spanish court and in the circles of the Jesuits. According to Wagner (Spanish Southwest 132), the Order was so stung by the criticisms of its behaviour and policies in California that Venegas was allowed to write his classic Noticia de la California (1757), in part to refute accusations that they did not care about the Natives to whom they were supposed to minister but were rather far more interested in the commercial opportunities afforded them by the yearly sailings of the Spanish galleons to and from the East Indies (Anson, pp. 244-246).
The work has been praised for its many finely engraved views, charts, and maps, including several of Mexico (plan, view, coast chart of Acapulco, and view and harbor of Chequetan, modern day Zihuatanejo). Wagner (Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America 557) commented on the intricately rendered Chart of the Pacific Ocean with its striking web of rhumb lines: “The names are mostly Vizcaino names except for San Bernardo and the Punta de Nuestra Señora de los Nubes, applied to Pt. San Lázaro. Numerous errors appear on the map, which, however, was largely copied by later mapmakers, no doubt on the correct assumption that it was based on a genuine Spanish chart. It has occurred to me that San Bernardo is an error of the engraver for Santa Barbara as that name frequently appeared at that time on Spanish charts. He has C. San Bernardino as his starting point for longitude just like Spanish charts of the north Pacific, and Acapulco is in about 134° and Punta Conception in 109°.” Wagner deemed the map a prototype, noting, “Hereafter referred to as the Anson type.”
The authorship of this famous work has been disputed practically since its publication. Anson gave the account of the voyage that had been compiled by Chaplain Richard Walter (1716?-1785) to his friend Benjamin Robins (1707-1751), who was to see the book through the press. It appears that Walters’ manuscript may have been fairly defective and not consisted of a connected narrative, but was rather a pastiche of extracts from Anson’s journals. Robins, a man of considerable scientific and literary accomplishments, seems to be a logical candidate for the one who put the book in its final form. A projected second volume, which would have been the work of Robins alone, never appeared because the manuscript disappeared after Robins’ death. Most recently the dispute over authorship is discussed by Glyndwr Williams (Documents Relating to Anson’s Voyage round the World, Navy Records Society, 1967, pp. 230-232), who concludes that Benjamin Robins was chiefly responsible. Whoever wrote it produced a work that “has long occupied a distinguished position as a masterpiece of descriptive travel” (Hill).
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