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AUCTION 17

VOYAGES & TRAVELS
WITH AN EMPHASIS ON CAPTAIN COOK

Lot 23

Miserable but Exceptionally Rare American Edition

23. [COOK’S THIRD VOYAGE]. [RICKMAN, John]. An Authentic Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific Ocean: Performed by Captain Cook, and Captain Clerke, in His Britannic Majesty’s Ships, the Resolution, and Discovery, in the Years, 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780. Including, a Faithful Account of All Their Discoveries in this Last Voyage, the Unfortunate Death of Captain Cook, at the Island of O-why-ee, and the Return of the Ships to England under Captain Gore. Also a Large Introduction, Exhibiting, an Account of the Several Voyages Round the Globe; with an Abstract of the Principal Expeditions to Hudson’s Bay, for the Discovery of a North-West-Passage...By an Officer on Board the Discovery. Volume the First [and Volume the Second]. Philadelphia: Robert Bell, in Third-Street, price two-thirds of a dollar, 1783. [2], [9]-96, 99-112 + [113]-229 [1], [2, ads] pp. (complete). 2 vols. in one, 8vo, contemporary sheep, raised bands, red gilt-lettered morocco spine label (skillfully rebacked, original spine preserved). Some light staining to text, minor paper losses professionally restored at upper right blank corners of first few leaves (not affecting text). Text gently washed and stabilized. (The photograph in this catalogue was made before restoration.) A very good copy of a remarkably rare Cook title, humbly printed and in typical fatigued condition for United States imprints of that era, ungraciously reviewed by Gentleman’s Magazine (London, 1797) as “a miserable edition.”

     First American edition of Rickman’s account of Cook’s third voyage, itself first published in London, 1781. Davidson, p. 64 (listing it as one of the “five other items” in addition to the official account that collectors should seek). Eberstadt 132:242. Evans 17921 (incorrectly attributed to William Ellis). Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 54 (illustrated at p. 47): “Very rare.” Graff 3501 (erroneously stating): “This Philadelphia edition of Rickman is the first American book dealing with the West Coast explorations, and with Cook’s third and last voyage.” Hildeburn, Pennsylvania 4294. Holmes 38n. Hordern House, Parsons Collection 122: “The Philadelphia publisher of this edition laid a trail of confusion by repeating the title of William Ellis' narrative of the voyage rather than the title used for the Rickman publications. Forbes speculates that the reason for this was that Ellis' book had received better reviews in the London press, and that by changing the title and publishing it—like Ellis’ book—in two volumes Bell hoped for better sales.” Howes R276. O’Reilly-Reitman 430 (listed under Ellis). Sabin 16244. Shipton & Mooney II, p. 740 (attributed to Rickman and citing copy at AAS). Strathern 468(iv). Wickersham 6555 (attributing to Ellis). Unrecorded by Beddie, Hocken, JCB, Lada-Mocarski, et al.

     This is the second account of a voyage to the American West Coast to be published in the United States, the first being John Ledyard’s narrative published at Hartford earlier this same year. As discussed by Forbes, this edition is sometimes stated to be the first account of such a voyage published in the United States. Ledyard’s account, however, was published in June-July of this year, whereas the first volume here appeared on October 6th according to the statement at the foot of p. 112. British Columbian historian Frederic Howay clarified the matter in 1921 with his contribution to the Washington Historical Quarterly, “Authorship of Anonymous Account of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage.”

     One crucial aspect of the third voyage that surrounded Rickman with controversy was his supposed role in Cook’s death, which he potentially contributed to during a confrontation with the Natives that allegedly spilled over into the events that led to Cook’s death. Rickman has had his contemporary and modern detractors and supporters in the matter. On the whole, however, Rickman’s account has been discounted as “a fanciful and ridiculously exaggerated production, done exclusively for the market” (Beaglehole III, p. ccv). ($10,000-20,000)

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