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Lot 55

Subscribers’ Issue

55. ANSON, George. A 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. [34] 417 [1, blank], [2] pp. (219 for 319), 13 copper-engraved maps, 12 of which are folding, including one relating to the Pacific: (1) 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.; 27.5 x 87.7 cm; 10-7/8 x 34-1/2 inches); 29 folding plates (scenes, views, fauna, plans, boats, naval battles). Total: 42 copper-engraved plates and maps. 4to, contemporary full calf, spine extra-gilt with raised bands and gilt-lettered red morocco spine label, marbled endpapers. Minor expert repairs and gentle restoration to binding. Light to moderate scattered foxing and minor offsetting from some plates. A complete copy with list of subscribers, directions to binder, and all the engravings present and in strong impression. Lithographed bookplate of John Glasgow dated 1908. Contemporary ink signature “John Towers” dated 1748 on front flyleaf (one of the persons on the list of subscribers is Thomas Tower, Esq.). Very fine, crisp, handsome copy of a classic sea-faring voyage that has basically remained in print ever since its first publication here.

     First edition, one of 350 copies, large paper and subscribers’ issue (p. 319 misnumbered 219, plates unnumbered). Borba de Moraes I, p. 38. Braislin 43. Cf. Cowan I, pp. 5-6. Cox I, p. 49 (calls the present imprint “the genuine first” and notes two issues, one for the author and the genuine first, with p. 319 misnumbered, as here). Day, Pacific Islands Literature, One Hundred Basic Books 18. European Americana 748/225. Hill I, pp. 317-318. Hill II:1817. JCB III:864. Kroepelien 1086. Littell 21. Palau 12865. Sabin 1629n & 10175.

     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).

     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. 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 behavior 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 558) 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.” Oddly, in the map in the second and later editions of Anson’s work, California reverts to being shown as an island. ($5,000-10,000)

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