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Lot 56

56. BELCHER, Edward. Narrative of a Voyage around the World, Performed in Her Majesty’s Ship Sulphur, during the Years 1836-1842, including Details of the Naval Operations in China.... London: Henry Colburn, Publisher, 1843. 2 vols. xxxii, xvii-xxii, [2], 387 [1, blank], 16 pp. (Colburn ads), 8 engravings (scenes, views), 3 engraved folded maps, text illustrations + vi, [2], 324, [2], [325]-474 pp., 11 engravings (scenes, portraits), text illustrations. Total plate count: 22 maps & plates. 2 vols., 8vo, original blue blind-embossed cloth, spines gilt-lettered (neatly rebacked, original spines preserved). Binding faded, some plates with light staining and/or foxing (some heavily), intermittent staining and browning of text, Vol. I, pp. 217-218 with tear neatly stitched with old thread. Lacking half title in Vol. I (Forbes notes the half title is often missing). Printed bookplates of Philip Baldwin Bekeart on front pastedowns. Though the book is not particularly rare in commerce, it is difficult to find a set in original cloth.

     First edition. Cowan I, p. 15. Cowan II, p. 44. Ferguson, Australian Bibliography 3564. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1377 (not noting mispagination in Vol. I and calling in error for 12 plates in Vol. II). Hill I, p. 20. Hill II:102. Howell 50, California 18. Howes B318. Hunnewell, p. 23. Judd 17. Lada-Mocarski 117 (not noting mispagination in Vol. I). National Maritime Museum: Voyages 172. O’Reilly-Reitman 929. Sabin 4390. Strathern 34. Wickersham 6543a.

     This mission, which Forbes describes as an “important surveying voyage to the Pacific,” repeatedly extended by intervening circumstances, lasted nearly seven years from the time Belcher took command in Panama until the Sulphur returned to England. During his visit to California (Vol. I, pp. 311-340), he stopped at San Francisco and San Diego, although he does not seem to have been overly impressed with either of those locales. His two visits to Hawaii are covered at Vol. I, pp. 51-67 & 259-281, and Vol. II, pp. 323-324. He also visited Alaska, including such places as Kodiak Island and Sitka (Vol. I, pp. 67-106 & 282-287).

     “Of particular importance is the exploration of California, not only because it included a month long survey of the Sacramento River from San Francisco Bay in longboats, but also because of the international situation of the region. France and England were, at the time, creditor nations of Mexico, which was unable to service the debts to the bankers of those nations, and both began extensive exploration to the end of possibly occupying the territory of California in payment of debts. During the years of Belcher’s survey, Abel Dupetit-Thouars and Eugène Duflot de Mofras were involved in surveys of California for similar reasons.” W. Michael Mathes in Volkmann Rarities Catalogue (Sloan Auction 15:12).

     Following his sojourn in California, Belcher continued to Hawaii, the Marquesas and Society Islands, Tonga, the New Hebrides, the Solomons, and New Guinea. After making extensive observations on those islands, the expedition returned to England from Australia. Of particular interest are the observations of naturalist Richard Hinds regarding fauna observed and collected during the voyage.

     Belcher subsequently explored Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines, Celebes, Moluccas, Ryukyus, Formosa, Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Japan, Mauritius, and the Cape of Good Hope between 1843 and 1846, and captained a disastrous Arctic voyage in 1852-1854 in search of Sir John Franklin during which he too hastily abandoned a ship stuck in the ice, which ship was later found floating free in the ocean. (2 vols.) ($750-1,500)

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