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Lot 69

The Basis Of England’s Claim To Oregon

69. MEARES, John. Voyages Made in the Years 1788 and 1789, from China to the North West Coast of America. To Which are Prefixed, an Introductory Narrative of a Voyage Performed in 1786, from Bengal, in the Ship Nootka; Observations on the Probable Existence of a North West Passage; and Some Account of the Trade between the North West Coast of America and China; and the Latter Country and Great Britain. London: Printed at the Logographic Press, and sold by J. Walter, 1790. viii (title, dedication & preface), [ix-xiii] (list of subscribers), [xiv-xx] (table of contents), xcv (“An Introductory Voyage) [1, errata], 372, [44, tables], [64] (appendices, including Meares’ Memorial to the House of Commons protesting against the Nootka Sound seizure, also published separately) pp. (lxii for lxiii, 20 for 120, 179 for 197, 36 for 39; plate at p. 4 entitled in part “Atoor” instead of the corrected “Atooi”), 28 copper-engraved plates and maps, 10 of which are folding: 10 copper-engraved maps (3 of which are folding), 18 engraved plates (7 of which are folding) in various techniques (aquatint, line-engraving, soft ground, stipple, some plates tinted in grey or sepia); images include frontispiece portrait of Meares along with views and inhabitants, mostly of the Northwest Coast. 4to (29 x 23 cm), contemporary speckled calf, spine gilt stamped and with original red and green gilt-lettered morocco spine labels (expertly recased, original spine preserved). The abrasions to the handsome binding have been gently restored and the joints expertly reinforced. Occasional mild offsetting or light foxing and a few minor splits to folding maps. Overall a wonderful copy, complete with all the plates and maps, in good, strong impressions, most original tissue guards present. Frequently this book has only 27 maps and plates, but this copy has the extra plate of the Philippines, for the full complement of 28 engravings. This is truly a desirable copy of “one of the early and fundamental books on the Northwest coast of America in general and on Alaska in particular" (Lada-Mocarski). Engraved armorial bookplate of Capel Cure on front pastedown.

     First edition. Abbey 594. Bauer 294. Braislin 1290. Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 2103. Cox II, p. 29. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 201: “There may be several issues of this edition [notes some errors in pagination, some of which match the present copy, but with others that do not]. Graff 2734. Hill I, p. 195-196. Hill II:1126. Howes M469. JCB III:3386 (noting large paper copy). Judd 123. Lada-Mocarski 46. Lande 1346. Littell 713. Sabin 47260: "There are copies on large paper. The voyages of Meares are an important link in the chain of American discovery of which he was one of the pioneers." Smith 6690. Staton & Tremaine 612. Strathern 364: “Some copies issued on larger paper with coloured plates.” Streeter Sale 3491: “The extra plate of the Philippines [is] said to be missing in most copies.” Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 758-766. Wickersham 6595.

Selected Maps Relating to the Pacific Northwest & Hawaii

Meares and his crew conducted coastal surveys of the Pacific Northwest, and the discoveries they made shown on these maps were part of the documentation for the British claim to Oregon.

A Chart of the Northern Pacific Ocean, Containing the N.E. Coast of Asia & N.W. Coast of America, Explored in 1778 & 1779, by Captain Cook, and further Explored in 1788 & 1789, by John Meares. [below neat line]: J. Haywood, del.... | Published Novr. 18, 1790, by J. Walter.... | Palmer, sculp. Folding. Phillips, Alaskan Maps, p. 24. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 759: “The map was not only based on Cook’s map, but also evidently on Portlock’s. An amusing evidence of the derivation from Cook is the repetition of Cook’s error P. Conversation for Pt. Conception. No Spanish discoveries shown. C. Real, error for Beale, is east of Barkley’s sound. This has the formerly suppositious track of the Washington around Vancouver Island.”

A Chart of the Interior Part of North America Demonstrating the very great probability of an Inland Navigation from Hudson's Bay to the West Coast. [below neat line]: J. Haywood del.... | Woodman & Mutlow, Sculpt. Russel Court. Folding. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 758: “This passage seems to be by Slave River, Slave Lake, and a river flowing into Cook’s River. This was Meares’ idea.” Derek Hayes (Historical Atlas of the North Pacific Ocean, p. 109, Map Plate 156) has a section on this imaginary map entitled “The Sea That Never Was” and comments: “Meares was one of the fur-trading adventurers who followed in Cook’s wake in search of the riches promised by the sea otter. He fancied himself geographer-theorist [and] some of his maps contained a startling revelation. Meares drew an inland sea stretching from the Strait of Juan de Fuca northwards to a point approximating that of Dixon Entrance, north of the Queen Charlottes. Not only did he show this sea on his maps, but also maintained that the American captain Robert Gray had sailed along this inland sea in his ship Lady Washington in 1789. This was all a complete fabrication; not only did the sea not exist, but Gray did not sail there, and neither did he tell Meares that he had... Nevertheless, at the time the story seemed quite feasible, and it misled many, even showing up on Russian maps soon thereafter.”

Chart of the N.W. Coast of America and the N.E. Coast of Asia, explored in the Years 1778, & 1779, by Captn. Cook; and further explored, in 1788, and 1789. [below neat line:] J. Haywood del. 52 x 67 cm. No graphic scale, but about 120 miles to the inch. Phillips, Alaskan Maps, p. 24. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 758a.

Sketch of Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound, taken by Mr. Wedgborough [below neat line]: Engrav'd by T. Foot. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 762: “On the whole a very accurate map.”

A Sketch of Port Cox in the District of Wicananish. Engraved by T. Foot. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 760:Drawn by Robert Funtner.”

A Plan of Port Effingham in Berkeley's Sound.... Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 761.

A View of Otter Sound...Engraved by T. Foote. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 764.

A Plan of Sea Otter Harbour and St. Patricks Bay, taken by Capt. James Hanna.... [below neat line]: Foot Sculpt.Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 766.

A View of Port Meares...Engraved by T. Foot. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 763.

A Sketch of Raft-Cove, taken by Mr. Funter, Master of the North West American...Engraved by T. Foot. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 765.

Selected Plates Relating to the Pacific Northwest & Hawaii

John Meares Esqr. [left of portrait]: W. Beechey pinxt [right of portrait]. C. Bestland sculpt. Stipple and soft ground oval portrait, after the painting by notable portrait artist William Beechey. A very handsome portrait of a man variously described as a pioneer of the Pacific Northwest, neither modest nor reliable, and an engaging scoundrel (but hardly more unscrupulous than other men of his class at that time).

Tianna, a Prince of Atoor, One of the Sandwich Island. Publish’d Augt 16 1790 by J. Walter.... Stipple engraving. It was not uncommon for Hawaiians to jump aboard trade ships for adventure and to see the world. Tianna (or perhaps Teanna or Kaiana), high chief of Kaua’i, is said to be the first Hawaiian man to set foot on North America soil (1783). Meares allowed him to join the voyage, and he went to China and from there on the Iphegenia with Douglas to Nootka Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island.

Wynee, a Native of Owyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands. Publish’d Augt 16 1790 by J. Walter.... Stipple engraving. This stunningly beautiful Hawaiian lady was an early Hawaiian visitor to America, hired to be Frances Barkley’s maid aboard the Imperial Eagle.

Johnstones Island... Free Wills Isles. Tatee Isles. Continuation of the Tatee Isles. The new discov’d Sandwich Island. [lower left above neat line]: J. Sanders in Aqua Tinta fecit July 1790 [below neat line]: Publish’d Augt 16 1790 by J. Walter.... 5 profiles in aquatint. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 201 mentions the profile of Hawaii.

View of the Land in 49.3. N. Port Effingham. Nootka Sound. Publish’d Augt. 16. 1790. by J. Walter.... 3 profiles in aquatint.

Callicum and Maquilla [sic]. Chiefs of Nootka Sound. Publish’d Augt 15. 1790 by J. Walter.... [lower left below image]: T. Stothard, del. [lower right below image]: R. Pollard Sculpt. Aquatint. This dramatic ethnological image presents full-length noble portraits of Callicum and his brother Muquinna, the latter a Nootka chief on the west coast of what is now Vancouver Island. They clasp hands against the dramatic backdrop of the Pacific Northwest landscape at Friendly Cove, standing in front of the shore with a masted vessel and rowboat and wearing tunics fastened at shoulder, earrings, and bracelets. Muquinna saw them all—from Cook to a host of English, Spanish, and Yankee navigators and fur traders. He became a wealthy moghul in the heyday of the fur trade before near extinction of the sea otter in the region. Muquinna ruled a people changed by contact but adapted well, being a shrewd bargainer adept at playing the Spanish against the English. Callicum was murdered by the Spanish when he and Muquinna protested the arrest of English trader James Colnett. “There is no doubt...that Muquinna was one of the most important Indian leaders in the area during the early contact period, and his role in this phase of northwest coast history is as significant as that of any of the Europeans who sailed into Nootka Sound” (Dictionary of Canadian Biography).

Entrance of the Strait of John de Fuca. Publish’d Augt. 16. 1790, by J. Walter & Son... [lower left below image]: T. Stothard, del. [lower right below image]: J. Wells, fecit. Aquatint. Seven Nootka canoes filled with men encircle a small, two-sail boat flying a British flag in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, British Columbia. Meares ceremonially took possession of the Strait of Juan de Fuca for Great Britain, thereby authenticating earlier British visits in the area. Meares named it for Juan de Fuca, the elderly Greek pilot who in 1596 claimed the Natives living near the strait were rich in gold, silver, and pearls, thus creating the fabled Northwest Passage, which caught the imagination of so many Europeans and persisted in the minds of explorers like Meares.

The Country of New Albion. In the Latitude of 45 N. when Cape Lookout & the 3 Brothers bore S.S.E. dist 8 leags. Publish’d Augt. 16. 1790 by J. Walter... [lower left below image]: J. Meares, del. Aquatint. Folding. Farmer & Holmes, An Historical Atlas of Oregon, p. 25. This pristine view shows Meares’ ship Felice in the foreground of the Oregon coast south of Tillamook Bay, which marks the southernmost point of Meares’ 1788 voyage. In the text Meares remarks: “The face of the country [Oregon] assumed a very different appearance from that of the Northern coast. Many beautiful spots, covered with the finest verdure, solicited our attention; and the land rose in a very gradual assent to the distant mountains, skirted by a white sandy beach down to the sea. As we sailed along, spacious lawns and hanging woods everywhere met the delighted eye,—but not an human being appeared to inhabit the fertile country at New Albion.” Meares discovered Tillamook Bay, naming it Quicksand Bay.

The Launch of the North West America at Nootka Sound. Being the first Vessel that was ever built in that part of the Globe. Publish’d Augt. 16. 1790, by J. W. Walter & Son... [left below image]: C. Melz del. [right below image]: R. Pollard Sculpt. Line-engraved view of ship and jubilant crowd of people at Nootka Sound, where Meares went to build a permanent British settlement on the Pacific Northwest Coast. The Union Jack flies above a fort to the right, Meares’ crew fires cannons to celebrate the launch of the newly constructed vessel christened North West America, the multi-national crew and Natives in canoes and on the shore look and point, and masted sailing ships rest in the harbour. Second mate Haswell who served on the Iphigenia under William Douglas (Meares’ partner in the exploration and trading ventured) described the event depicted in this lively illustration: “The English launched a small schooner, named Northwest America—the first vessel ever built on the [Pacific Northwest] Coast. It was a gala day, fittingly celebrated by salutes and festivities in which the Americans cordially joined.”

     Meares’ activities along the American northwest coast had far-reaching effects and nearly caused two armed conflicts. Sailing to the area in 1788, Meares quickly established a brisk fur trade with China and built a settlement that included a shipyard, where was built and launched the Northwest America, the first substantial vessel constructed in the area. In 1789, however, the Spanish also established something of a settlement in the area and seized the three ships they found at Nootka Sound and made their crews prisoners, claiming they were smugglers at best and perhaps pirates at worst. Meares, in China at the time, hastened back to England to complain, which action brought forth a forceful British reaction in the form of an armed fleet intended to right the perceived wrong. Cowed, Spain agreed to give up her pretensions, thereby establishing British supremacy in the area by the Nootka Convention. That primacy almost led later to war with the United States over the boundary between it and Canada. Meares (1756?-1809) was a professional British naval officer most remembered for his role in this dispute.

     Aside from its prominence in an international controversy, Meares’ work is also important for the natural history and ethnography that it contains. The author admits that his primary purpose was to aid commerce but also nods to the cultural implications of his observations: “...I shall venture to express my hopes,—that this Volume will be found to contain information useful to commerce, and instructions which future navigators may not disdain to consider; that the following pages will afford some entertainment to men who are curious in examining the various modes of human life...” (p. vii). The majority of the plates and the text are clearly designed to promote commercial interests and to aid future British navigators in the area; several of the plates do, however, show natives, including two from Hawaii, and various habitats around the area explored. A great deal of text is also devoted to Nootka Sound denizens, although there is some despair expressed that certain groups seem to engage in cannibalism. As germane as they are to Meares’ purposes, curiously there are no images of fur-bearing or other animals, presumably because every British merchant knew what he was in the area for and did not require images to recognize his prey. Finally, Meares devotes an entire chapter and a map to the Northwest Passage, keeping alive the fading hopes that it might eventually be discovered; clearly he remains interested in its discovery because of implications for the fur trade.

     William Combe (1741-1823), author of Dr. Syntax, edited Meares papers for the printed work. Combe was a profuse ghostwriter of many and varied books, including Mackenzie’s voyage. John Walter, printer and publisher, founded the London Times. ($6,000-12,000)

Images (click to enlarge)


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