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Stock# 103994

The First History of The Carolinas

This exceptionally rare first German translation of John Lawson's seminal work is heralded as "the first history of Carolina, complete with a detailed examination of the colony’s life, customs, and natural history" - Streeter).

The work includes a fine large (12 x 15 inches) folding map with English place names and one of the earliest printed depictions of the Seal of Carolina.  The map title is "Die vornehmste Eignethums Herren und Besitzer von Carolina". 

Lawson's book provides an expansive depiction of the traditions and ways of life of the Native American tribes of the period. Simultaneously, it meticulously documents the geography, climate, flora, fauna, and aquatic life of the Carolinas. Regarded as one of the early historical keystones of the region, Lawson’s text is celebrated as one of the inaugural travel accounts of the early 18th-century American colonies.

John Lawson (1674-1711), an English explorer, adventurer, and writer, played a pivotal role in the exploration and development of the northern expanse of what was then the British colony of Carolina, now the U.S. state of North Carolina. Prior to his arrival in Carolina, little is recorded about his early life. In 1700, Lawson embarked on his American journey, landing in Charleston and initiating a two-month canoe expedition up the Santee River, accompanied by five British and several indigenous guides. This expedition exploring the northern territories beyond Charleston, culminated approximately 600 miles further north at the Pamlico River’s mouth (modern-day Beaufort County). In this comprehensive chronicle, Lawson chronicles his trip through the uncharted backcountry that would later be known as South Carolina and North Carolina. 

Post-expedition, Lawson settled in the region where he ended his journey, working initially as a private individual and later as a surveyor for the colonial administration. He played a significant role in establishing North Carolina’s first permanent settlement, Bath, which quickly became the colony’s most significant port of entry. Later, Lawson collaborated with Swiss Christoph von Graffenried and Franz Ludwig Michel to establish New Bern in 1710, inhabited by Swiss and German settlers, becoming North Carolina’s second oldest city.

This work... is the relation of a man of acute habits of observation, some intelligence, and doubtless entire veracity regarding the Indians of North Carolina, at a very important period in their existence.... As the surveyor was the precursor of the settler, who seized upon and occupied the lands of the savages, he was always the especial object of their detestation - Field.

Tragically, Lawson's life ended in 1711 when he was captured and killed by the Tuscarora while engaged in surveying work, an incident precipitated by a disputed trade negotiation. This event significantly worsened relations between European settlers and the Tuscarora, ultimately triggering the Tuscarora War which, despite initial indigenous victories, concluded with their displacement.

Lawson's book is one of the most valuable of the early histories of North Carolina, and is certainly one of the best travel accounts of the early eighteenth-century colonies. - Clark

It is interesting to note that the great Georgia collection formed by Wymberley Jones De Renne included the a copy of the present German edition of Lawson. The text first appeared in English in 1709 under the title:  A New Voyage to Carolina; containing the Exact Description and Natural History of that Country: together with the Present State thereof. And a Journal of a Thousand Miles, Travel'd thro' several Nations of Indians. Giving a particular Account of their Customes, Manners, etc.


The book is very rare on the market. The present German edition is much rarer than the original English edition. RBH lists only 1 example of this book in the past 70 years (Nebenzahl, 1959).

Condition Description
Small octavo, but 12mo in size. Contemporary speckled calf, spine gilt, raised bands. Recent red leather spine label. [14], 365, [3] pages plus engraved frontispiece plate and folding engraved map. Title page printed in red and black. Title leaf a bit age-toned, with slight offsetting from the facing engraved plate. Map is very nice indeed. Otherwise a very good copy.
European Americana 712/133. Howes L155. Clark, Old South I:115. Sabin 39453. De Renne I, pages 4-5. Vail 316. Streeter Sale 1114 (1709 ed.) Field 899 (Eng. ed. ref.)