First Edition of Vancouver's Voyage of Discovery with Atlas, Containing Influential Charts of Hawai’i and the Pacific Northwest
Fine, complete four-volume set of Vancouver’s A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World (1798), which includes the atlas that offered the most detailed charts of Hawai’i and the Pacific Northwest coastline to that date. The charts would remain influential and in use well into the nineteenth century.
As Alaska-expert Valerian Lada Mocarski explains, the Vancouver expedition of 1791-1795 was "one of the most important voyages for the history and the cartography of the Northwest coast in general and of Alaska in particular." The Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages calls the voyages, “one of the most important ever made in the interests of geographical knowledge.”
Vancouver’s charts were his main legacy and remained the base charts used by the Hydrographic Service for decades. J. C. Beaglehole, the twentieth-century’s foremost authority on Pacific exploration, and especially on the voyages of James Cook, gave Vancouver the highest compliment when he wrote that Vancouver, of all of Cook’s protégées, was “the only one whose work as a marine surveyor was to put him in the class of his commander.”
The account was published in three volumes with the accompanying atlas, all four of which are offered here. In the text volumes, there are seventeen engraved plates after W. Alexander and by J. Landseer, J. Fittler and others; additionally, there is one chart. The atlas contains ten charts, folded, and six coastal profiles. A full collation is included at the end of this description.
A complete set of the text with the atlas is fairly rare on the market.
Charts in the atlas; chart of Hawai’i
The charts in the atlas cover the southwest coast of New Holland (Australia), Dusky Bay in New Zealand, several Pacific islands, and a series of remarkably-detailed and original charts covering the West Coast of North America from California to Alaska. This series is accompanied by a general chart showing the entirety of the coastline. It underlines the challenge Vancouver faced and the achievement he and his crew managed to accomplish.
Vancouver realized soon after arriving on the coast of the Pacific Northwest that his two ships were too big and cumbersome to serve as surveying vessels. Therefore, the small boats had to be used for the extensive surveys carried out over three summers. Small groups, led by a lietueant or other officer, would create sketches and perform observations along the inlets, rivers, and shores. There were then transferred back to the larger ships, where they were reworked and cataloged by the officers.
One of the most famous charts in this volume is a chart of the Sandwich Islands, the initial British name for the Hawai’ian Islands. Cook had named the islands after the Earl of Sandwich, a longtime naval administrator and politician. An initial survey was carried out after Cook’s death by William Bligh. However, a comprehensive chart was still needed, as the islands had become an important port of call for whalers and traders.
Vancouver visited the Sandwich Islands three times during his expedition. First, he stopped there on his way to the Pacific Northwest from Australia. He also wintered there in 1793 and 1794. The majority of his survey was completed during the third visit, as is evident from the dates included on the ship’s track.
As the title indicates, Vancouver was aided in the charting by Lieutenant Joseph Baker (1767-1817). This is the same Baker for whom Mt. Baker in Washington State is named, as Baker was the first of Vancouver’s crew to see the volcano. Baker served with Vancouver in the Europa in the West Indies. Then-midshipman Peter Puget was also on the Europa with them. Baker was selected as third lieutenant for the voyage of exploration by Vancouver, with Puget as second lieutenant.
In addition to surveying, Baker assisted surgeon Archibald Menzies in his botanical work. Menzies went on mountaineering trips while in Hawaii, which could be the source for the interior of the islands shown here. Baker was the specialist in converting the surveyors’ observations into charts, as with this example. He also assisted Vancouver is preparing the atlas charts for publication after they returned to England.
Vancouver’s voyage and account
George Vancouver (1757-1798) was born in Norfolk and joined the Royal Navy in 1771. Only a year later, he sailed with Captain James Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific. Vancouver would also sail on Cook’s third, and last, voyage, where Cook was killed in Hawai’i. Although he most likely made rough sketches while with Cook, Vancouver completed his first independent surveys while serving in the West Indies in the mid-1780s. Thanks to this work, his previous Pacific service, and the influence of a powerful patron, Vancouver was selected to lead a new expedition into the South Seas, one of the last large-scale exploratory voyages to the region.
Vancouver was ordered to sail under dual purposes. On the one hand, he was to represent the British at negotiations with the Spanish at Nootka Sound in the Pacific Northwest. The Sound was the subject of a territorial dispute between the empires that threatened to erupt into a larger conflict. Vancouver’s other, and main, purpose was to survey the southwest corner of Australia, Pacific islands, and the Northwest Coast of America. If possible, he was also to find a Northwest Passage.
Vancouver sailed in the Discovery, with the Chatham as escort, in April 1791. First, he made the Australian coast near Cape Leeuwin and surveyed a considerable extent of the southern coast. Next, he sailed to Tahiti and the Sandwich Islands. Then, Vancouver and his crew charted the coast from near San Francisco all the way to Alaska. En route, at Nootka, Vancouver and his Spanish counterpart decided they could not interpret the instructions they had been given and referred the matter back to diplomats in Europe for further study. He completed three surveying seasons on the Pacific Northwest Coast, with winters in Hawai'i.
Vancouver returned to England via Cape Horn in September 1795, over four years after he had led—one of, if not the, longest surveying voyages in history. He was promoted to the rank of post captain but the voyage ruined his health and he retired upon return to shore.
He turned his energies instead to producing an authoritative account of his voyage, complete with detailed charts, as the Admiralty had ordered. Vancouver died in May of 1798. He had completed nearly all of the account, half a million words in length, but it still lacked roughly 100 pages. After George’s death, his brother, John, along with Lieutenant Peter Puget, for whom Puget Sound is named, and Lieutenant Baker finished the work. It was published in 1798 in three quarto volumes and accompanied by a folio atlas, as seen in the first edition example here. A French edition followed in 1799-1800, with another English edition in 1801.
The text includes the armorial bookplate of Philip Hamond, Esqr. and an unidentified circular black-ink collector's stamp. Philip Hamond is most likely a close relative of Anthony Hamond (1742-1822), who purchased West Acre High House in Norfolk in 1761. A probate will for a Philip Hamond Esq. of Westacre, Norfolk is dated 1824.
Vol I: Half-title, title; 2 leaves of Dedication to George III; 2 leaves of Contents; xxix; 2 pages "Advertisement from the Editor"; 1-page list of plates in Volume I and instructions to the binder; 1-page list of plates in the atlas volume; 432 pages; 7 engraved plates, as follows:
- A Deserted Indian village in King George the Third's sound, New Holland
- Four remarkable supported poles, in port Townshend, in the gulf of Georgia
- Mount Rainier, from the south part of Admiralty inlet, bearing S. 55 E.
- Village of the friendly Indians, at the entrance of Bute's canal
- Cheslakees village, in Johnstone's straits
- The Discovery on the rocks in Queen Charlotte's sound
- Friendly cove, Nootka sound. The line A, B, C, containing the districts and territories offered on the part of His Catholic Majesty to be ceded to the crown of Great Britain
Vol II: Half-title, title; 2 leaves of Contents; 1-page list of plates; 504 pages; 5 engraved plates, as follows:
- The mission of St. Carlos near Monterrey
- Chart of Hergest's islands
- Salmon cover, Observatory inlet
- The new Eddystone in Behm's canal
- The Presidio of Monterrey
Vol III: Half-title, title; 2 leaves of Contents; 1-page list of plates; 505 pages and three pages 3 pages of Errata.
- The crater on the summit of mount Worroray, Owhyhee, with a distant view of the island of Mowee
- Port Dick, with a fleet of Indian canoes
- Mount St. Elias, bearing N. 50 w. and Icy bay, N. 20 w. five miles distant
- A remarkable mountain near the river of Monterrey
- The town of Valparaiso on the coast of Chili
- The village of Almandrel, in the bay of Valparaiso, with a distant view of the Andes (trimmed and mounted)
George Vancouver (1757–1798), a naval officer and explorer, grew up in King’s Lynn, England, the youngest of six children. After entering the Royal Navy in 1771, he served in both the second and third great exploratory voyages of James Cook. During Cook’s second voyage, a three-year quest to find a legendary southern continent, Vancouver received instruction from the astronomer William Wales. During Cook’s third voyage, to the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver was part of the first known group of Europeans to land on the coast of present-day British Columbia.
Vancouver gained valuable navigational, surveying, and mapping experience in the Pacific Northwest during his time with Cook. After returning from Cook’s third voyage in 1780, Vancouver was promoted to lieutenant and spent the following nine years serving on fighting ships, primarily in the Caribbean.
In 1790, Vancouver was chosen to captain the Discovery and charged with a mission to discover and chart the vast areas of the Pacific that were still unknown, in part to locate a Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This four-year voyage of discovery circumnavigated the globe and eliminated the possibility of an inland Northwest Passage. During many months of surveying, Vancouver produced detailed regional maps of the Northwest Coast, as far north as Alaska. He also established several hundred place-names for physical features in the areas surveyed.
Upon returning to England in 1795, Vancouver’s voyage received little recognition, and he faced personal and political attacks from colleagues and crew members alleging abuse of power. With his health failing, Vancouver spent his remaining years in retirement, revising his journal for publication. His Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World was first published in 1798, which was also the year of his death. It contained a multi-volume account of his voyage as well as an atlas of his maps. His exploration and mapmaking activities greatly increased knowledge of the North American coast.