"Unsurpassed in Importance" (Lada-Mocarski)
Spanish Voyage up the Pacific and Northwest Coast: with Maps, Plates, and the Oft-Missing Text
This very rare work presents the results of a 1792 survey of the North Pacific coastline undertaken under order of the Spanish government by Dionisio Galiano and Cayetano Valdés, commanders of the Spanish vessels Sutil and Mexicana. They made a complete reconnaissance of the continental shore at the eastern extremity of the strait of Juan de Fuca, on the coast of present-day British Columbia. From the Strait of Georgia, they headed to Queen Charlotte Strait and then circumnavigated what is now Vancouver Island. They stopped at Neah Bay, where a temporary Spanish settlement was already established. They reached Nootka Sound in 1792, and at Esquimalt Bay they met Captain George Vancouver's expedition.
Anxious to counter growing Russian and British activity in the North Pacific, the Spanish government sponsored a series of voyages to the Northwest Coast around 1790... This important Spanish voyage to Nootka Sound and the Northwest Coast in 1792 is one of the few major expeditions launched under the aegis of Spain to be published at the time - Reese.
A folding table in the text volume contains data relating to the 11 missions in Alta or Nueva California. At the end of the text volume there is a vocabulary of the inhabitants of Nootka (pages 178-184).
The atlas of maps and plates (fully listed below), is important for the Northwest Coast, Alaska and California. The maps depict the Pacific coast from Baja to California to the Northwest, as well as Vancouver Island, the Alaska coast, and British Columbia. More detailed maps focus on the port of San Diego, Monterey Bay, Nootka, and other bays in the vicinity of Juan de Fuca. Notable plates include fine portraits of Nootka chiefs, a plate showing a shaman prayer box, and two plates of native woodcarvings.
Most of the maps are based on the Malaspina expedition, undertaken in 1791 in the Descubierta and the Atrevida, but also included is a map of Vizcaíno's discoveries and the first Spanish publication of Pantoja's plan of San Diego.
Lada-Mocarski praises this work, particularly because it contains a comprehensive summary of Spanish voyages to the Northwest, written by Martín Fernández de Navarette and which takes up the first 168 pages of the text volume.
The plates depicting scenes at Nootka are notable for their ethnographic interest. Several Indian vocabularies are given, including the Eslen, Runsien, and Nootka languages. This masterly work is often listed as being written by Martín Fernández de Navarette. The author is also sometimes wrongly supposed to be Dionisio Alcalá Galiano, the commander of the expedition - Hill.
Henry Wagner has written about how the geographical information and nomenclature of the Spanish expeditions in the Northwest coast were eclipsed by those of Vancouver at least partially due to the limited distribution of the present Spanish publication:
The general impression today, one harped on by many writers, is that the English discoveries of Vancouver were published four years before those of the Spaniards. This, however... is a misapprehension. What did happen was that the text of the Vancouver expedition enjoyed a very extended circulation before the Spanish account of that of Galiano and Valdés was published in 1802. Furthermore, the latter had a very limited one. The principal reason, however, why the nomenclature and geography of Vancouver came to occupy the field was that his maps were extensively copies by the famous English cartographer Arrowsmith, and later by the English Admiralty. - Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America, vol. 1, page 253.
The atlas contains the following maps and plans:
- Carta Esferica de las costas de California, que comprehende desde Acapulco hasta cabo Perpetua.
- Continuacion de la Carta núm. 1. desde cabo Perpetua hasta la salida de las Goletas.
- Continuacion de la Carta núm. 2. desde la salida de las Goletas hasta la isla de Unalaska. Based on astronomical observations by Mulgrave.
- Carta plana de los reconocimientos hechos por el Capitan Sebastian Vizcaino.
- Plano del Puerto de San Diego. Por Don Juan Pantoja, segundo Piloto de la Armada, en 1772.
- Plano del Puerto y Bahía de Monterey. Trabajado abordo de las corbetas Descubierta y Atrevida en 1791.
- Plano de la cala de los Amigos en la entrada de Nutka.
- Plano del Puerto de Mulgrave.
- Plano del Puerto des Desengaño.
Engraved views and portraits:
- Una fiesta celebrada en Nutka por su xefe Macuina á cuasa de haber dado su hija indicios de entrar en la pubertad.
- Vista de lo interior de la cala de los Amigos y establecimiento español en la entrada de Nutka
- Portrait of Macuina, chief at Nutka.
- Portrait of Tetacú, chief from Juan de Fuca.
- Portrait of Tetacú's wife holding a child.
- Oratorio del Fays de Nutka.
- Plancha de madera llena de geroglíficos, hallada en el canal de la Tabla. The famous shaman prayer box.
- Depiction of a fish resembling a mermaid: El Pese que vimos semejava á estos aun que no devisamos si tenia escama ó no, que parescia la color de tonina: lo demas tenia ni mas ni menos: los brazos é manos mostruosos por que vimos levantarse en ayre fuera de la mar.
One of the rarest of Pacific voyages, a work of the utmost importance for the Spanish exploration of the Northwest. The noted mid-20th-century Chicago rare Americana dealer Wright Howes assigned a "dd" to the complete work (text and atlas) in his idiosyncratic rarity system, a designation reserved for "superlatively rare books, almost unobtainable." Nice complete sets of the text and atlas are very scarce in the market.
Atlas with two engraved armorial bookplates, including that of Lord Lovaine. The text volume with the armorial bookplate of Holland House, which was destroyed during a ten-hour bombing raid on London in September 1940.