Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. With Atlas. Charles Wilkes.
Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. With Atlas

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. With Atlas.

Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845.

First trade edition, limited to 1000 copies. 63 (of 64) engraved plates (engraved portrait of Wilkes from later edition laid-in to vol. I, not original to this issue) and 47 steel-engraved vignettes, 14 engraved maps (1 hand-colored), numerous woodcuts. 6 vols. 8vo. Publisher's brown embossed cloth with gilt-stamped vignettes to covers. Spine ends and tips frayed, cloth torn at rear joint of vol. I, plates foxed, 1 plate in vol. I loose, open tear to Oregon Territory map Howes W414; Streeter Sale 3324; Tweney 89, 83; Hill 1867; Sabin 103994; Taxonomic Literature 17646; Haskell 2b; Rosove 353.B1; Ferguson 4209; Forbes 1574. Item #303243

A landmark of 19th-century exploration: the voyages led by Wilkes were the most ambitious scientific undertaking to that date and encompassed the Antarctic, the Pacific islands, and the American northwest coast. Extensive exploration of the Antarctic proved impossible due to the state of the ships. Wilkes sailed southwards in 1839 without scientific staff. Despite charting a series of land-falls and appearances of land in the Antarctic, what Wilkes actually saw remains open to conjecture. The scientific work of the expedition was extremely successful. The Smithsonian Institute was founded to house and study the expedition's collections, and the Naval Observatory established to continue the scientific work.

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