Presentation Copy

Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Arctic Ocean in 1833, 1834, and 1835; Under the Command of Capt. Back, R.N.

London: Richard Bentley, 1836.

Price: $12,500.00


About the item

First edition. Presentation copy. xv,312;viii,321pp. plus four engraved plates including frontispieces and single page map. Without the list of plates in vol. II. 2 vols. 8vo. Presentation Copy. Modern half dark blue morocco and cloth, bound by Aquarius. Foxing to the frontispieces, abraded stamps to the titles, small chip at fore-edge affecting a few words of the inscription. Inscribed by on the vol. 1 title: "Presented by the Author to the London Literary and Scientific Institution, addressed with grateful thanks for the generous use of its theatre to propose at a Public Meeting the further survey of the Northern Coast of North America." Inked stamps of the City of London Institution. Wagner-Camp 62; Field 831; Graff 2332; Peel 98; Sabin 37831; TPL 189; Streeter Sale 3705; Arctic Bibliography 8708; NMM I:857.

Item #353911

One of the rarest and most difficult to obtain early northwestern and arctic narratives, the author Dr. King was the surgeon and naturalist accompanying the expedition of Capt. George Back, and was the ranking officer after Back in the party. The Back expedition's purpose was to locate Sir John Ross, feared to be in trouble on his second expedition, and to explore the country from the Great Slave Lake north to the Arctic Ocean.

The party set out in 1833 from Hudson Bay, wintered over near Great Slave Lake, and spent the entire season of 1834 exploring northward, gathering natural history information, mapping the otherwise unexplored land, and having numerous encounters with natives. After another winter in the far north, the party made its way back to Hudson Bay by August 1835, having travelled seventy-five hundred miles on foot and by boat in two years.

Much of King's narrative is devoted to the Indians encountered, and Field asserts that he was much more open-minded and fairer in his treatment than was Back. He gives detailed accounts of the Chippewa, Cree, and Eskimo tribes met en route, bestowing particular praise on Chippewa chief Akaitcho, who fed the starving parties of the first two Franklin expeditions and Back's third, and without whose generosity Franklin would not have survived to make his final voyage. King was plainly unhappy that Back had made extensive use of his research without much credit, and his work seeks to set this record straight.

Whether his disagreements with Back or the overwhelming popularity of that narrative are responsible for the rarity of his account is unclear, but it is likely that their falling out played a role. In any case, the work is now rare and especially so as a presentation copy. Dr. King addressed the Society several times in 1845, arguing in favor of the advantages of an overland expedition, and inscribed the present set to the Society.