Narrative of Voyages and Travels
“A REAL TASTE OF WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE A SEAMAN IN THE EARLY REPUBLIC”: FIRST EDITION OF AMASA DELANO’S VOYAGES AND TRAVELS, 1817—THE SOURCE FOR MELVILLE’S “BENITO CERENO”—HANDSOMELY BOUND, THE OTIS A. SKINNER COPY
DELANO, Amasa. A Narrative of Voyages and Travels, in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres… Boston: Printed by E.G. House, for the Author, 1817. Octavo, modern three-quarter black morocco gilt, raised bands. $1800.
First edition of Delano’s “exciting and fascinating travelogue”—upon which Herman Melville would later draw to create his story “Benito Cereno”—illustrated with three engraved plates (one folding). The copy formerly belonging to one Otis A. Skinner, likely the noted Boston clergyman (and uncle of the famous American actor of the same name).
A Massachusetts mariner who had been a prisoner of war during the Revolution, Delano received “his opportunity for fame and fortune… in 1790. A new ship, the Massachusetts, weighing 900 tons and 116 feet long, had been built at Quincy to engage in the recently opened and much-talked-about China trade. Delano booked on as second officer and began keeping the journal that would form the basis of his Narrative (1817)… He published this lengthy—about 600 pages—yet readable and frequently exciting story in Boston, and it was reprinted several times in the 19th century… Delano is most noted as the source of Herman Melville’s short story ‘Benito Cereno… Delano told of how he rescued a Spanish ship that had been seized by the slaves it was transporting, its crew being forced by the slaves to pretend all was well until Delano was out of the way. But Delano spotted the ruse and brought the Spanish vessel into port despite his ambivalence about the slave trade. Melville adapted just one adventure [Chapter XVIII] in Delano’s exciting and fascinating travelogue, which gives a real taste of what it was like to be a seaman in the early republic” (ANB). Illustrated with three engraved plates: frontispiece portrait, portrait of Abba Thulle and folding views of Pitcairn’s Island. Hill 463. Ferguson 673. Sabin 19349. Howes D233. Evans 40635. Bookplate. Owner’s inkstamp of “Otis A. Skinner” to first leaf. The owner was likely the Reverend Otis A. Skinner, a Universalist preacher and minister of Boston’s Fifth Universalist Church (dedicated 1839). He was the uncle and namesake of the noted American actor Otis Skinner.
Scattered light foxing. Minor paper restoration to top margins of pages 449-512, 537-44. An extremely good copy.