BILLINGS’ EXPEDITION TO SIBERIA AND TO THE COAST OF AMERICA, 1802, LARGE PAPER FIRST EDITION
SAUER, Martin. An Account of a Geographical and Astronomical Expedition to the Northern Parts of Russia… Performed, By Command of Her Imperial Majesty Catherine the Second, Empress of all the Russias, By Commodore Joseph Billings… The Whole Narrated from the Original Papers by Martin Sauer. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies (A. Strahan), 1802. Quarto, contemporary mottled calf boards rebacked retaining original marbled endpapers, raised bands. $4000.
First edition of this important Russian survey of the extreme northeastern parts of Asia and the coast of Siberia, with large folding chart and 14 full-page copper-engraved plates by William Alexander of views, elevations, portraits of natives, their dress and implements, as well as a comparative glossary of indigenous languages.
After serving as an able-bodied seaman aboard the Discovery, one of the two ships commanded by Captain Cook on his fatal last voyage, Joseph Billings joined the Russian navy, where his reputation as "companion" to Cook led to his appointment as leader of this expedition. The purpose of the voyage was to determine "the exact latitude and longitude of the mouth of the river Kovima, and the situation of the great promontory of the Tchukchees as far as the East Cape; the forming of an exact chart of the islands in the Eastern Ocean extending to the coast of America; and, in short, the bringing to perfection the knowledge of the seas lying between the continent of Siberia and the opposite coast of America." To this end, Billings visited Kodiak, Montague Island, and Prince William Sound. "In the course of nine years [the expedition] made many large additions to our knowledge of the geography of those inclement regions" (DNB). In his detailed account of the expedition, Martin Sauer declares "that the native inhabitants [of Alaska], with their Stone Age culture, were far superior to the toadies who made up the court circles of St. Petersburg and had no culture at all" (Howgego, 119). The wonderful folding "Chart of the Strait between Asia & America" was engraved by Neele after Aaron Arrowsmith, whose cartography was based on "astronomical observations made in the icy sea." Cox I, 353. Hill 1528. Howgego B96. Sabin 77152. Howes S117. Streeter 3499. Engraved armorial bookplate.
Expert paper repair to inner margins of pages 157-164. Text clean and bright, folding map in excellent condition with minimal foxing. A handsome copy.