"ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE INCIDENTS IN THE WHOLE OF MARITIME HISTORY": 1792 FIRST EDITION OF THE OFFICIAL ACCOUNT OF THE MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY
BLIGH, William. A Voyage to the South Sea, Undertaken by Command of His Majesty, For the Purpose of Conveying the Bread-Fruit Tree to the West Indies, in His Majesty's Ship The Bounty, Commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh. Including an Account of the Mutiny on Board the Said Ship, and the Subsequent Voyage of Part of the Crew, in the Ship's Boat, From Tofoa; one of the Friendly Islands, To Timor, a Dutch Settlement in the East Indies. London: George Nicol, 1792. Quarto, period-style full crimson straight-grain morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine and boards, raised bands, marbled endpapers. $17,800.
First edition of the official account of the mutiny on the Bounty and "one of the most heroic sea voyages ever made" (Hill), with stipple-engraved frontispiece portrait of Captain Bligh and seven engraved plates and charts (five folding). Beautifully bound.
"An extremely important book" (Hill 135). Bligh had rushed into print a shorter narrative, in 1790, of what is "one of the most remarkable incidents in the whole of maritime history… in the hope that his account of the mutiny would absolve him from any blame that might be leveled against him because of the incident… This is the first edition of the official account… It includes a somewhat revised version of the text of Bligh's narrative… but was written, edited and seen through the press by James Burney, under the supervision of Sir Joseph Banks, during Bligh's absence from London while on his second breadfruit voyage… After visiting Tahiti and the Tonga Islands, the crew mutinied under Fletcher Christian, the master's mate. The mutiny was largely due to Bligh's harshness to his crew; also partly to attachments that had sprung up between the crew and certain of the women of Tahiti, where the Bounty afterwards returned, before sailing to Pitcairn Island" (Hill). "Bligh with 18 others was put into the ship's launch along with a few provisions and some instruments and set adrift. After a voyage of 3,600 miles and 41 days the launch succeeded in reaching Timor and Java… where the emaciated unfortunates were taken in by the Dutch" (Cox).
The Bounty mutiny and its ramifications would haunt Bligh always, although his reputation was also forever redeemed by the epic open-boat voyage of 4000 miles across the Pacific. Certainly one of the most famous of all feats of seamanship, it was also notable for the coastal discoveries made almost accidentally in the course of the desperate voyage. Bligh's description is accompanied by his important engraved chart of discoveries made on the coast of present-day Queensland. His achievement in charting large sections of the coast under conditions of terrible hardship partly completed the work of Cook himself on the Australian east coast—especially notable given Bligh's anger that his work on the charts of Cook's third voyage was not recognized. Hill 135. Cox II, 305. Ferguson, 125. Sabin 5910. Wantrup 62a.
Text, plates and charts with occasional professional cleaning and expert paper repairs, marginal expert paper repairs to frontispiece portrait, "Section of the Bread Fruit" plate trimmed through caption. An extremely good copy, beautifully bound to period-style.