“INSTRUMENTAL IN HELPING TO OPEN UP THE AMAZON RIVER”: HERNDON AND GIBBON’S 1853 EXPLORATION OF THE VALLEY OF THE AMAZON, WITH SCARCE ADDITIONAL PORTFOLIO OF THREE FOLDING MAPS
HERNDON, William Lewis and GIBBON, Lardner. Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Made under Direction of the Navy Department. Washington: Robert Armstrong; A.O.P. Nicholson, 1853-54. Three volumes. Octavo, original blind-stamped plum cloth. Housed together in custom clamshell box. $1500.
First edition, mixed Senate and House issues, of this fascinating and richly illustrated narrative of South American exploration, with 52 tinted lithographs and 38 in-text wood engravings, accompanied by scarce portfolio volume of three folding maps tracing Herndon’s passage through the Andes and descent along the Amazon.
After serving in the United States Naval Observatory, Lt. William Lewis Herndon was sent to the South Pacific and in 1850 was chosen to lead a “Pacific squadron to return through South America via the Amazon Valley,” an expedition planned in hopes of colonizing the region with slaveowners, thus eradicating slavery from the southern states, and as a means of preventing English merchants from establishing a cotton-producing industry along the river. Herndon left for Lima in January 1851, where it was decided he would approach the Amazon through Peru and Gibbon through Bolivian tributaries. After difficult passage through Peru, Herndon’s expedition reached Tingo Maria, at the confluence of the Monzon and Huallaga Rivers, and on September 25, 1851, “boats were fitted with decks and coverings, the American flag was raised and the Amazon was entered.” Herndon completed his descent of the Amazon in January 1851 and “after a month sailed for the United States. Herndon’s report, and that of Gibbon, who had successfully descended the Madeira and Amazon, provided a wealth of information” (Howgego, 283). Herndon submitted his complete survey to Congress on January 26, 1853. It contains “minute, accurate and very interesting accounts of the aborigines of the Andes, and the Amazon and its tributaries” (Sabin 31524) and was “instrumental in helping to open up the Amazon River to merchant ships of all nations” (DAB). Narrative of Volume I by Herndon, Volume II by Gibbon. With separate portfolio volume of three engraved folding maps to accompany Herndon’s account, containing: Valley of the Amazon, partially color-outlined and measuring 19 by 24-1/2 inches; Plan del curso de los Rios Huallaga y Ucayli y del la Pampa del Sacramento, measuring 11-1/2 by 17 inches, and Map of the Rivers Huallaga, Ucayli & Amazon, measuring 27 by 60 inches. Hill 803. Bookplates.
Interiors remarkably clean, with only light scattered foxing, archival tape repair to one map at stub. Moderate rubbing to spine ends of original cloth. A handsome set in near-fine condition.