“A VISION OF TWO AMERICAS”
IMLAY, Gilbert. A Description of the Western Territory of North America. Dublin: Printed for William Jones, 1793. Small octavo, contemporary full brown sheep rebacked, black morocco spine label. $1500.
First Dublin edition, published only one year after the London first edition, Imlay’s highly regarded account of the land and culture of America’s western territories, praised as “a model of what a monograph on a new country should be,” scarce in contemporary sheep.
Gilbert Imlay, famed for his love affair with Mary Wollstonecraft, achieved earlier notoriety as "one of the most enigmatic figures to emerge on the [American] frontier in the 1780s." Believed to have been a spy for Washington during the Revolution, afterwards Imlay traveled through Kentucky, and is reported to have continued working as a secret agent: "posing as a Spanish spy… while at the same time acting as an agent provacateur on behalf of the United States." Written by Imlay during this period as a series of letters, this popular and highly regarded view of America's western territories has been praised as "'a model of what a monograph on a new country should be. It is at once clear, full, and condensed… Imlay projects a vision of two Americas: the genuine America in the West as distinct from European colonization of eastern States, a belief in the West as 'the centre of the earth… at once the emporium and protectors of the world" (Gordon, Vindication, 192-200). A year after this Dublin edition was published, Mary Wollstonecraft, having escaped death in the aftermath of the French Revolution, gave birth their daughter Fanny Imlay. Preceded by the London edition of 1792 titled A Topographical Description of the Western Territories. Howes I12. Sabin 34357. See Lowndes, 1159; Streeter 1522; Sabin 34354. Bookplate. Bookseller ticket.
Text generally fresh and clean, slight rubbing, edge-wear to boards. A highly desirable copy in extremely good condition.