"THE PROBLEM OF THE NORTH WEST PASSAGE, DISPUTED FOR 300 YEARS, WAS SOLVED": FIRST EDITION OF DISCOVERY OF THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE, A BEAUTIFUL COPY
M'CLURE, R[OBERT]. The Discovery of the North-West Passage… Edited by Commander Sherard Osborn. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman's, & Roberts, 1856. Octavo, original blind-stamped navy cloth. $3500.
First edition of McClure's harrowing account of the HMS Investigator's dramatic discovery of "the fabled North West Passage, sought by British seamen for nearly 300 years," with folding color map and four full-page tinted lithographs (including frontispiece), in original cloth.
In January 1850 the HMS Investigator was one of two ships to "set sail from England on a voyage of many thousands of miles to reach Bering Strait, via the Straits of Magellan, and the whole length of both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans." Captained by Robert McClure, its goal was to locate the Franklin expedition, which disappeared in the Arctic in 1845. Separated from its sister ship, the Investigator entered the Beaufort Sea, "becoming the first (apart from Franklin) to connect the eastern and western ends of the North West Passage" (Savours, 219-21). Continuing on, in 1851 the Investigator discovered Prince of Wales Strait and in September McClure calculated that the ship was barely 60 miles from Barrow's Strait. He recalled the moment in his journal: "I cannot… describe my anxious feeling. Can it be possible that this water communicates with Barrow's Strait, and shall prove to be the long-sought North West Passage?" (106). But "the last link in the fabled North West Passage, sought by British seamen for nearly 300 years… was to prove as difficult for him to navigate as it has always been" (Savours, 222). The Investigator was forced back down Prince of Wales Strait and "was almost lost before the ice froze solid." Yet by October the "ship's interpreter Miertsching wrote in his diary that they stood 'at the east end of the land Captain Parry had sighted 30 years before'… so the problem of the North West Passage, disputed for 300 years, was solved." McClure then sought safe harbor in Mercy Bay, but "it was a decision he would regret; the ice never retreated, and McClure and his crew endured two more years in the Arctic" (Delgado, 128-30). Rescued by another ship, they completed "the first ocean-to-ocean passage north of America" (Arctic Bibliography 10563). With tipped-in full-page colored map of the "Narrative of the Accomplishment of the North West Passage by the H.M.Ship 'Investigator'" and four full-page tinted lithographs (including frontispiece). One leaf of publisher's advertisements at rear, printed advertisements on pastedowns. Abbey Travel 647. Sabin 43073. Library stamp on title page verso.
Plates and text clean, original cloth in exceptional condition with just a bit of wear to spine ends. A beautiful copy.