Voyage of Discovery


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(ARCTIC) ROSS, John. A Voyage of Discovery, Made under the Orders of the Admiralty, in His Majesty's Ships Isabella and Alexander, for the Purpose of Exploring Baffin's Bay, and Inquiring into the Probability of a North-West Passage. London: John Murray, 1819. Quarto, contemporary gray boards sympathetically respined; printed paper spine label renewed. Housed in a custom cloth clamshell box.

First edition, illustrated with 32 engraved plates, charts and maps (13 folding), including 15 magnificent hand-colored aquatints by Havell & Son (four folding) depicting icebergs, a "bear plunging into the sea" and the ship's "passage through the ice" among other dramatic images.

"A famous, even notorious, voyage, led by Captain John Ross. As his lieutenants, Ross had aboard William Parry, James Clark Ross and Edward Sabine, all of future fame as explorers. Ross attempted to proceed westward through Lancaster Sound, but being deceived, presumably by a mirage, he described the passage as barred by a range of mountains, which he named the Croker Mountains… On returning to England in November, the report was, at first, accepted as conclusive, and Ross was promoted to post rank in December, 1818. In the following year he published this volume. A controversy soon arose… and opened a life-long quarrel between him and Sir John Barrow" (Hill 1488). "Barrow charged that Ross' failure to pursue a passage through Lancaster Sound was tantamount to cowardice, that his depiction of the Inuit as 'Highlanders' was an absurd comparison to the Scots and that the scientific observations claimed as his nephew's were in fact made by others… Barrow's anonymous but scathing review of A Voyage of Discovery in the Quarterly Review, no doubt motivated by Barrow's dogmatic belief in an open polar sea, effectively ended John Ross' career with the Admiralty, a group he also offended with his advocacy of steam power" (Books on Ice 2.5). Nevertheless, Ross' voyage "was a pioneering effort in high Arctic exploration, and his narrative… was the finest series of Arctic views then published. One of the most striking plates was based not on the work of an English officer but of the expedition's Inuit interpreter, John Sackheouse, depicting the successful meeting between the expedition and Inuits at Prince Regent's Bay… certainly the earliest representational work by a native American artist to be so reproduced" (Beinecke Library). Abbey, Travel 634. Cooke & Holland, 139. Arctic Bibliography 14873. Sabin 73376. Prideaux, 255, 350. Fitzgerald Collection 606. Howgego II:R28. Faint owner pencil signature to title page. Booklabel in clamshell box.

Some faint marginal dampstaining, most notable to last two folding charts; closed marginal tear to pp. 103-04. Light wear to corners. An extremely good copy in contemporary boards.

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