Philadelphia: Printed by C. Sherman, 1844-1845. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1845 (last two volumes). Five text volumes, with the five folding maps (two colored) called for in the atlas volume bound into the fourth text volume. Engraved portraits, plates, and maps, with original tissue guards intact. Thick quarto. Contemporary green morocco stamped in gilt, expertly rebacked with original backstrips preserved (except second volume, which is rebacked in matching style), spines richly gilt, gilt inner dentelles, a.e.g. Slight offsetting on the large folding maps, several neatly repaired along folds. Very good set. Item #WRCAM33634
One of the great rarities of Pacific voyages, here in a mixed set of the true first edition and the first quarto edition of the narrative of the first great scientific expedition sponsored by the government of the United States. The first three volumes of the present set consist of the special Sherman edition of 100 copies, which is the true first edition and was issued for private distribution. The final two volumes are of the Lea and Blanchard printing, which was limited to 150 copies and was preceded only by the Sherman edition. The Lea and Blanchard edition is on the same format as the Sherman edition, and differs only in the preliminary material.
The United States Exploring Expedition circumnavigated the globe under the command of Charles Wilkes between the summer of 1838 and the summer of 1842 (for a detailed account of the voyage, see the sources cited below). In July 1842, almost immediately upon his return, Wilkes began work on the narrative, drawing on all of the data and logs assembled by the members of the expedition. This took two years, but by August 1844 the first volume was in the press, and the whole set was ready for binding by the end of the year. The first "Sherman edition," in large quarto format, consisted of only 100 copies for the use of the government, and is easily distinguished by the Sherman imprint of 1844. The "Lea and Blanchard" quarto edition soon followed, and was probably off the presses before the end of 1844 (even though the volumes carry an imprint dated 1845). In fact, the verso of the titlepage of the two Lea and Blanchard volumes notes that the text was in fact printed by Sherman. Both the Sherman and the Lea and Blanchard editions present the text in five volumes, accompanied by an atlas volume of five maps. Those maps are here bound into the front of the fourth text volume.
Of the 100 copies printed of the Sherman edition, twenty-five were later destroyed in the Lea and Blanchard fire, sixty-three copies were distributed to foreign governments and federal or state libraries in the United States, and only three were distributed to private individuals. Haskell, in preparing his bibliography of the publications of the expedition, was able to locate over thirty sets in libraries in the United States, but the Sherman edition virtually never appears on the market. The only sets we know of on the market since the 1980s are one from the Carlsmith collection, acquired from Howell, sold in 1985, and now in an Australian library, and two other sets sold by our firm. Of the 150 copies printed of the Lea and Blanchard edition, twenty-five were reserved for private distribution by Wilkes, and the remaining copies were offered for sale to individuals at sixty dollars per set. Haskell was able to locate only seven sets in libraries in the United States. A prime opportunity to obtain a set consisting of the two rarest printings of the most important American naval expedition of the 19th century. HASKELL, UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION 1, 2A, 17A. HOWES W414, "c." David B. Tyler, THE WILKES EXPEDITION (Philadelphia, 1968). Herman J. Viola, ed., MAGNIFICENT VOYAGERS, THE U.S. EXPLORING EXPEDITION, 1838-1842 (Washington, 1985). HILL 1866. SABIN 103994. TWENEY, WASHINGTON 83. FORBES 1517. REESE, BEST OF THE WEST 85.