[N.p. n.d., but ca. 1914]. 73pp. typescript, printed on rectos only. Small folio. Original limp blue morocco, gilt. Inscribed on front fly leaf. Light wear to extremities, slightly heavier to corners and spine ends. Internally clean. Very good. Item #WRCAM48467
A very interesting narrative of a voyage made by Joel Root (b. 1770), a native of Southington, Connecticut, as supercargo and director of a voyage on the ship Huron which left New Haven in April 1802 in search of hair seals for the American market and fur seals to be sold in China. Clearing Cape Horn in January 1803, they arrived at the Mocha, Lobos, and St. Mary's islands off the coast of South America, where they found a large population of seals. Root and a small party were blown off course in a whale boat and temporarily separated from the Huron. After being briefly imprisoned at Concepcion, they rejoined the Huron on Feb. 25. The captain headed for the Lobos Islands off the coast of Peru, while Root chose to stay behind on St. Mary's Island off the coast of Chile. With part of the crew he was able to take ten thousand seal skins. On the return of the Huron, they set sail on Sept. 25 for the island of Massafuero, one of the Juan Ferdinand Islands, also off the coast of Chile. There Root proposed to take fur seals for the China market, while the Huron returned to the U.S. with its cargo of nineteen thousand skins. "Mr. Root was surprized to find on the island more men than seals....In all there were about 150 men." These were lone sealers left behind by various ships. Root himself took about 4,000 skins, and purchased another 5,000 or more from the loners who had been threatened by the Viceroy of Peru with imprisonment if they failed to leave the island. In fire sale fashion, Root bought the skins for twenty-five to fifty cents each, and upon reaching Canton he sold them for ninety-five cents a piece and invested the proceeds in China goods which he then sold in Hamburg. From Hamburg he sailed for St. Petersburg, where he bought a cargo of mixed goods to sell on his return to the United States. He reached New Haven again on Oct. 30, 1806. Four other manuscript versions of Root's narrative have been located, all in some way different. There is also a published account of the voyages in the PAPERS OF THE NEW HAVEN HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Vol. 5, 1894) which differs markedly from this. That version is told in the first person while this is in the third; it is generally more detailed but omits two substantial sections included here which tell of an encounter with pirates at Sumatra and an incident with a disgruntled sealer who almost murdered Root. The present narrative was written by Dr. Emile B. Gardette, Root's grandson-in-law, based on accounts related to him by Root in 1836. According to the text, Gardette wrote this in 1841. As suggested by some of the wording, he may also have used an account which was written in 1840 by Root himself for his family. The original manuscript of that account is not located, but the New-York Historical Society lists a "transcript of memoir originally written in 1840 and subsequently copied by [Root's] daughter in 1847." East Carolina University's Joyner Library also holds a copy of the 1840 memoir, photocopied from an unspecified source and previously owned by Jake D. Moore of Kingston, North Carolina. The University of Montana likewise holds a copy with more or less the same text as the present copy, though theirs is fifty-six pages rather than seventy- three, and is described as a "photocopy of a typescript" with added photographs and genealogy. As for Gardette's manuscript (the original source for our typescript and the version at the University of Montana), the Connecticut Historical Society lists what it calls a "biography" written circa 1841, a "handwritten narrative" that could be Gardette's account. For remarks on Root's successful enterprise, see Busch's WAR AGAINST SEALS: A HISTORY OF THE NORTH AMERICAN SEAL FISHERY (McGill, 1985).