An Exceptionally Fine Copy of an Important Work on Arctic Exploration


(Paris: Saillant & Nyon, Pissot, 1775). 255 x 195 mm. (10 x 7 3/4"). xii, 259 pp., [1] leaf (privilege du roi). Translated by Jean Nicolas Demeunier. Edited by the Comte de Fleurieu. First Edition in French.

EXCELLENT CONTEMPORARY CAT'S-PAW CALF, covers with gilt fillet border, raised bands, spine compartments gilt with central floral spring surrounded by small tools, volute cornerpieces, red morocco label, marbled endpapers. With 12 folding copper-engraved plates by Delagardette, three of these maps, four of landscapes, three of instruments, and two of sea creatures. With 10 folding tables. Sabin 62574; Hill, p. 207 A little rubbing to joints and extremities, isolated tiny rust spots, other trivial imperfections, but AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY, entirely clean, fresh, and bright, with few signs of use inside or out.

This is an outstanding contemporary copy of the first French edition of an important work in the field of arctic exploration, first published in English the previous year. Phipps' expedition was undertaken to discover a route to India through the north polar regions. His two ships, "Racehorse" and "Carcasse," reached Spitsbergen, where their progress was blocked by ice. But Phipps and his party turned this obstacle to advantage by studying the natural history and resources of the region. According to Hill, the book's valuable appendix, containing "geographical and meteorological observations, zoological and botanical records, accounts of the distillation of fresh water from the sea, and astronomical observations," suggests how fruitful these studies were. Phipps (1744-92), who had a distinguished naval career that included being named a lord of the admiralty, wrote both the journal of the voyage and the appended studies. Hill says that the work "is an important addition to early nautical science in the polar regions." The account is also noteworthy because of the presence of a young midshipman named Horatio Nelson, who is reported to have had a significant encounter with a polar bear during the voyage. The folding plates in our copy are exceptionally fresh, without the smudging and wear to folds one commonly sees. This work is not particularly uncommon, but a copy as nice as the present one is hard to find.