Philadelphia: Published By Bradford and Inskeep, 1814. First Edition. Octavo. Item #025095
The first edition of the most significant of all western travel and exploration works and essential for any great collection of the American West. Two text volumes with the original rare large folding map. Vol. I, xxviii, 470 pages; plus two maps; Vol. II, ix, 522 pages plus three maps. Wagner-Camp 13:1 notes: "the definitive account of the most important exploration of the North American Continent." How the work came to be published is in itself an amazing story. Meriwether Lewis felt not much was left to be done as he announced plans in 1807 to publish his and Clark's narratives but he feared others who were on the expedition might have theirs published first. (Robert Frazier, for instance, announced plans to published an account though there is no evidence it was ever published nor has any manuscript been located). To prevent this from being done by others, Lewis and Clark paid Sergeant John Ordway $150 for his journal which was incorporated into the first edition. Meanwhile other notes and diaries that existed were too fragmentary but Sergeant Patrick Gass had already found a publisher (David McKeehan) who published Gass's account in 1807 which is important though lacking the myriad details of the unpublished Lewis and Clark manuscript. McKeehan wrote a long and controversial letter defending his edition which sold for only $1 [However, the 1814 first edition of Lewis and Clark was issued in an edition of 2,000 copies (see PMM) and sold for $31 which was considered beyond the reach of most literate Americans). His long letter which is in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin spells Clark's name (Clarke). The binder for his first edition has followed the Clarke spelling on these volumes. The original map (which accompanies this volume) was prized but often framed in both historical societies and private libraries so to have it with the first edition is rare. A few of the scarce first edition copies have survived but have either later issues of the large map or in some cases supplied facsimiles. The present original map of this set came to us framed but is now back together with the set protected in its own chemise. Both volumes bound in contemporary 3/4 green calf over marbled paper covered boards, flat spine ruled and lettered in gilt, (binder spelled Clark's name as Clarke as noted in the letter cited above), brown endpapers, some chipping to heads of each volume, some pages toned, upper joint of volume one tender, contemporary owner’s inscription….To my brother/ T.R. Bock/ Wm. Caldwell on front pastedown of volume one, additionally at head of title page of volume one is the name Wm. Caldwell crossed out and above that name, the initials D.R.B. Volume two has the same notation on the title page but dated 1814. A very good unsophisticated set. All housed in a custom case within chemises. [PMM Printing and the Mind of Man 272; Howes L317; Graff 2477; Church 1309; Streeter 1777, Shaw and Shoemaker 31924].