4to (265 x 215 mm); pp. xxviii, 476, with five maps and one plate, all folding; minor marginal repair on 2L2, not affecting text; near contemporary half-calf, slightly rubbed, but a very good copy; provenance: P.R. Sandwell (collector of works on the Pacific, bookplate on upper pastedown; his sale, Christie’s London, 21 September 2005, lot 21).
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First English edition. The first French circumnavigation, undertaken by Bougainville, who had instructions to hand over the Falkland Island, which he had colonised in 1764, to Spain (currently France’s ally), and then to proceed towards China via the Straits of Magellan and the South Sea, investigating the islands or continent lying between the Indies and the western seaboard of America (cf. John Dunmore, French Explorers in the Pacific (Oxford: 1965), I, p. 67). Unaware of Wallis’s visit less than a year before, Bougainville claimed possession of Tahiti, and then reached the New Hebrides archipelago and ‘La Austrialia del Espíritu Santo’, which had been discovered by Quiros in 1606 and was believed to be part of the supposed Southern Continent. The only way to determine this, Bougainville resolved, was to sail westward a further 350 leagues in the hope of sighting the eastern coast of New Holland. ‘This he did, only to be impeded by the Great Barrier Reef and, although several of his crew claimed to have sighted land, this was not confirmed and the ships were headed to the N. Nevertheless, Bougainville concluded that he was close to some extensive land and, in running westwards from Espíritu Santo, he had dared to face the risk of the legendary lee-shore of New Holland and New Guinea, even though prudence, shortage of food and the condition of his vessels would have justified his heading northwards at an earlier date’ (Colin Jack-Hinton, The Search for the Islands of Solomon (Oxford: 1969), p. 256); G.A. Wood, The Discovery of Australia (London: 1922) observes that had Bougainville persevered ‘he would have come to the Australian coast near Cooktown, and would, likely enough, have been wrecked where Cook was wrecked two years later’ (pp. 369-379).
Hill comments that the translator of the text may have been Georg (rather than Johann Reinhold) Forster, and that Johann Reinhold Forster was the author of the preface, dedication, and footnotes. Both father and son accompanied Cook on his second voyage, which set off later in 1772, and presumably a copy of this translation travelled with the expedition; certainly, Cook’s journals refer to Bougainville’s work in this translation. For example, on 17 January 1773, Cook referred to a description of ‘the penguin of the first class’ on p. 64 of A Voyage: ‘[i]t appears by M. Bougainville[’]s account of the Animals of Falkland Islands that this Penguin is there and seems to be very well described under the name of first class of Penguins, P.64’ (Beaglehole (ed.), The Journals of Captain James Cook, II, p. 622). The Critical Review praised its ‘judicious annotation, with the exactness and elegance of the charts’, which rendered this translation ‘superior to the original’ of 1771; however, this opinion may have been written by Forster himself (see Michael Hoare, The Tactless Philosopher. Johann Reinhold Forster (Melbourne: 1976), p. 68).
Duviols p. 474; Hill 165; Kroepelien 113; O’Reilly & Reitman 285; Sabin 6869.
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