A Narrative of the Mutiny, on Board His Majesty's Ship Bounty; and the Subsequent Voyage of Part of the Crew, in the Ship's Boat, from Tofua, One of the Friendly Islands, to Timor, a Dutch Settlement in the East Indies.

London, George Nicol, 1790.

4to (266 x 210mm), pp. iv, 88; 3 folding engraved charts by W. Harrison and J. Walker after Bligh, and one engraved folding plate of the plan of The Bounty’s launch; lightly washed, one chart slightly creased and with old marginal repairs; late 20th-century half red morocco over marbled boards, spine lettered and decorated in gilt; a very good copy.


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First edition. Bligh’s own account of the mutiny on the Bounty, written and published within months of his return to England. Bligh was anxious to ensure that his version of events was widely publicised and the Narrative ‘gives Bligh’s first, and lasting, opinion of what caused the mutiny. This issue was of great importance to Bligh, for on it turned his career and public image. As he was manifestly not the harsh disciplinarian flogger of the kind usually regarded as the main cause of a mutiny (such as Captain Pigot of HMS Hermione), and as Bligh never accepted that his personal manner – as a foul-mouthed nagger – could provoke anybody to mutiny, he was left with little option but to find an explanation in the character and conduct of the mutineers. He found such an explanation in the charms of Tahitian women: he, Bligh, did not cause the men to mutiny; they mutinied for their own evil and pathetic ends’ (Gavin Kennedy, Captain Bligh, 1989, p. 183).

Bligh explains it thus in the text: ‘The women at Otaheite are handsome, mild and chearful in their manners and conversation, possessed of great sensibility, and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and beloved. The chiefs were so much attached to our people, that they rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made them promises of large possessions. Under these, and many other attendant circumstances, equally desirable, it is now perhaps not so much to be wondered at, though scarcely possible to have been foreseen, that a set of sailors most of them void of connections, should be led away; especially when, in addition to such powerful inducements, they imagined it in their power to fix themselves in the midst of plenty, on the finest island in the world, where they need not labour and where the allurements of dissipation are beyond anything that can be conceived’ (Bligh, Narrative pp. 9–10).

Bligh was set adrift by the mutineers in the ship’s 23-foot-long launch, and undertook one of the most remarkable open-boat voyages, which also produced important cartographical and survey data: ‘Everyone knows that the Bounty’s crew, led by Fletcher Christian, mutinied and set Bligh and eighteen loyal crewmen adrift in a 23-foot launch shortly after the ship had left Tahiti in April 1789. In their small boat Bligh and his companions made a remarkable journey of more than three and a half thousand miles from Tofoa to Timor in six weeks over largely uncharted waters. What is not so well known is that in the course of this hazardous journey Bligh took the opportunity to chart and name parts of the unknown north-east coast of New Holland as he passed along it – an extraordinary feat of seamanship’ (Wantrup p. 128)

ESTC T7185; Ferguson 71; Hill 132; Kroepelien 87; Sabin 5908a; Wantrup 61.

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