A journal of transactions and events, during a residence of nearly sixteen years on the coast of Labrador; containing many interesting particulars, both of the country and its inhabitants, not hitherto known. Illustrated with proper charts.

Newark, Allin & Ridge, 1792.

3 volumes, 4to, pp. [ii], xvi, [vi, list of subscribers], 272, ‘265’–‘287’; x, 505; x, 248, 15; with a frontispiece-portrait (lightly browned and offset onto title) and three charts on two folding engraved plates; with a signed autograph letter by Cartwright tipped in at front of vol. I (see below); occasional light foxing, soiling or offsetting, small marginal tear in one leaf (Dd2 of vol. III, without loss), but a good copy in contemporary calf-backed boards, spines gilt and with gothick motif in compartments; slightly rubbed, some joints cracked but firm.


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First edition. Cartwright, formerly a major in the British army, made six expeditions to Newfoundland and Labrador between 1770 and 1786. His Journal ‘is, among other things, a detailed seasonal record of the exploitation of coastal resources by one who combined keen entrepreneurial interests with an inextinguishable zest for the chase which made him nature’s nemesis; a finely observed record of natural history and meteorology; and, above all, testimony to a persistent, curious, and resourceful mind. In his relations with the native peoples of Labrador, especially the Inuit, Cartwright displayed an honesty which led to mutual trust. In 1772 he took a family of five Inuit to England, where they created considerable interest, meeting with the king, members of the Royal Society including Joseph Banks, and James Boswell, who reported to a sceptical Samuel Johnson his ability to communicate with them by sign language. The poet Robert Southey, who had met Cartwright in 1791, recorded in his Common-place book: “I read his book in 1793 . . . . This man had strength and perseverance charactered in every muscle . . . . The annals of his campaigns among the foxes and beavers interested me far more than ever did the exploits of Marlbro’ or Frederic; besides, I saw plain truth and the heart in Cartwright’s book – and in what history could I look for this? Coleridge took up a volume one day and was delighted with its strange simplicity”. What has only recently been properly recognized, however, is the interest of Cartwright not only in the Inuit language and its study, but also in making himself a glossarist of 18th-century Newfoundland English; and he was a close student of and perhaps contributor to the work of such scientific contemporaries as Banks, Thomas Pennant, and Daniel Carl Solander’ (Dictionary of Canadian Biography).

Tipped in at the beginning of vol. I is a signed autograph letter from Cartwright to his niece, dated at Nottingham on 28 December 1799. Cartwright thanks his niece for sending him news of ‘the amended state of health of my sisters’. The principal purpose of his letter, however, is to request that his sisters look through his correspondence with them from 1796 in order that he may settle an accounting dispute with the Barrack Office over coal supplied to the army. Cartwright’s niece is perhaps the Miss F. Cartwright of Mirfield Hall who appears in the list of subscribers. Autograph letters by Cartwright are rare on the market.

Lande 106; Sabin 11150; TPL 586.

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